PUNK ROCK WINES FROM GALICIA. More than 10 years ago Diego, Álvaro, Fito and Anxo (two couple of brothers that are cousin related each other), decide to leave their own comfort zone and embark on an incredible adventure that would be a life changer whose goal was pure and noble at the same time: to produce an ecological, authentic, natural wine allowing the Ribeiro’s terroir to totally express itself.
The team’s winemaking history dates back to 2005, when they established the company under the form of an agricultural cooperative. Since then it has taken 8 years of vineyard’s researches, often in total abandonment, and commercial negotiations with old local farmers for acquisitions before debuting with their first vintage in 2013 (the real 1st harvest happened in 2012 but its wines have been not marketed).
This risky project has been supported only by their strong optimism and enthusiasm and a modest budget available. Eira dos Mouros is the old village in the Ribeiro area within Galicia where some of their ancestors lived, farmers proud of their life’s style, like our protagonists.
From 2005 to present days the four kids have turned into men.
Galicia boasts five denominated wine regions (DOs). Rías Baixas, closest to the Atlantic coast, is the largest and best known of the quintet. Here, ¬Albariño is the dominant grape. Further inland lie the smaller regions of Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Monterrei.
Ribeiro means “river bank” and it presents an interesting combination of viticulture and historical tradition. According to famed Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote), the Ribadavia section of Ribeiro was once Spain’s “Mother of Wine” in which water plays a major role around the Minho river and Avia is one of its tributary.
In total the Cume do Avia owners cultivate 9 hectares placed between 250 and 390 mts above the sea level, something like 30 km west of Ourense, the main local city. Quoting Diego Dieguez, one member of this wine gang: “All the vineyards are young and have been planted by us, starting from the land’s preparation and the placement of the stockade. We bought the excavators, without even knowing how to manage them”.
Some of the vineyards have been planted from scratches according to best training system detected for each land’s plot. Generally speaking vineyards here can’t be managed as bush vines due to the high level of humidity and therefore guyot or spurred cordon are definitely better solutions, although the “emparrado” old school system (basically the local version of the Italian pergola tendon brought by the ancient Romans) is still present.
Avia is the main local river and the estate’s name is an homage to this natural element of life where the soils along the valley are stony, with components of granite and quartz, although certain parcels present sandy and moderate clay layers as well.
Ourense is the heart of the Ribeiro area marked by the beautiful Celtic like landscape and local tradition built around the local language which is a mix of Castilian and Portuguese. In the most recent years Ribeiro has gained the role of the most explosive Spanish wine appellation characterized by many successful small scaled wine projects all inspired by the will to produce natural wines with low human intervention.
The so-called microfundismo reigns here: the plots are small, fragmented often steep and there is rarely available to work a piece of land of more than one hectare in a single solution.
This is one of the most humid and rainy areas of Spain (although the record of pluviometry belongs to the DO of Rias Baixas) offering to wine aficionados fresh wines with an Atlantic character with a distinct balsamic note. The climate is definitely Atlantic with cold rainy winters and fresh summers, although in the most recent years sometimes temperature can have increased a lot for traditional Galician standards. In addition, the differentiation of the three valleys (Avia, Miño and Aronia) that make up the appellation enhances the Ribeiro’s mosaic of diversity.
Cume do Avias’s production is fully certified organic under the denomination of Ribeiro with just modest quantities of added sulphites. Once again this estate has a established itself for an uncompromising style and a hands down attitude in the cellar.
Quoting Diego Dieguez: “We have carried out our ecological practices since day one and today many biodynamic techniques are part of our daily job on the vineyard. We use biodynamic preparations like extracts from multiple plants, both macerated or created by hydroalcoholic extraction with our brandy.We are currently preparing to introduce biodiversity with living elements in our vineyard, as stated in the founding statute.The intention is to gain the Demeter certification in the very next future”.
Quick recap: no pesticides and herbicides in the vineyard which are managed with copper and sulfur. All the fermentations start only with indigenous yeast (no external ones!) giving the must to take its time to turn into wine. Overall tradition old school winemaking methods are applied, avoiding any additives and corrections, except minimal amounts of sulfites.
The varieties cultivated are exclusively and proudly Galician: Treixadura, Albariño, Loureira, Lado, Caiño Blanco y Godello are the main white grapes and Brancellao, Sousón, Caiño longo, Merenzao, Ferrón y Carabuñenta are the main reds.
