Who: Diego Collarte and family
What: Ribeiro both in and out of Appellation
Where: Ribadavia
When: Since 2005

Cume do Avia is one of the finest wines we’ve tasted from Galicia and a salute to the terroir: the wines are made from many indigenous varieties, grown on steep hillsides on geologically complex soils based on granite and make the most of the challenging climate – “this is a fungus paradise” says Diego and he’s not talking about truffles, he’s talking about the presence of mildew and his choice not to take the easy but eventually harmful route of chemical treatment to suppress it.

Diego’s family used to be associated with one of the large co-operative producers near Ribadavia but Diego wanted to get away from the mentality of cheap, low quality, chemical-reliant production. In 2005 he set about a project of a lifetime, to restore the vineyards and eventually a hamlet which had been abandoned in the 1940’s and to work the vineyards organically AND sustainably, regeneratively. At considerable personal cost and also without prior experience he and his brothers bought large mechanical equipment and set about creating the terraces and planting the vines on this hillside which has a majestic view from high above where the two rivers Avia and Miño meet at Ribadavia.

This is the heart of the small but historically significant Ribeiro wine region in Galicia 70km inland from the Atlantic Ocean in north-west Spain. In wine terms, it lies between the Rias Baixas and the Ribeira Sacra regions, with Valdeorras further west (before you trip into Bierzo in the next region, huge Castile y Leon). It’s a mountainous place with numerous valleys and 2500 hectares of vineyard. It’s a wet region with an average 950mm rainfall and relatively cool temperatures. It’s 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.

Diego wants to make fine wines for a modern market and as naturally as possible. His hillside shows an incredible mosaic of soils typical of the Ribeiro, based on granite for energy and verticality in the wine but studded with patches of schist and slate and quartz and sand. Diego started planting in 2005 and continues to this day to plant, always indigenous varieties and it’s an eye-opener to taste the astonishingly good and complete single varietal reds Caiño Longo and Brancellao and Sousón as well as whites Treixadura and Albariño. He re-purposed his parents old house into a cramped cellar in which he’s installed as much chestnut as possible in the form of tanks and barrels. While the vinifications are natural, the wines show an impressive purity, finesse and complexity. Just as Diego had no prior experience with heavy machinery so he had no prior experience making wine and taught himself by instinct and by endlessly experimenting.

We discovered Diego’s wines in 2019 at La Buvette (in the 11th) in Paris where the first vintage of Colleita red was being poured by the glass and found ourselves drinking glass after glass.

Cume do Avia Location