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Bodegas Mengoba

Bye Bye Bordeaux: Dazzling, Authentic Bierzo from High Country Spain

The region of Bierzo missed much of the industrialisation that Europe went through post- WW2. The extreme landscape was too difficult to mechanise, and there was simply no interest in this remote area until a clutch of winemakers realised the remarkable potential of the high altitudes, old vines and quartz- and slate-rich soils.

Bordeaux native Grégory Pérez launched his career with Grand-Puy-Lacoste and also worked at Cos d’Estournel before travelling to Bierzo on the advice of a friend. What he found in the wild mountains of Bierzo would change his life forever. After acclimatising at Luna Beberide, he launched Mengoba in 2007.

Following organic principles, Pérez farms a patchwork of old vines on the hillside vineyards of Valtuille, Villafranca del Bierzo and Carracedo. Head-pruned Mencía and Godello are the key varieties, with smaller holdings of Alicante Bouschet, Estaladiña and Doña Blanca, often all interplanted within the same vineyard.

“You know, it’s always the crazy guys that make the best wine,” Pérez told us on our last visit to Bierzo. “Jose- Luis Mateo [Muradella], people say, he’s that crazy guy in Monterrei. Fernando in Ribera Sacra [Algueira] is another crazy guy, and here, people say I am the crazy guy.” Gregory Perez, winemaker

Yet it is the work in the slate-rich highlands of Espanillo that Pérez (and Mengoba) has become most associated with. Espanillo’s steeply sloping vineyards sit at the head of the River Cúa at an altitude of 850 metres and count among the highest in Bierzo. The rocky, fragmented slate and decomposed shale soils—and old vines—beget Mengoba’s most vivid and pungently mineral cuvées. Perhaps the most prized parcel is La Vigne de Sancho Martín, an isolated, 80-year-old plot. This vineyard looks more like a quarry—it’s incredibly stony, with the old trunks of Mencía and Godello protruding from a carpet of craggy fragmented schist.

In the vines, Pérez’s artisanal work can only be described as tenacious—or the work of a madman. These challenging, remote vineyards are ploughed by oxen or ancient caterpillar tractors, and Pérez’s brand of organic viticulture requires exhaustive work by hand. The high altitude, shifting pure-slate soils, and the steep uneven terrain makes for slow and often treacherous work. Indeed, several years ago, Pérez flipped his tractor and was lucky to survive the experience.

We’re pleased to say that all this inspiring grower’s hard work has been compensated by a stunning portfolio of wines. The new winery in San Juan de Carracedo allows Pérez to utilise the large-format oak he now favours, as well as a growing collection of clay jars and amphorae (and even two ancient sherry botas). With these systematic improvements, Pérez believes his wines are taking on more precision with each passing year. His goal is, and always has been, to make authentic wine with the most profound respect for nature. And the results are dazzling.

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Mengoba Bierzo Brezo Mencía 2021

Mengoba Bierzo Brezo Mencía 2021

Pérez’s entry-level Mencía comes from multiple remote parcels of 30- to 60-year-old vines dotted around the slate-rich hillsides of Valtuille and Villafranca del Bierzo. The blend also takes in a splash of Godello and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet)—a legacy of the traditional make-up of Bierzo’s vineyards. Pérez destemmed 90% of his fruit in the pursuit of something pure, refreshing and juicy, and the wine fermented wild in stainless-steel tanks. Bottled early to capture all that joyous, mouth-watering Mencía character, this is an excellent port of call if you fancy a detour from Cru Beaujolais or Loire Cabernet Franc.Pérez's 2021 release has got everything we look for in a wine from the easy-drinking leagues: authenticity, refreshment and fun, with a large side order of place. Putting the value to one side, the great achievement here is that the striking fleshiness of fruit is finely offset by the bright, fresh structure—a balance reflective of the altitude and the diurnal contrast (warm days followed by cold nights). Filled to the brim with sleek and vibrant fruit, it’s a deliciously animated Mencía. Full of succulent verve, gravelly tannins lend length and gravitas. A real charmer.

Pérez's 2021 release has got everything we look for in a wine from the easy drinking leagues: authenticity, refreshment and fun, with a large side order of place. Putting the value to one side, the great achievement here is that the striking fleshiness of fruit is finely offset by the bright, fresh structure—a balance reflective of the altitude and the diurnal contrast (warm days followed by cold nights). Filled to the brim with sleek and vibrant fruit, it’s a deliciously animated Mencia, full of lacy verve with some gravelly tannins also lending length and gravitas. A real charmer.

Mengoba Bierzo Brezo Mencía 2021
Mengoba Brezo Rosado 2015

Mengoba Brezo Rosado 2015

Pérez's delicious, thirst-slaking rosado is drawn from mature vines of Mencía plus a little Godello (for added freshness and texture). The Mencía comes from the clay and limestone soils of the Valtuille and Villafranca vineyards, as well as from the pure slate of Espanillo (the highest vineyard in Bierzo). The Godello grows in the Carracedo vineyard. Both varieties were crushed together and spent 24 hours on skins before pressed into a single, 1800-litre tank for fermentation with indigenous yeasts. A bright, perfumed, racy and punchy, rosado with fabulous energy and freshness, but also with quite a lot of generosity, lively red berry fruit and spicy complexity. Rates very high on the deliciousness scale.

