The A Portela Mencia 2011 comes from the Valdeorras region in the Northwest of Spain; fewer than 100 miles North of the Portuguese border. The region – primarily warmer in climate with a decent amount of annual rainfall – is situated among granite-rich hills. The vines (planted in 1976) which produce the Mencia grapes are relatively young compared to other old world vineyards, but seem to have taken good advantage of the region’s climate and rainfall to penetrate deep into the rocky soils, thus adding to the wine’s pronounced presence of rock and mineral flavors.
My most common Spanish wine selections are typically blends of several grapes including (but not limited to) Tempranillo, Albariño, and Garnacha so I was highly anticipating the experience of the A Portela Mencia 2011 which is comprised of 100% Mencia grapes.
The bottle has a black foil and brown, oval label, which displays the A Portela name in a classic script font. The bottle was easily corked and the cork has a light pink and brown color and is barely saturated, typical of younger red wines. After pouring the first four-ounce glass, the wine’s legs are holding strong on the sides of the glass and the color – when held up to the light – is a rich, deep purple (insert 1960s Brit-rock reference here).
Before swirling the glass, the initial aromas of liquorish, dark berries, granite, and a hint of flower petals are unmistakable. Swirling the glass for a minute modestly opened up the scent leading me to expect rich, complex, and intense flavors.
The first taste was almost exactly as expected. Heavy flavors of minerality (mostly granite and slate) were immense on the tongue; slightly overpowering the jammy, dark berry flavors that slowly crept through. The one big (and welcomed) surprise to me was the tremendous dryness on the palate.
Now I love dry red wine. In fact, the drier the wine the better for me. However, for those who look for a softer and smoother wine, the dryness may seem intense. I’d encourage you though to still give this wine a shot. The balance of dryness, earth and fruit is delightful and elaborate nearly forcing the drinker to really pay attention to each sip and creates an expectation for each ensuing sip.
I poured my second glass after the bottle had been opened for about 30 minutes, giving the remaining wine some time to continue opening up. The overall flavor profile remained the same, however with the expectancy of the dryness, it wasn’t as much of a surprise, rather a part of the drinking experience I quite looked forward to.
I quickly began tasting more fruit and the subtlety of black pepper and green vine flavors quietly came to the foreground. The aroma seemed a bit weaker, but with a heavy swirl of the glass, the scents opened back up very quickly. With larger sips, there were hints of tartness that were not noticeable with smaller sips.
While the vines are still young, the terroir (characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a region express) of the Valdeorras region was largely present and extremely distinct in the A Portela Mencia 2011.
A Portella has created a delicious red wine for any wine drinker – novice or expert – to enjoy. The balance of aromas and flavors make this a must-try wine. This is definitely a wine I’ll be revisiting very, very soon. Highly recommended.
Enjoy on its own or pair with a grilled pork chop and sautéed green vegetables.
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