Alvarez de Toledo Mencia Roble 2015
Mencia Roble stands out because of its strong fruity character bringing out all the characteristics of the Mencia grape variety. The time it spent in oak barrels accentuates these qualities by providing subtlety, elegance and complexity. On the palate, the wine is silky, fruity, with persistence and great kindness.
El Bierzo is a land of grapes and wine. It’s a vine-covered region full of tradition, history, culture, gastronomy and over 2,000 years of wine production. The Alvarez de Toledo family has roots in the region since the early 1500's. Today the estate is overseen by Ángeles Varela Mazón Álvarez de Toledo who has upheld and fine-tuned the viticultural traditions of her forbears. Mencía is the star of the show (ably supported by Godello) and here it is planted 420-500m above sea level, entirely hand-harvested, and the vines are predominantly between 40 and 60 years old.
“Being situated in a valley our climate is mild and humid, and our land has a special microclimate which is ideally suited to the agriculture of the area” describes Álvarez de Toledo. “The soils are composed of a mixture of fine elements such as quartz and slate. They catch water coming from the mountains down into the valleys and the vineyards are planted mainly on humid, dark soil which, being slightly acidic and low in carbonates, is typical of humid climates.”
Encircled by mountains, the dramatic terrain has acted as a partial barrier over the years, shielding the region from excessive external influences, thus allowing it to cultivate its own identity and culture. This strength of personality is exemplified by its calling card, the Mencía grape, which is now certainly having its moment in the sun having been something of a relative unknown on the international scene.
One of the few northwestern Spanish regions with a focus on a red variety, Bierzo, part of Castilla y León, is home to the flowery and fruity Mencia grape. Mencia produces balanced and bright red wines full of strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, baking spice, pepper and black licorice. The well-drained soils of Bierzo are slate and granite.
Calling the far western appellations of the Iberian Peninsula home, Mencia was once only deemed capable of producing simple and light red wines. But post-phylloxera growers only planted this variety on low, fertile plains, which produced high yields and uncomplicated finished wines. The recent rediscovery of the ancient, abandoned vines planted on rugged hillsides of deep schist has unveiled the potential of Mencia and added discredit to its old reputation. Primarily found in the Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras regions of Spain and in the Dão of Portugal (where it is called Jaen), Mencia is an early ripening, low acid grape that can produce wines of great concentration, complexity and ageability.
In the Glass
The best Mencia possess characters such as raspberry, red currant, boysenberry, pomegranate, black licorice, spice cake, black pepper, Asian spice and crushed gravel. Some styles remain light and fruit dominant while the more serious versions, aged in new oak, will be more complex and concentrated.
Excellent with all manner of meat dishes: Steak au Poivre, corned beef, charcuterie, game, carne asada, etc, Mencia will also work with many vegetarian dishes such as grilled portabello, mushroom risotto, wild rice pilaf and smoked tofu.
Never had Mencia? Well if you like Pinot Noir and other aromatic reds (like Gamay), definitely investigate Mencia. Many affordable options abound as well as higher-end, more complex versions. Often the latter contain other varieties for adding depth and complexity, or come from the extremely old vines.