A bright, perfumed, racy and punchy, rosado with fabulous energy and freshness, but also with quite a lot of generosity, lively red berry fruit and spicy complexity. Rates very high on the deliciousness scale.

Mengoba Brezo Rosado 2015
Mengoba Mencía de Espanillo 2019

Mengoba Mencía de Espanillo 2019

The vineyard of Espanillo sits at an altitude of 850 metres and is perhaps the highest in Bierzo. It’s Pérez’s flagship vineyard with rocky, fragmented slate and decomposed shale soils, and older vines that are reaching 90 years of age. As with many Spanish vineyards at this age, the parcel is a mixed planting; essentially Mencía with 15% Garnacha Tintorera, Estaladiña and Godello. Instead of discarding the latter varieties, as many do, Pérez feels they play an essential part in the story of this vineyard and its wine. Not only are the vines very old but the vineyard is also managed the way it was 90 years ago, using ox-drawn plough. With the elevation, aspect and rock-strewn soil, this work is not as romantic as it sounds. This is hard, hard yakka. Today the field blend is fermented with a portion of the white bunches in 5,000 litre French-coopered Grenier foudre and then raised for just under a year in 2,500 litre oak ovals. This is Pérez’s finest example to date; a gorgeously pure, unforced Bierzo with oodles of crunchy plum, anise and black pepper-scented fruit with the silkiest of textures. A lick of earthy mineral here, some smoked meat complexity there; this is the blood of the mountain and a beautiful Spanish red. 

Mengoba Mencía de Espanillo 2019
Mengoba Godello Viejo Sobre Lías 2021

Mengoba Godello Viejo Sobre Lías 2021

Pérez’s core white wine is exclusively Godello drawn from a selection of 30- to 40-year-old plots in Cacabelos, Valtuille and Villafranca del Bierzo. The parcels cover a range of soil profiles, including river stones, sandy loam and slate soils, all lying at 550 metres. This wine fermented with wild yeast in wooden foudre and was raised for 10 months on fine lees in two 4,000-litre oval wooden vats. Here is another example of how far Pérez’s white wines have progressed in terms of precision and clarity in recent years. The aging is longer and less reductive than for its younger sibling, which only seems to enhance the sense of smoky minerality—a reflection of the slate and calcareous soil in which the vines grow. It is a complex and stimulating mountain white that is, by turns, grapefruity, fleshy, powdery and savoury. The finish throws up deep, earthy mineral notes and perfumed, mouth-watering length. Again, it packs in much bang for your buck.

Mengoba Godello Viejo Sobre Lías 2021
Mengoba Mencía Alicante Bouschet 2020

Mengoba Mencía Alicante Bouschet 2020

Grégory Pérez’s ‘Mengoba’ bottling is a blend of Mencía, Alicante Bouschet and also contains some white grapes from the field blend found in his old vineyards. The Mencía plots are located in Pérez’s slate-rich Espanillo vineyard at an altitude of 700 metres, where the average age of the vineyard is 80 years old. This wine was wild fermented with 20% whole in 5,000-litre oak vats and matured for 16 months before bottling. 

Mengoba Mencía Alicante Bouschet 2020
Mengoba Bierzo Brezo Blanco 2022 (1500ml)

Mengoba Bierzo Brezo Blanco 2022 (1500ml)

One of the best-value wines in our portfolio, Mengoba’s entry white is a blend of 85% Godello and 15% Doña Blanca, sourced from a variety of Bierzo’s highland vineyards. The Godello is drawn mostly from a stony Carracedo site, as well as from some sandy loam and clay/limestone plots in Valtuille and Villafranca del Bierzo. The Doña Blanca hails from similar sites, and includes some older, gobelet material from the slate soils of Espanillo. The age of the vines sits between 20 and 80 years, and all the fruit is harvested by hand, which is remarkable when you consider the price. The wine fermented with wild yeasts and was raised on its fine lees in tank and large cask for six months. Gregory Pérez’s white wines have never tasted as pure and energetic as they do today. The new release is a superbly tangy wine offering an array of pulpy citrus, wet stone and spearmint flavour and finishing with a juicy, mineral quality. It’s a cracking bargain from some of Spain’s most spectacular vineyards.

Mengoba Bierzo Brezo Blanco 2022 (1500ml)
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“Most wine drinkers, I suspect, have never heard of Bierzo, but word is getting around. And if you get the opportunity to taste a good bottle, with its haunting, exotic wildflower, licorice and fruit flavors, you can't help but remember it.” Eric Asimov, The New York Times

“Gregory Pérez is one f@#$ing talented winemaker...” Alice Feiring, The Feiring Line

Country

Spain

Primary Region

Bierzo, Castilla y Leon

People

Winemaker: Grégory Pérez

Availability

National

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