Who: Antonio Míguez Amil.
What: D.O. Ribeiro.
Where: Ribadavia, Galicia, Spain.
When: Since 2016.

The Story

Antonio Míguez Amil has run the tourist office in the pretty town of Ribadavia since 1993 and displays a vast knowledge of the culture and history of this region. He comes from a family that made wine between 1820 and 1960 and learned to make wine as a child from his Uncle Pepe, then worked in cellars before taking up his post at the Tourist Office. Now, in evenings, and on weekends, and during any spare time he can find, he looks after a few plots of vineyard that he’s bringing back to life and health, to make wines that reflect and reflect well on the region he loves.

The Ribeiro is 70km inland from the Atlantic Ocean in Galicia in north-west Spain. In wine terms, it lies between the Rias Baixas and the Ribeira Sacra regions. It’s a mountainous place with 20 valleys and 3000 hectares of vineyard. It is also the oldest registered wine region in Spain; until the sixteenth century it exported its wines to England and they were more highly priced and prized than wines from Bordeaux. War put an end to business (and England developed Port instead) and it seems to have been all downhill since. In the twentieth century the focus became cheap exports and still today there are very few quality growers.

Antonio is one of those seeking to show what this considerable terroir can do. He was born in a house next to ancient vines. And he bought his own in 2005. He’s inspired by and has learned much from the local leading grower, his friend Bernardo Estevez. It’s a quite typical story insofar as almost every family in past times owned some vines from which they made wine to drink at home or sell to merchants. But working vines on these precipitous hillsides is very hard work and work of a particular sort. Post Civil War there were “easier” ways to make a living and much of the vineyard was abandoned or was worked chemically, which would lead eventually to abandonment anyway. Antonio recovered a few small terraces of vines from his family, planted with native varieties, which he works organically and biodynamically. He’s making a couple of different wines, one classic red (just 600 bottles in the first vintage, 2016) and one Tostado which is an ancient tradition whereby the grapes are dried before fermentation.

With his evident love for his region, nature, for the vines, for his work there, and with Bernardo Estevez as his teacher sharing the journey, it should not be such a surprise to taste wines of such depth and grace.

We met Antonio by chance. Nacho had mentioned him, then Bernardo asked Antonio to take his place to meet us, since Bernardo couldn’t, one evening in Ribadavia in the summer of 2018. He came prepared with his wines which were more than fitting accompaniment to the food of the excellent Comanda restaurant that we settled in after the drawn-out World Cup game between England and Columbia.

Antonio Míguez Amil Location