Up until a few years ago Raul Perez’s Mencia was rarely available on the west coast. We can thank the insight and marketing by his new importer. In the past, almost everything was swallowed up instantly by NYC hipster somms and trendy merchants. Now we have a fighting chance, but one needs to still act quickly! After all Perez has been named “Winemaker of the Year”, multiple times by different trade publications. He is a true visionary and pioneer, advancing Spain’s renaissance to identify emerging regional fine wine.
The La Vitoriana has been my favorite to secure since the 2014 vintage. Under the La Vizcaina label, this is a relatively new project for Raul Perez, who constantly explores the hillsides crus surrounding his village Valtuille de Abajo and Loma de Valtuille (Bierzo-Galicia). La Vitoriana is a dry farmed, field blend of mostly Mencia from ancient bush vines densely planted on the 1.8 hectare La Vitoriana Vineyard. Originally planted in 1890 with both northern and southern exposures, sandy soils dominate the upper sections and clay and river rock stones in the lower.
Perez produces his wine in a similar fashion. That is, indigenous yeast, whole cluster maceration, and aging always in at least one year used barrels of varying sizes. No fining or filtration. Some of the wines see longer maceration than others. Alcohol is kept in check.
All of Raul Perez’s Mencia are terruños (terroir) expressions, beautifully balanced, showing off varying levels of extract, but all are profoundly aromatic with fresh and vibrant dark berry fruits intermixed with loamy spice, minerality, and a floral-like garrigue. On the palate the wines simply dance with rapid fire bursts of fruit, but each with its own lilt of refinement and elegance that can reminds one of the transparency found grand Burgundy and the northern Rhone’s Côte-Rôtie.
Most all the Perez “Mencia” wines are from various sources along the pilgrim-age to the tomb of Saint James in Santiago di Compostela, which is the main reason each wine is NOT completely 100% Mencia. Since 900 AD, the monks making the trek would bring gifts of various vine cuttings for the monasteries en route ; including Trousseau (Bastardo), Alicante Bouschet, Souson, and Godello and Palamino. Over time these vines became co-mingled in the organically farmed, but predominantly Mencia vineyards. Raul Perez sources from specific vineyard sites to be kept separate and designated, but also produces from various field blends from different zones in and around the area in Valtuille de Abajo where he grew up and his family has worked for generations. His model is very Burgundian and represents a collection of terroirs and growers.