La Vizcaina La Vitoriana Tinto 2015
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
La Vizcaina is a relatively new project from Raul Purez that explores the hillside crus around his hometown of Vatuille de Abajo. Four reds and one white are produced under the name, all from vines with over fifty years of average age. Though all the red wines Raul produces in the Bierzo D.O. are labelled as 100% Mencía, they all in fact contain significant quantities of other local grapes.
The rich varietal diversity found in Galicia is due in large part to the famous Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint James in the town of Santiago de Compostela, the earliest references to which date back to the 9th century. The monks who made the journey would often carry vine cuttings from their home regions in their packs to offer as gifts to the Spanish monasteries that would put them up along the way. This is certainly the explanation for the preponderance of Trousseau found throughout northwestern Spain.
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.