Monday, February 23, 2009

Discovery of the Month: February 2009 Mencia for less

2007 Guimaro Mencia "Amandi" Ribeira Galicia Spain (Pedro M. Rodriguez Pérez)
Suggested retail price $13-$16
A Jose Pastor Selection imported by Vinos and Gourmet Inc. (CA) and distributed by David Bowler Wines in NYC

We are back in Spain, and more precisely in Galicia, the green fertile Spanish's north western corner on top of Portugal. Ribeira Sacra D.O. is a little small wine enclave of Galicia, located east of Rias Baixas and west of Valdeoras D.O. (and Bierzo D.O.).

Ribeira Sacra D.O. extends, north to south, from the province of Lugo to the province of Ourense, in central Galicia. It regroups about 100 Bodegas scattered on about 1,200 hectares of land and vineyards around the valleys, steep hills' slopes, canyons and plains of the Miño and Sil rivers. Although a few other indigenous grapes are used in small quantities, the main grape varieties planted are Mencía, for the reds, and Albariño and Godello for the whites.

For centuries, like in France and Italy (and few more western European countries), producing wine and vine culture have always been a major part of the Spanish agriculture and culture (especially on the roads to Santiago de Compostela, where the monks and other religious presence were omnipresent and many churches and monasteries where built). Through out history, from the middle age to the modern times, the monks continued and maintained their growing vines and producing wines tradition are which are now one of the most popular, most appreciated, most respected and most expanded cultures in the world. Somehow, Thanks to the monks if we can drink good wines today (and eat good food, because they were also fine eater and, to a certain extend, developed many of our today's food habit and local recipes (especially in the countryside of each European country).

However, and strangely enough, the recognition and classification of most Spanish vineyards and Appellations came much later than other surrounding and neighboring countries. I said "most" because Rioja D.O. was established and recognized in 1925 and Sherry-Xeres in 1933. Both these D.O. preceded France, that only started its "Appellation d'Origine Controlée" system (A.O.C) in 1935, and Italy's D.O.C in 1965.

So, all of this just to say that Ribera Sacra is a very young D.O., born in 1997, and although by the beginning of the 80's a few producers where already trying to bottle their own wines under their own labels, claiming the particularities of the local Terroir and producing wines with very distinct expressions of the soils and climate, it took them more than 15 years to be recognized and accepted. Nowadays, the D.O. is more define in the mind of the consumers and it is fully rewarded by the consistency and quality of its wines.

Talking about quality wine, well, I choose this particular wine, Guimaro Mencia, because it was a very good value for money, also because, it is coming from a lesser known area and it is made with the Mencía grape, which is still overlooked and unappreciated (even by the wine connoisseurs).

Bierzo is usually the D.O. of choice regarding wines made with Mencía grape, but most of Bierzo's better wines remain a bit too expensive (in most case) for an uneducated or inexperienced customer. Although higher in acidity and not as ripe or smooth (compared to Bierzo), in my opinion, Ribeira Sacra reds still offer a very good alternative for consumers that would like to discover the Cabernet Franc taste like grape that Mencía is, for a more reasonable price.

Here again, I wasn't able to gather much about the winery and the importer doesn't seem to have anything on this wine either, so I'm just going to describe it.

Made from 100% Mencía grapes harvested in vineyards located in Brosmos, South of Lugo, influenced by the Sil river and a more somewhat continental climate, 2007 Guimaro Mencía "Amandi" Ribeira Sacra Galicia Spain is a very inviting little wine. The nose boasts notes of red cherry, touch of dark and blue berry, somewhat restraint but not shy with hints of smokiness and green notes (quite characteristic of the grape variety, very Cabernet Franc like). The palate is fairly light and playful, with high acidity that carries the fruit nicely through the finish. I like it on its own as an aperitif, but I also appreciated it with simple "amuse-bouche" made of Duck or Lamb. In my opinion, the acidity and the high, slightly green tone of the wine complement and contrast quite nicely with the fat of the meat.

I don't think that this wine was aged in oak, but if it was, the oak is minimal in taste. One may find this wine somewhat similar to a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, especially in the finish with the slightly green tannins (or the light touch of bitterness depending on your palate) mix with the acidity and the earthy smokiness.

It is and remains, for most of us, a bit of an esoteric feature in wine, which is not often necessarily understood or appreciated, but for the far-from-the-oak-and-the-overripeness palate drinker, it is a somewhat rustic delight that we surely appreciate from time to time.

Discover Mencía as a late spring-summer grape to enjoy with salads and simple dishes like cold cut and goat cheese.


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