Pittacum Barrica [Mencía] 2007

This formidable Spanish red hails from an area I've never before been to, either
Posted 16th March 2012        

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This formidable Spanish red hails from an area I’ve never before been to, either corporeally or via the virtual passport of a bottle of wine.

The Bierzo DO is in northwest Spain, just inside the community of Castile and León, but bordering Galicia, which sits nestled comfortably in that corner of Spain to the north of Portugal. It’s all literally hundreds of miles from anywhere else I’ve ever drunk wine from (with the possible exception of some port); and it seems the combined efforts of the bodegas (possibly plural), the UK wine market, and my own inability to decipher Spanish wine marketing literature will mean I’m unable to communicate anything especially interesting about the origin of the wine.

Never mind.

What I can be sure of, is that it’s 100% Mencía, a grape grown mainly in (unsurprisingly) northwest Spain, which has in the past been compared with Cabernet Franc. The thing is, for the typical UK (and possibly other English-speaking markets) wine consumer, even Cabernet Franc isn’t quite an everyday tipple. So I’m almost glad I went into this thinking – a little blasé, and a little dismissive, perhaps – well, it’ll taste like Rioja, won’t it?

Not entirely, no. Not a million miles away, but if I’d been forced to guess, I’d probably have thought this was either a more modern French Cabernet Sauvignon or perhaps one of those lovely robust-but-fruity southern Italian reds I’ve been enjoying recently.

Its beetroot-hued wonders gave way quite quickly to aromas of plum, cinnamon and cherry, with a hint of vanilla and woodsmoke. On the palate it was an understated affair at first, with enough of an oaky focus to make me think my initial Rioja-related suspicions were close to the mark. But there’s a lot of wine in which wood is an important factor, and the real stand-out notes that won through after this had really had time to swish about in the glass (and my mouth) were a plump and gorgeous blackberry base with integrated sweet licorice and spice: sort of like a really good blackberry and apple pie, only light on the apple.

If this is typical of the grape, then there’s a lot to be liked about it. Not at all light or pale as the Wikipedia page suggest these wines have (or perhaps “had”) a reputation for; really worth checking out, I’d say.

I’m having trouble finding this bottle for sale in any of the usual outlets, but WineSearcher lists some possibilities, all at just over £10 a bottle, and the press release lists this Quinta Sardonia website – I can’t get any joy out of it, but you’re welcome to try.

I think “Barrica” might be a Spanish name for a large oak barrel, but really I have no idea. The only complaint I have with this wine is that it could be marketed better at English-speaking folk, but then again perhaps it’s us that ought to be putting in the extra effort?

I have another Pittacum wine to try this month, so I’m very much looking forward to that. Spain has a lot to offer outside of Rioja (hey, that almost rhymes!) – this is what I’ve often been told, so it’s nice to finally have the opportunity to discover so for myself; you won’t necessarily find a lot of opportunity to do so in your average supermarket.

Image by Victoria Velky.


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Meet the Author:
Alexander Velky
Alexander grew up on Anglesey, almost as far away from civilization as he’d have liked. He studied English at university and subsequently moved to Prague to teach it to Czech people for just long enough that he could say he’d done that. He then returned to the UK to do an MA in Professional Writing, and later moved to London by accident and worked in the music industry for a while. His interest in wine has been developing throughout. He took the WSET Intermediate exam, for which he was rewarded with a certificate and a pin badge, but he probably won't bother doing any more. He now lives in Pembrokeshire with his wife and daughter. He writes, and drinks, for a living. You can follow him on Twitter if that's how you choose to spend your time. Photograph by Léonie Keeble