Cume do Avia

Cume do Avia
Cume do Avia

The Story

We first met Diego Collarte on an unnamed road outside of Ribadavia, in Spain’s Ribeiro wine country. As Cume do Avia’s ringleader, he’s the one who claims responsibility for the “completely irrational decision” his clan made fifteen years ago.

Diego and his brother, Álvaro, grew up in Vigo, northwestern Spain’s largest metropolitan and industrial area. The bustle of city life wasn’t in their blood, so in their early twenties they embarked on the courageous restoration of vineyards in an ancient Galician ruin where their ancestors once lived. “I was not interested in material things. I only wanted to be satisfied with what I do,” Diego explained.

Diego (left), Álvaro (center) and their cousins, Fito (right) and Anxo (hiding somewhere in the vineyards), started their new lifelong adventure together in 2005. As Diego says, “we put our youth into the project,” one that ultimately pushed them to the brink of financial ruin and tested their relationships with each other and many of their loved ones. Three of the four would eventually have to find supplemental work to keep things afloat while waiting for the tide to turn in their favor.

In 1942, their grandparents abandoned their land, known as Eida de Mouros, so named after mythological elves who safeguarded local knowledge. Dense with trees and underbrush, the property sits on the top of a hill (a Cume) above the river Avia, and was reestablished in 2005. They had no family wealth, so they had to take out loans to buy heavy machinery (which none of them had ever used before) and began to carve out the land. By 2008 they planted their first vines, and in 2012 finally made their first vinification “tests,” as Diego calls them; it was the first time any of them had ever made wine.

They planted thirteen different indigenous Galician varietals selected from ancient vines in the Ribeiro, with plans to plant many more. “The past of these forgotten grapes has been erased, leaving no one to discuss the ideal practices for them. Much knowledge was discarded with the introduction of chemicals to the vineyards after the second World War and there is no manual or record. We are trying to reinvent and rebuild this lost history,” Diego explained.

Their makeshift winery is a five-minute drive down the hill from their vineyards, in their grandparent’s garage. There’s very little room to move in the cramped little space where they tediously vinify and bottle each grape varietal separately to see how their vineyard’s diverse soil types influence smell and taste. They make over twenty different wines, and most barely fill a barrel, some of which are restored chestnut and over a hundred years old.

Diego candidly told me that their early wines were inconsistent and it wasn’t until 2015 that they began to find more enological stability and a clear direction in the cellar. The cloud of doubt and anxiety began to lift and they were finally on their way to a breakthrough after more than a decade. Then a virtual plague of mildew arrived and wiped out nearly their entire 2016 vintage, leaving their morale in tatters and their finances in dire straits.

Enter 2017. The most beguiling wines give the impression that you’ve never truly fell in love with a wine like you just did with the one currently in your glass. The wines we first tasted out of barrel in their cellar with Diego seemed to carry the magnitude and desperation of their collective dream—I’ve never been so moved by the energy of a moment as I was the day I met him and heard his unfiltered, brutally honest view into their challenges. The grit and heart-filled determination of this tribe has led to a range of red wines in 2017 that are raw, honest and inspiring.

Their Brancellao and Caiño are reds as brightly hued as a glass of Campari, and others, like the Sousón and Ferrón, are black like squid ink. All the wines’ aromas are intensely perfumed and have a mouthfeel full of tremendous freshness and intensity. Cume do Avia’s range of red wines is a unique and exciting addition to the resurgence of the Iberian Peninsula’s many sleeping wine giants.

Lay of the Land

Aside from the sentimental reasons for seeking their ancestral heritage as the starting point for their dream, there were also technical ones: the proximity of the land to the Atlantic; the south and west-facing orientation to maximize the sun’s heat in an otherwise cold region; the richness of the diverse soils, and the constant whistle of fierce winds that bring in fresh air and help grapes to stay dry and pest free. It’s an ideal place within this lush green landscape for their organic and biodynamic practices, extremely difficult tasks in Ribeiro, a region Diego lovingly refers to as a “paradise for fungus.”

In a land mostly known for granite, the diversity of soils in their vineyards adds great breadth to their wines, filling the gaps where granite alone can fall short. From one meter to the next, their vineyard soils can quickly change from granite to schist to slate—three of the greatest soil types for true vins de terroir. The soil grain is equally diverse and randomly shifts back and forth between sand and clay. Some soils are dark orange, white or brown, depending on the mineral makeup. It’s an extremely complex area within only nine hectares (twenty-two acres).

