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The wines of Ramón Saavedra defy expectations. As they are from the arid and hot south of Spain, one might expect them to be high alcohol and extracted; instead, they are bright, structured, and fresh. The vineyards are on the northern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in Cortes y Graena, at elevations of 800-1000 meters, and they are largely on sheltered, north-facing slopes. These factors combine to produce an intense diurnal shift: temperatures are aggressively hot during the day but cool at night, which moderates ripening and allows for more balanced, fresher wines.
Nonetheless, these high altitude parcels require a fine touch to produce such fresh and living wines. Farming on thin alluvial, iron-rich soils, Ramón must be a diligent and attentive farmer to prevent erosion, retain and restore nutrients, and cultivate a living environment around and among his vines. To this end he plants legumes throughout the vineyards, rejects all pesticides and herbicides, and handles the canopies of each individual vine carefully to provide protection from the extremes of heat and sunlight that characterize the region.
Ramón was born in Cortes y Graena, and these wines are an expression of his heritage and the history of winemaking in the region. After working as a chef for 15 years, he returned to farm and to make wine. I feel that this pride and sense of place is evident in the wines: they are unique, alive, and full of character. There is a sense of proud rusticity to them, in the way they wed savory, gamey notes to bright and fresh fruit.
These wines are simultaneously a great example of natural winemaking: Ramón uses no chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides, and adds nothing (including sulfur) to his wines in the cellar. And, as Eben wrote in a previous profile of Ramón's wines, they are very good:
"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 one of the best Tempranillos 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."
I think you'll agree that these wines are special: unique, natural expressions of a little known terroir, produced with careful farming and low intervention winemaking.
This is the darker and more full-bodied of Ramon Saavedra's reds, from ungrafted vines of Tempranillo, Cabernet, Merlot and Garnacha. As with all of Ramon's wines, the Iradei has great balance and length, with very pure fruit, and a backbone of minerality and fresh earth. People say there is something special about wines that come from ungrafted vines, and I would have to concur, though I can't quite put my finger on it. There is certainly something about the aromatic complexity, and a higher tone to the red and black fruit notes of the wine. All in all, this is perhaps the best version of Iradei bottling we've ever tasted, and a great choice for fans of full-bodied natural reds. -EL
Ramón Saavedra produces this Tempranillo from high altitude (800-1000m) vineyards in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Granada. Ramon's approach is to emphasize freshness and intensity of fruit character through short maceration times and vinification in stainless steel. Here, the result is a wine with animal, garrigue, and red fruit notes on the nose. The palate is alive and changing: look for black cherry, red raspberry, game, and a pronounced mineral finish. There's body here and some nice, friendly tannins balanced by tense acidity that makes this wine gastronomically very friendly. Ben Fletcher
Ramón Saavedra organically farms vineyards high in the Sierra Nevadas and produces fresh, living wines with no additives, including sulfur. Mozuelo is 80% Garnacha with the remainder being red-fleshed Garnacha Tintorera, both from high altitude (800-1200m) vineyards. The grapes are entirely destemmed, macerated briefly on the skins and vinified in stainless steel tank. The result is a nervy, high acid expression of Garnacha, with lots of brightness and fresh, just-ripe fruit. The nose is slightly floral with notes of thyme and macerated red berries. The palate is fresh and alive with red sour cherry and freshly picked red raspberry complimented by cooling, clean minerality. Ben Fletcher
Duende is Ramon Saavedra's 100% Syrah cuvée from organically farmed, high altitude vineyards in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Granada. The winemaking is similar to the other Cauzon wines, with full destemming, a short maceration time, and vinification in stainless steel. The result, however, is quite a bit darker than either the Tempranillo or the Garnacha, with black cherry, earth, and game on the nose and lots of rusticity on the palate. The profile suggests a natural affinity to lamb or hearty, charred vegetable dishes. Ben Fletcher
Pi Noir is back, and it's fresher, livelier, and juicier than last year! Vibrant body, with herbs and bright red fruit on the palate, with some spice, and weighing in at a pleasant 11.5%. The grapes see 3-5 days of gentle maceration and the wine is aged in stainless steel. High altitude vineyards provide ample acidity to frame the material and keep the alcohol low. This is a singular expression of Pinot Noir. -EL
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. -EL