Jaen grapes

Jaen or more popularly known as Mencia (pronounced as ‘men-thee-ah’) is a popular red grape variety coming in from northwestern Spain.

Having grown in some 9,100 hectares (22,000 acres) of northwestern hilly plateau, the Jaen is certainly a popular Spanish red.

It has traditionally been grown in regions of Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras, that also produce the largest amount of Jaen to this day. Some of the cultivation also comes from Portugal that has some 4,000 acres devoted to it.

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Jaen is typically known for its light, pale and thin red wines that can mostly be enjoyed when young. This type of wine was the result of cultivation on fertile plains after the post-phylloxera epidemic that caused havoc among vineyards of almost all of Western Europe.

In recent decades, winemakers through new techniques have been able to uncover new ways to produce an ‘older’ kind of wine that were more concentrated and fruity to the palate.

Since the 1990s, Jaen has picked up on its popularity scale and now a lot of winemakers are working on it. Jaen might just be the next popular red variety.

The similarities of genes with Portuguese variety, also called the Jaen have recently put a question mark on Spanish Jaen’s point of origin, while most point out to the Bierzo region, making the grape an indigenous variety, some pint out to the Dao region of Portugal where it could have been originated.

Unfortunately, there is an absence of historical records and writings that could suggest as to the exact point of origin for Jaen.

Remember to read the Wine Tasting guide...

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Parentage of Jaen

Jaen is a century old variety, although much of its past, like most other Spanish grapes, remains pretty much unknown. It was once thought to be the descendant of Cabernet Franc because of the similarities it exhibited; however, recent DNA analysis has disproved this claim.


The similarities of genes with Portuguese variety, also called the Jaen have recently put a question mark on Spanish Jaen’s point of origin, while most point out to the Bierzo region, making the grape an indigenous variety, some pint out to the Dao region of Portugal where it could have been originated.

Unfortunately, there is an absence of historical records and writings that could suggest as to the exact point of origin for Jaen.

Jaen’s past

Jaen, for its time, seemed to have developed economically in Spain in the middle ages when it was suddenly struck by the massive phylloxera epidemic that destroyed nearly every vineyard in Spain and its neighbouring nations.

The epidemic was so massive and deadly that some of the best grape varieties got extinct in the 1880’s and some of them never saw a practical revival in wine regions.

Jaen, suffered intensely during this event, but was getting saved by the local farmers who transferred the variety from fertile plains where it originally grew to hilly sides where it could be approached by much less of the insect that was causing havoc on Spanish vineyards.

This came at a price though. The wines that were produced on its earlier, plain soil on the foothills were of much higher quality and more dilute.

Since the soil on the hills was different, Jaen gave off more mineral-like and concentrated wines that were not regarded in the community. Jaen therefore, was suffering either way.

After the phylloxera ended, the vine again witnessed a rise in its popularity, although it never revived its economic activity as it used to be before the epidemic struck.

In addition, because Jaen was now producing a ‘lower’ quality of wine, its fame got limited, never really getting back its former glory.

However, times have since then have changed and Jaen has again started to attract Spanish winemakers’ attention as more and more of it is becoming cultivated. Since 1990, Jaen’s popularity has increased both in area as well as in market.

Wines with Jaen grapes

Characteristics of Jaen

Jaen has that characteristic fruity flavour and aroma to it, typical of the red grapes. The grape has high amount of anthocyanin that gives it the deep red colour.

The nose is greeted with aromas of raspberry, strawberry, liquorice and pomegranate with cherry sauce. On the palate, flavours of sour cherry, red currant ad pomegranate rule with some hints of cherry pit that comes from the wine’s tannins.

Also included are some hints of mineral like texture, owing to the soil the grape is grown in. These soil types also give it a peppery flavour.

Food pairing

Jaen can be enjoyed with almost any Iberian dish. Some cheeses like white cheddar, Azeitao, QuesoIberico, Tetilla are some of the best choices one can have.

Mushroom rissottos, prunes, Portabello mushroom steak can be some dinner items to enjoy with the Jaen.

Author

Michael Bredahl

Michael Bredahl

Wine Writer

Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂

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