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It all started with the Tempranillo. Years ago, I tasted the 'Cauzon' from Ramón Saavedra, and was blown away. Save a handful of impressive aged Riojas and Ribera del Duero wines I'd tried, this was the best Tempranillo I'd ever tasted. It had more lift and acid, and was a little less extracted than many examples from the north of Spain, but this wine was from Andalucia, the hot part of Spain! I didn't quite understand, but I loved the wine.
Then there was the 'PiNoir' a year later. Though I couldn't say it was the best Pinot Noir I'd ever tasted, the wine did make me close my eyes and smile. It was fresh, elegant and balanced, again surprising given the hot and extremely dry climate of southern Spain.
So what's the secret to the beautiful finesse and energy of the Cauzón wines? I would suggest a few variables: altitude, exposition, farming, and passion. Ramón is from Cortes y Graena, a small municipality near Granada, on the northern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It's the highest mountain range in Spain, and his vineyards (some familial, some acquired) are all at between 1,000-1,200 meters altitude (about 3,200-4,000 feet). Though Andalucia is hot and dry, this kind of altitude provides cool nights, which help with balance and acidity. Much like our friend Cyril Fhal from Clos du Rouge Gorge in the Roussillon region of France, Ramón intentionally works with north-facing slopes, which also helps to counteract the extreme heat of the area and guarantee freshness. The soils in Cortes y Graena are aluvial (and rich in iron oxide) so Ramon farms carefully, planting legumes like Yeros (known as "bitter vetch") which help to prevent erosion and give nitrogen to the soil. He pays great attention to leaf cover, in an attempt to ensure that each plant gets the right amount of sun. Though the entire area looks and feels like the desert, Ramon relies on nature and hard work in the vineyard - every parcel is dry farmed and never treated with pesticides or herbicides.
What brings everything together is Ramón's passion for his vineyards and his heritage. He's proud of each site and seems to know the mood of every living vine. Though he left his hometown and spent over 15 years as a chef, it's obvious that he was very happy to have a chance to come back and help preserve local traditions. Most wine from the area is made by small families for personal consumption, so Ramón's are likely the only bottles of Cortes y Graena wine that can be found outside of the province of Granada!
We are excited to have a lineup of recent bottlings from the mischievous and magnetic Ramón Saavedra, and welcome you to try them all.
P.S. Though I didn't go into great detail above, I think it's worth mentioning that the Cauzón wines fit comfortably withing the "natural" category. There are no pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers used in the vineyards, and no added sulfites in any of his wines. What I appreciate and respect about Ramón is how humble and knowledgeable he is about the subject. He believes in what he does (and doesn't do), and also writes and speaks openly about the evolving world of natural wine and the importance of quality over philosophy. Like many other natural winemakers, he is concerned with public attitude and acceptance, and feels that wines made in this fashion should be well-finished, clean, and of the highest quality. We are still in the early days of the natural wine movement (or perhaps the second wave), and there isn't agreement yet on this point. Some favor process over product, insisting on non-interventionist practices and taking little or no responsibility for what the wine may taste like, and others argue that natural wines should be clean and flawless in order to convince the world that they can be elevated, high-quality wines of terroir. There is no end in sight to this debate, but discourse is important, and Ramón encourages it everywhere he goes. As he writes, he hopes that one day people will be able to unite around a common idea of what defines natural wines and clearly conveys the incredible effort that goes into making them. We hope for this too someday, but in the meantime we'll have to keep doing research...which of course brings us to the wines! Eben Lillie
Macabeu, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucia. Grapes see 1 day of maceration, and the wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel. Lovely stone fruit on the palate, with herbal tea notes. Density meets fresh grassy acidity in an ideal way so the wine has depth and length, but is also perfectly crisp. A fresh and fascinating white from the Cauzón lineup.
From Tempranillo vines that are 1200m high (about 4000 feet), this is the "glou-glou" wine from Ramon Saavedra. Vines are young for the region at 30-50 years, providing some energetic fruit with zippy acidity. Carbonic maceration further elevates the high tones and fresh crushed berry aromatics. It's fun to drink...the wine version of Ramon's mischievous smile and big beaming eyes. Drink with a chill.
The Cauzón usually accounts for about half of Ramon's production, and is all Tempranillo, aged in stainless steel with occasional use of small old barrels. Aromas of dried herbs, and a lovely spice on the tip of the tongue. There's a subtle impression of dried fruit, but the wine is fresh and alive, so it's also full of life and has delicious ripe berry fruit. High altitude Tempranillo from Andalucia - truly a special treat and one of the most intriguing and delicious expressions of the grape I've ever tried. Eben Lillie
Ramon Saavedra makes delicious zero-added-sulphur wines in the tiny hamlet of Cortes y Graena in the Granada province of Andalusia. This Pinot Noir is ripe and bright, but at 12%, a balanced and unique experience of the noble grape. Although harvested earlier than previous years, the 2016 is significant, with black cherries, spice, and a decent amount of grip. High altitude vineyards provide ample acidity to frame the material. This is a singular expression of Pinot Noir and worth drinking over a day or two, or aging for up to 10 years.
Ramon Saavedra farms organically and adds no sulfur whatsoever to his wines. His vineyards face north on alluvial soils at the base of the Sierra Nevada range at over 1000 meters altitude in Andalucia, resulting in impressive freshness and definition. Mozuelo is mostly Garnacha with some Garnacha Tintorera, de-stemmed and pressed after 8 days of maceration and fermented in stainless steel tanks. Grape skins, fresh flowers, and thyme on nose, with the flavors of perfectly ripe purple berries on the palate. It's silkly and generous, but as with all of the Cauzón wines, very balanced and drinkable.