Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meet Mencía - The Dutchess

aka Bierzo on a Saturday Night

Did I order it just because I like pronouncing it?? Bee-air-THO. When I say it the subtext is “Yes, I know of what I speak”. The Bierzo region is a small DO in north-west Spain’s Galicia neighborhood. This medium bodied red is made from the Mencía grape (another fun pronunciation – Men-THEE-ah, gotta love those Castillians!) which lives happily on slate and granite soils not far from the Atlantic coast.

On the palate, it plays out like a less demanding Pinot Noir, not quite the princess. It is similarly elegant with ripe berry fruit and well-balanced acidity and alcohol, although more straight forward and somewhat meatier – it had sort of a Damn Good Jerky undercurrent (like yes, its beef jerky, but it’s the best I’ve ever tasted, no lie!). The first one to cross my palate about six
years back was by José Palacios, a beautiful biodynamic Bierzo named Petalos. It left me feeling like I knew I wanted to experience a Bierzo again before I die. Although Mencía is no princess she has undeniable palate pedigree. She has well etched features, precision posture. Sadly, Bierzo is still scarce in this market. So when I saw it on the wine list at Riposo 46 in Hell’s Kitchen last Saturday Night, I had to jump back and kiss myself.

Pago de Valdetruchas Los Cerezales 2008 Bierzo (wine list price $50/bottle, retails for around $20) was a somewhat simpler version of the one that has haunted my palate dreams over the years. Her corset wasn’t wound as tight, but she was thoroughly satisfying nonetheless. Dora loved it with the Gorgonzola on our cheese plate, while I thought the unabashed saltiness of the Serrano Ham flatbread, which was heaped with generous servings of the ham, rocket lettuce and kalamata olives, made the fruit in the wine come alive and do back spins on my tongue. It was an all around success. My cousin Edrica, a budding wine aficionado in her own right, enjoyed the wine as well.

The great thing is that when you do find it, even the biodynamic Petalos, you will not pay much more than $20.00 a bottle to experience the magic. came up with lots of hits at around $18.00 for that wine, while it seems the only place to get Los Cerezales is at Wine Library in New Jersey for $19.98. Nonetheless, just for shits and giggles, pop into your local wine retailer and ask them for a good bee-air-THO and enjoy the reaction. With any luck they will indeed have one and be proud to be able to offer it to someone who is obviously in the know. Do let me know how this went!