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 and instigator, 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 (perhaps 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. Today, their fortune is on the upswing due to a series of wines with the 2017 vintage that began to turn heads, including ours.

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. With no family wealth, they took 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. With over twenty different lots, most barely enough to fill a barrel, many are aged in restored chestnut with over a hundred years of age.

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 (not uncommon in these parts) 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 like you just did with the wine 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. With the 2018 vintage, their whites took a significant jump that nearly levels the playing field with the reds.

Brancellao, a grape that can render a wine as brightly hued as a glass of Campari it the most seducing and elegant in the range. Caiño Longo, a bright red in its youth that can quickly take on a darker hue with only a little age, charges with an unstoppable vigorous energy. Their other red grapes, like the ink-black Sousón and Ferrón are animal and earth, and veer toward power, grit and almost savagery when young. 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. -TV

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 that play to the exceptional quality of their wines: 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 the Ribeiro, a region Diego lovingly refers to as a “paradise for fungus.” (See a 3D map of the vineyard here. The vineyards are only to the left of the main road.)

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 that exemplify the concept the French refer to as a vin de terroir. The soil grain is equally diverse and randomly shifts back and forth between sand and clay, bringing even more range of palate textures and weight. Some soils are dark orange, white or brown, depending on the mineral makeup. Within only nine hectares (twenty-two acres), it’s an extremely diverse plot of land.

The Ribeiro is better known for white wine, and while Cume do Avia has really stepped up their game in that department, it’s the reds that bring a greater thrill of discovery. The revelation when tasting them is in how they manage to be angular and vertical while remaining strong and somehow full 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 characteristic.

Schist and slate seemingly weight the scales in the opposite direction as granite and drill deep into the mid and back-palate, making the combination of these soil types within one wine extremely complex and on par with limestone terroirs that seem to carry a fuller mouthfeel in general by comparison to granite, slate and schist as single bedrock terroirs. 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 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 with their strong contribution to resurrecting some of the more ancient wine cultures lost in the shuffle of the many wars of the twentieth century, gifting us with something beautiful amidst the overwhelming rush of modern progress.  -TV

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

 

Caiño Longo

Cume do Avia - 2018 Dos Canotos, Caiño Longo

Price: $42.00
Size: 750ml
Availability:

24+ in stock

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

The Wine

It’s hard to imagine a more compelling prospect in the resurgence of the Spain’s Ribeiro (and perhaps within Galicia) than Caiño Longo. If there were ever an extroverted bright light within all of the noble red grapes of the world, this could be a contender for the top prize. Cume do Avia’s interpretation is almost outrageous and appears to be some kind of mythical legend from fantasyland.

Notoriously aromatic and intense, this Caiño Longo is grown on a mix of granite, schist and slate soils, and it’s a lightning bolt of freshness with an atomic level of expansive energy. In its youth, it bursts with a broad, mouthwatering spectrum of piercing lines, sharp angles, seductive curves and concentrated energy. (These descriptors may seem indulgent, but this wine is like a high-grade stimulant for the nose and mouth.)

The first time I tasted Cume do Avia’s Caiño Longo from a restored chestnut barrel over a hundred years old was a hair-raising and somehow illusory experience, despite being one of the most vivid moments of my entire wine career—(link: see the story in their profile). Instantly smitten by its flamboyantly profound beauty and depth, I asked if it was made from old vines and was surprised when I was told that they were planted in 2008 and 2009. Its sappy palate and lengthy finish is deceptive and easy to associate with a wine rendered from ancient vines whose experience and energy is spared for fewer but more concentrated grapes.

Uniquely balanced, this wine is yin and yang, deafening noise and silence, virgin and pornographic. What Didier Dageneau pioneered with Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc in the 90s, Cume do Avia’s Caiño Longo is a torchbearer of red wine extremity with supreme balance.

The “by the book” enology university professors would likely denounce this wine, whose lab numbers (see further below) read more like a white wine from a cold climate, and burn it at the stake. However, the makers don’t have some sort of pretentious agenda here; they’re simply embracing a sort of beautiful extreme, a discovery of the unadulterated nature of a unique grape with a distinguished personality. Like all the indigenous grapes of the Ribeiro that have nearly lost their historic reference, the crew at Cume do Avia wants to be led by the terroir each varietal in grown in rather than attempting to force square pegs into round holes.

One intention with their red wines is to entice their local market of white wine and beer drinkers who remain loyal to their refreshing drinks most of the year (even when it’s frigid and wet) and may scoff at the suggestion of moving on to a red wine later in the evening. In the process, they’ve discovered a range of wines that are exuberant, generous and joyful, with ceaseless energy and that express unique regional complexities. Caiño Longo is the brightest light, and once the cork is pulled every bit of this wine’s octane keeps you on the edge of your seat until after the last sip.

(See a 3D map of the vineyard here. The vineyards are only to the left of the main road.)