The Ribeiro is better known for white wine, but at Cume do Avia it’s the reds that bring the thrill of discovery. The revelation when tasting them is in how they manage to be angular and vertical while remaining strong on all sides of the palate. They all carry a decisive full frontal attack, weighted mid-palate and a long, textured mineral sharp finish. Many wines grown solely on granite tend to front-load in the palate, leaving the mid and back-palates behind in their potency; regions like France’s Northern Rhône Valley, Corsica and Muscadet often demonstrate this tendency.

Schist and slate seemingly weight the scales in the opposite direction from granite and drill deep into the mid and back-palate, making the combination of these soil types within one wine extremely complex. The result is wines that manage to be both concentrated and lithe at the same time. They rest on the palate like a mouthful of small steel weights rather than with a dough-like density.

There are no fertilizers or soil amendments in the vineyards, which keeps the wines as true and pure as possible, and prevents them from being overly vigorous and unnecessarily weighted. They’re low alcohol, high acidity wines with an energy like rays of sunlight through the clouds on a fresh, wet spring morning, rather than sweltering summer heat under a cloudless desert sky.

The wines of Cume do Avia share the qualities of the most compelling wines in the world, and they transport us to their birthplace and speak the dialect of their terroir. Diego and his tribe have done the wine world a great service by resurrecting an ancient wine culture lost in the shuffle of the many wars of the twentieth century, gifting us with something beautiful amidst the overwhelming rush of modern progress.

To read more about the Ribeiro go to https://thesourceimports.com/producers/bodegas-el-paraguas/

Brancellao
Cume do Avia winemaker
One of Cume do Avia's vineyards
A mix of rocks on Cume do Avia's property
Brancellao
Cume do Avia winemaker

Cume do Avia - 2018 Dos Canotos, Brancellao

Price: $42.00
Size: 750ml
Availability:

6 in stock

Type of Wine: Red
Grape(s): Brancellao
Style: Mineral, Elegant and Aromatic

The Wine

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.

INFORMATION DISCLAIMER

Terroir: Many factors are at play in the Ribeiro: the proximity of the land to the Atlantic; the south and west-facing orientation to maximize the sun’s heat in an otherwise cold region; the constant whistle of fierce winds that bring in fresh air and help grapes to stay dry and relatively pest free; and the richness of the diverse soils. The bedrock and soil in Cume do Avia’s vineyards adds great breadth to their wines and from one meter to the next they can quickly change between igneous rocks and metamorphic. The soil grain is equally diverse and randomly shifts back and forth between sand and clay. The soils are dark orange, white or brown, depending on the mineral makeup. It’s an extremely complex area within only nine hectares (twenty-two acres).

Vinification: Naturally fermented with 50% stem inclusion for one month with an “infusion style” extraction with gentle pushdowns of the cap by hand to keep it moist and extract as little as possible. Malolactic fermentation takes place–noted because in many of Cume do Avia’s red wines it does not.

Aging: Aged in ancient barrels for two months then racked to stainless steel for three months. Bottled without fining but lightly filtered.

(Subjective and based on young wines)

General Impressions:

Extremely Elegant, Bright Red and Dark Fruit, Transparent, Aromatic, Ethereal

Mineral Impressions:

Lightly SaltySaltyMetalMineralWet StoneFlintGraphiteReductivePetrol

Ageability:

Drink YoungShort-Term BenefitsLong-Term BenefitsUnknown

Technical Precision:

NatureModerateNurture

Intensity:

SubtleVigorousElectric

Core:

LitheMediumDense

Acidity:

LightMediumFullElectric

Texture:

LitheMediumDense

Body:

LightMediumFull

Tannin:

NoneLightMediumFull

Finish:

FrontMiddleBack

Wood Presence:

NoneSubtleNoticeable

The Vineyard

Soil:

Stony, sandy, clay soils derived from a granodiorite rock (a very hard igneous rock similar to granite), gneiss (a metamorphic stone) bedrock with shale, quartzite.

Farming:

SustainableOrganic CertifiedBiodynamic CertifiedUncertified Naturalist

While they are certified organic they also practice biodynamic farming, but without certification.

Irrigation:

ForbiddenNeverSometimes

Vine Age:

Planted in 2008-2009

Altitude (meters):

290-310

Aspect:

South to Southwest

Slope:

Medium slope on wide terraces
(typical numbers; not vintage specific)

Enological Additions:

Sulfur Dioxide

Total SO2:

None AddedVery LowLowMediumHigh

Alcohol:

12.0-12.8

pH:

3.45-3.65

Titratable Acidity:

4.5-5.5

Residual Sugar:

>2

Notes compiled in 2019 by Ted Vance (The Source) and Diego Collarte (Cume do Avia)

About The Wine

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.