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Losada El Pajaro Rojo Mencia 2012
Losada Vinos de Finca was established in 2004 on the outskirts of the village of Pieros, on the Camino de Santiago, midway between Cacabelos and Villafranca del Bierzo, opposite the ruins of Castro Ventosa, Bierzo’s Roman-era fortification.
Losada’s founding philosophy was to take the region’s wines to higher level, prioritizing elegance, balance and purity of expression through limited production and adequate, but not excessive, technology. They sought out old Mencía vineyards planted on primarily clay soils, a terroir which had been relatively overlooked by the Bierzo new wave of the 1990s in its ‘rush to slate’.
The skins of Mencía grapes grown on clay soils are more hydrated and less thick, the structure more mellow, the wines generally softer in feel. Fresh acidity (the backbone of Bierzo wines) in combination with this tenderness, created an elegance that is now considered a principal characteristic of Bierzo wines.
Every part of the winemaking process is unhurried. The sustainably-farmed fruit is harvested by hand and undergoes rigorous selection on the vine so that additional sorting at the winery is minimal. After de-stemming, the grapes are gently crushed and fermentation begins naturally using the indigenous yeasts. Fruit from individual plots is kept separate in order to better observe and interpret the variety from each location, a traditional non-interventionist technique that aims to showcase the soil. Cooperage is 100% French, with a minimum barrel capacity of 300L. All techniques are adjusted according to the character of the vintage, and the wines are differentiated according to vineyard origin rather than the length of time spent in the barrel.
Known for bold reds, crisp whites and distinctive sparkling and fortified wines, Spain has embraced international varieties and wine styles while continuing to place primary emphasis on its own native grapes. Though the country’s climate is diverse, it is generally hot and dry. In the center of the country lies a vast, arid plateau known as the Meseta Central, characterized by extremely hot summers and frequent drought.
Ribera del Duero is gaining ground with its single varietal Tempranillo wines, recognized for their concentration of fruit and opulence. Priorat, a sub-region of Catalonia, specializes in bold, full-bodied red blends of Garnacha (Grenache), Cariñena (Carignan), and often Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Catalonia is also home to Cava, a sparkling wine made in the traditional method but from indigenous varieties. In the cool, damp northwest region of Galicia, refreshing white Albariño and Verdejo dominate.
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.