Cauzón time! The wines of Ramón Saavedra

7/23/18 -

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

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