One of the difficulties of selecting a glass of wine from an interesting, well-priced wine list is actually deciding on just one. When so many of the major wines of the world are listed, from classic cuvées to hipster juice, it can be tempting to fall back on tried-and-true favorites. As I was struggling to decide between an aged German Riesling and a favorite producer of Beaujolais the other evening, I instead handed the decision to the sommelier. What appeared in front of me was a glass that I hadn’t even considered: the Envínate “Lousas Viñas de Aldea,” a Mencia-based blend from the region of Ribeira Sacra in Spain. The twist of a choice was a most happy one.
The area of Galicia in northwestern Spain may be more famous for its white wines, particularly the Albariños of Rías Baixas, but the small quantities of red wines produced fit perfectly with the region’s ocean-influenced culture. The remote Ribeira Sacra is more inland and slightly more northerly than most of Galicia’s wine regions, with both red and white grapes planted on steep, terraced slopes cut into the hills that rise from rivers below. Cool-climate influence produces versions of the Mencia grape that are red-fruited, acid-driven, and light to medium in body.
A project by four friends brought together by enology school, Envínate tackles winemaking in two very different regions of Spain: Ribeira Sacra and the Canary Islands. The “Lousas” line of wines indicates bottles that are made from the slate soil found in a subregion of Ribeira Sacra called Amandi, and the “Viñas de Aldea” cuvée represents the line’s young, blended, village-style wine. Made almost entirely of Mencia, the Viñas de Aldea is incredibly lively, with a bubblegum-plum lift on the nose, surrounded by a subtle layer of finely crushed rock and cocoa powder. The palate is juicy and medium-bodied, springy and plentiful in acidity, but with just a hint of tannic grip to add structure. Coarse black pepper and a slightly bitter greenness add complexity on the finish.
It just goes to show, sometimes the perfect wine is the last one you’d select for yourself, so don’t be afraid to take the decision out of your own hands every once in awhile.