Mencia, Bierzo

The last few years has seen the tapas revolution sweep London off its feet.  I LOVE tapas – Perhaps because it makes it perfectly acceptable for my inner glutton to run wild or maybe since it’s considered rude not to try absolutely everything on the table. A welcome goodbye to the plague of food envy.

Taking on the tapas scene is thirsty work, luckily the Spanish make more wine than even the most greedy guzzler can handle, which begs the question of where to start?

El Bierzo AKA ‘Spain’s answer to France’ in the North West is a marvellous place to begin.   The region has been busily seducing oenologist and producers over the last decade. El Bierzo is largely dominated by the intriguing Mencia grape, a close relative of Cabenet Franc.  It is an early ripening varietal famed for delivering upfront juicy fruits, snappy acidity and structured minerality siphoned from the special soils of the region.

So, testing the metal of Bierzo happened over tapas in the form of a 2013 and a 2006 Mencia.   The 2013 burst into the glass with fresh juicy red fruits, relentless acidity gives a pleasantly racy finish.  Its uncompromising acidity makes it the perfect partner in crime for something very naughty and fatty (hmmm Morcilla).

By comparison the 2006 Tilenus Crianza (which has spent a year in French oak) saunters into the glass, it is big and unapologetically oaky without overshadowing its delicate complexity.  Mellow red fruits and gentle aromas of vanilla are wrapped in a cloak of tannins and sweet spices leaving a finish which goes on and on.


Its noteworthy because both wines are beautiful, but in utterly different ways – the Mencia grape is splendid.  Either; young, boney and unoaked or mature and generously soused in the toasty French stuff.

A worthy Christmas experiment and fun for all the family, except the under 18s… Strictly Ribena for them, obviously.