Obviously Galicia shares a similar historical viticultural background with Vinho Verde area in northern Portugal, although the wines’ style differ pretty much. Grapes with a similar name but with a different outcome.
Besides the above mentioned grapes, the Cume do Avia’s gang started a vine nursery project by replanting and recovering other forgotten Ribeiro’s autochthonous varieties (a total of 40), such as the Pedral, Mouratón or Tinta Amarela for the reds and the Ratiño, Verdello Blanco or Silveiriña for the whites. Yes Sir, a lot of work! Many of these varieties are pretty obscure and completely ignored even by the rest of Spain.
This heritage must be preserved and our guys are doing a pretty well.
Currently only 9 hectares are under cultivation often very fragmented on steep hills and with yields round a 1,5 kg per plant. The vast majority of the vines are 15 year old on poor organic soil marked by schist and granite.
The estate produces round 20.000 bottles per year which happens to be exactly the double size of the first 2013 harvest. At the moment our boys elaborate a dozen wines and many of them are true micro-vinifications almost not exported.
Ribeiro is building a reputation for fresh but elevated Treixadura-driven wines made from grapes planted on hillside terraces. A combination of Atlantic and Mediterranean influences gives Ribeiro wines more body and floral richness than Albariño from Rías Baixas.
Treixadura sprouts and ripens slowly, therefore it is sensitive to altitude. It’s grown mainly in valleys and slopes which are well-oriented. It is slightly vigorous but not very resistant to droughts and needs warm soils. It is moderately susceptible to oidium and mildew, strongly to Botrytis cinerea (grey mould) and excorise.
It is possible to find mono varietal Treixadura wines in Ribeiro but the majority consists of blends made with other native varieties in which there is still the predominance of the Treixadura as it guarantees a pretty intriguing evolution.
While the Treixadura is the most important white grape, there isn’t such an unanimous consent when it comes to point out the most distinguished Ribeiro’s red variety. However some dare to say that is the Caiño Longo due to its distinctive feature: the aromatic potential. Just like the Treixadura, is more commonly a complementary blending grape giving the wines intensity and aromatic complexity. The CL is resistant to drought and adapts well to less fertile soils (but potassium is needed). It has a short cycle, its bud burst is early and the ripening period is medium-late. It admits short pruning and needs good sun exposure but not directly to the bunch as it is susceptible to sun stroke. The Caiño Longo wines are generally fresh displaying moderate alcohol with a floral bouquet and upfront fruit and, according to the Cume do Avia crew, Caiño Longo is the leading of the other different Caiño grapes grown in Galicia which have to be considered minor sibling
Currently Steep Hill imports the two entry level wines which present a good production level that can be successfully exported without breaking immediately the stock. The labels are fancy and display the complete wine cycle in a fancy way.
Colleita n. 5 Branco 2017: Organic certified. Colleita means harvest in Galician language, so this is wine is the result of the 5th harvest managed by our guys. Officially the wine is a non vintage because is a declassified wine with no appellation on it: therefore both the vintage and the grape varieties can not be mentioned on the back label according to wine laws. Sounds crazy, right? But we can help you with some more notes.
This white blend includes 59% Treixadura, 25% Albariño, 12% Loureira and 4% Godello. Part of the Treixadura and the Albariño have been macerated with skin contact (round 20% for few days). Each grape is processed separately and fermented with indigenous yeast in stainless steel tank. After the racking, the ageing process continues in tank as well where the blend is made and carried with some modest lees stirring.
Released to the market generally the April following the harvest. Total So2: 20 mg. 12,50% AbV. Only 1.920 bottles made.
Colleita n. 5 Tinto 2017:Organic certified.Three grape varieties here presenting almost equal parts: 40% Caiño Longo, 34% Sousòn, 26% Brancellao are harvested together and fermented in an old restored chestnut tonneaux of 600 lt. This is a true and authentic Galician field blend! 40% of the wine is fermented with the stems and the maceration is 3 weeks long without extracting too much tannins by soft punch downs.
The use of chestnut is typical for this area and it reflects the old-school ancestors’ tradition. Cume do Avia started to work with this type of wood since the 2015 vintage after all the old “cubas” have been bought and restored.
After the racking the wine ages in other tonneaux for approximately 5 months.
Total SO2: 38 mg. 11% AbV. 3.620 bottles produced only.