Mencia from the Bierzo region in northwestern Spain is one of my favorite varietals. Even when it doesn't make great wine, usually the wine still shows unique character. What that character is, though, seems to be open to debate. I've seen comparisons to Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and even cool-climate Syrah. The one constant seems to be that wines like the Abad Dom Bueno 2005 Bierzo Roble are available for less than $20 if you look for them.
This Bierzo is a parodoxical mix of rusticity and international flavors. The bouquet has an intense ferality to it, expressing both farm animal barn funk and raw meat aromas. The label states that there were no sulfites added, meaning a wine like this is especially susceptible to bottle variation and weird, Bretty aromas. For many people, this nose will inspire a love/hate reaction. The flavors are a bit more mundane with creamy oak and oaky tannins fairly noticeable. While I don't really like un-oaked reds, this seemed a little clumsily assembled. But the overall balance is still pretty good, with the acidity and medium body in particular making it pretty versatile. It's a supple yet structured wine, though the finish isn't especially remarkable.
This particular wine was one of the NYT's favorites in a recent Bierzo tasting and their top QPR. I'm also a fan, though the oak and lack of sulfites make this somewhat idiosyncratic. It's certainly a fascinating wine, even if a bit inelegant.
Pros: Animal Funk, Balanced, Supple, Medium Body
Cons: Noticeable Oak, Potential for Bottle Variation
Price: $18 from K&L Wines
QPR: Fair/Good (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)