Cume do Avia - 2017 Dos Canotos, Brancellao
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Cume do Avia’s Brancellao is dainty, thin framed, soft spoken and subtly powerful. It’s equally as compelling as the other wines in their range of reds but its charm flows ceaselessly from the first sniff and sip. It’s more suave and mild when compared to some of Cume do Avia’s deeply textured, explosive reds. Diego says it’s a “very fluid and drinkable wine.” I agree, but I would add that it’s a bottle of pure joy and full of good surprises, especially when given the proper time to put all of its cards on the table.
At less than fifty cases produced (in 2017), Brancellao is still the largest production of their single-varietal wines. It’s extremely fresh, bright and unusually transparent, and reveals many facets in time, all filling out together as it unfolds. One moment it speaks of Italy’s alpine influenced wines, Premetta and Schiava, or France’s Massif Central red, Saint Pourçain, or an “infusion” style Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Poulsard from the Jura, or lightly extracted old school California Russian River Pinot Noirs from the days of the 1980s and 1990s, Williams Selyem’s coastal vineyard sites with decades of cellar time.
Despite its differences with the other reds from this micro-bodega, this along with their blended wines, Colleita 5 and Tinto Dos Mouros, is more typical of a red wine on the lab report while the other single varietal bottlings can have freakish numbers similar to a white wines from the Loire Valley's Brézé hill. (I find the technical data of Cume do Avia’s range to be fascinating and I am compelled to include them so you can also compare notes between the wines.) The alcohol is 12.8%, a perfect equilibrium for elegance and fleshing out of the body, and the pH and acidity (3.5-3.6 pH and 4.7g/l of acidity) keep it fresh without the nuclear explosion of Cume do Avia’s other single varietal wines.
Aside from the naturally cool temperatures of the region, the freshness of the Brancellao comes from a variety of other factors. The grapes are picked on the earlier side of ripeness to preserve higher-toned fruit characters because it doesn’t have the same turbo charge of natural acidity found in their other single varietal wines from the collection: Caiño Longo, Ferrón and Sousón. The fermentation has half the stems included, which costs the wine a little in acidity but adds freshness and spice to what may otherwise leave the wine too top heavy in fruit and flower characters—not a bad thing, but I think they were right to balance it out with stems. It spends only six months in barrel before bottling in order to preserve all of its fresh charm.
In the glass it smells and tastes of the first red berries of the season, sweet green citrus and bay spice. The palate ceaselessly grows in depth and weight at a constant pace, with a start as light as a darker rosé which evolves into a wine that delivers on complexity and weight, like a fresh, cool vintage red Burgundy from a high elevation site on stony soils. That said, I have no illusion about this wine’s pedigree when comparing it to Burgundy because it is not constructed like one in the cellar. It was crafted for a shorter life, but over hours of tasting it finds unexpected heights that show what its potential could be if crafted with the intention to age longer.
A little story: I was introduced to Cume do Avia’s Colleita 5 and Brancellao for the first time in a wonderful restaurant in Ponte Vedra, Bar Berberecho (named after the most insanely good cockles you could imagine), with the restaurant’s owners, Jose and Eva, and Manuel Moldes, a rising star crafting dynamic Albariño wines in the Rias Biaxas. These two bottles convinced me that I had to make time to meet the guys at Cume do Avia before leaving Spain two days later. My fingers were crossed that their wines would be the same quality as what I had already tasted. My doubts were dashed after a visit to their spectacular vineyards and a tasting of their jaw dropping range. The Brancellao is the perfect introduction because of the sheer bliss of drinking it, and it will most likely lead tasters to seek out the rest of their wines.