More information: According to Diego, Caiño Longo is one of four different Caiño grapes grown in Galicia. Caiño da Terra and Caiño Redondo are more commonly found in Rias Biaxas and are very similar to Caiño Longo, but have a tendency toward slightly more balsamic notes within the fruit character; whereas youthful Caiño Longo is red fruit all day long. The fourth genetically related Caiño is not known by this name, but under another grape name, which I have yet to find. Diego described Caiño Longo as, “the best agronomical variety. It is capable of reaching an exceptional quality, and maintains high acidity with great phenolic maturation with quantity.” This grape is also known by many other names in Portugal, but one of the most common is Borraçal.

Those crazy numbers: Around 12.00% alcohol, 3.10-3.20 pH and 8.0+ grams per liter of titratable acidity (“ta,” or often referred to as total acidity), and all this even after fully completing malolactic fermentation and nearly half of the fermentation done with whole clusters—both of which usually raise a wine’s pH between one tenth and two tenths of a point with potentially big conversions on the acidity as well, depending on the grape. There are few enjoyable red wines like these in the world with these kinds of Riesling and Champagne numbers.

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 40% 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 usually takes place.

Aging: Six months in one hundred+ year-old 600-liter oak barrels and 8 to 15 years-old 300-liter oak barrels. No finings are made but there is a light filtration.

(Subjective and based on young wines)

General Impressions:

Intense, High-Toned, Bright, Red and Dark Fruit, Exotic, Textured, High Acid, Deeply Complex

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):

260-320

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:

12.0-12.5

pH:

3.10-3.20

Titratable Acidity:

8.0-9.0

Residual Sugar:

Dry

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

About The Wine

It’s hard to imagine a more compelling prospect in the resurgence of the Spain’s Ribeiro (and perhaps within Galicia) than Caiño Longo. If there were ever an extroverted bright light within all of the noble red grapes of the world, this could be a contender for the top prize. Cume do Avia’s interpretation is almost outrageous and appears to be some kind of mythical legend from fantasyland.

Notoriously aromatic and intense, this Caiño Longo is grown on a mix of granite, schist and slate soils, and it’s a lightning bolt of freshness with an atomic level of expansive energy. In its youth, it bursts with a broad, mouthwatering spectrum of piercing lines, sharp angles, seductive curves and concentrated energy. (These descriptors may seem indulgent, but this wine is like a high-grade stimulant for the nose and mouth.)

The first time I tasted Cume do Avia’s Caiño Longo from a restored chestnut barrel over a hundred years old was a hair-raising and somehow illusory experience, despite being one of the most vivid moments of my entire wine career—(link: see the story in their profile). Instantly smitten by its flamboyantly profound beauty and depth, I asked if it was made from old vines and was surprised when I was told that they were planted in 2008 and 2009. Its sappy palate and lengthy finish is deceptive and easy to associate with a wine rendered from ancient vines whose experience and energy is spared for fewer but more concentrated grapes.

Uniquely balanced, this wine is yin and yang, deafening noise and silence, virgin and pornographic. What Didier Dageneau pioneered with Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc in the 90s, Cume do Avia’s Caiño Longo is a torchbearer of red wine extremity with supreme balance.

The “by the book” enology university professors would likely denounce this wine, whose lab numbers (see further below) read more like a white wine from a cold climate, and burn it at the stake. However, the makers don’t have some sort of pretentious agenda here; they’re simply embracing a sort of beautiful extreme, a discovery of the unadulterated nature of a unique grape with a distinguished personality. Like all the indigenous grapes of the Ribeiro that have nearly lost their historic reference, the crew at Cume do Avia wants to be led by the terroir each varietal in grown in rather than attempting to force square pegs into round holes.

One intention with their red wines is to entice their local market of white wine and beer drinkers who remain loyal to their refreshing drinks most of the year (even when it’s frigid and wet) and may scoff at the suggestion of moving on to a red wine later in the evening. In the process, they’ve discovered a range of wines that are exuberant, generous and joyful, with ceaseless energy and that express unique regional complexities. Caiño Longo is the brightest light, and once the cork is pulled every bit of this wine’s octane keeps you on the edge of your seat until after the last sip.

(See a 3D map of the vineyard here. The vineyards are only to the left of the main road.)

More information: According to Diego, Caiño Longo is one of four different Caiño grapes grown in Galicia. Caiño da Terra and Caiño Redondo are more commonly found in Rias Biaxas and are very similar to Caiño Longo, but have a tendency toward slightly more balsamic notes within the fruit character; whereas youthful Caiño Longo is red fruit all day long. The fourth genetically related Caiño is not known by this name, but under another grape name, which I have yet to find. Diego described Caiño Longo as, “the best agronomical variety. It is capable of reaching an exceptional quality, and maintains high acidity with great phenolic maturation with quantity.” This grape is also known by many other names in Portugal, but one of the most common is Borraçal.

Those crazy numbers: Around 12.00% alcohol, 3.10-3.20 pH and 8.0+ grams per liter of titratable acidity (“ta,” or often referred to as total acidity), and all this even after fully completing malolactic fermentation and nearly half of the fermentation done with whole clusters—both of which usually raise a wine’s pH between one tenth and two tenths of a point with potentially big conversions on the acidity as well, depending on the grape. There are few enjoyable red wines like these in the world with these kinds of Riesling and Champagne numbers.