Mencia is a red wine grape native to northwest Spain, known for producing the red wines of Bierzo. The grape variety has seen a resurgence in recent decades due to improved low-yielding viticulture and a greater focus on hillside vineyards. Mencia wines are known for their earthy and vegetal characteristics with berry undertones and stony minerality. The grape variety was once thought to be related to Cabernet Franc but DNA testing has disproven this theory and has shown that Mencia is genetically identical to Portugal's Jaen grape. This has led to some uncertainty as to the origin of the grape variety, as it may have been brought to Bierzo from Dão in Portugal.
Mencia's role as a simple, regional grape variety grown for table wines was challenged in the 20th century by famous Spanish producer Alvaro Palacios, who helped to improve the quality of Mencia wines from Bierzo. The Bierzo region is located in the rolling foothills of Castilla y Leon and is known for its high-altitude terroir.
Mencia wines have a bright complexion with a vivid maroon color, relatively fresh acidity and tannins. The fruit flavors can range from red to black fruits, often with a herbal dimension of mint or thyme. Mencia is challenging in the vineyard, with a tendency towards low yields, making it difficult for growers and winemakers. It is susceptible to botrytis and mildew and can lose its acidity quickly if not harvested promptly. Mencia's high alcohol and moderate acidity require careful handling at harvest and in the winery. Oak is used sparingly as it can overpower Mencia's delicate flavor profile. Some producers are experimenting with carbonic maceration to accentuate the grape variety's fruit characteristics and reduce tannins. Mencia is also found in several other northwest Spain DOs, such as Valdeorras, Monterrei, and Ribeira Sacra.