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This year sees them celebrate their 20th biodynamic harvest as one of the largest certified estates in France with 200 hectares situated in Roussillon, between the Pyrénées and the Mediterranean. They have become renowned for their high quality, award-winning wines with over 400 medals won since 1960, as well as a specialist in producing vin doux naturels. This quality has been attributed to the implementation of biodynamic techniques, which promotes the health of the vine and root system to create high quality, healthy fruit.
The biodynamic approach views the vineyard as an integrated living entity. The focus here is not on treating individual symptoms, an approach common in modern viticulture, but on maintaining and promoting unity, balance and the health of the total vineyard. This is all supported by adherence to a biodynamic calendar and the use of ‘preparations’ of only natural plant, animal and mineral materials. Cazes have a strong belief these techniques have strengthened the health of their vineyards – a view that is supported by soil analyses showing soils contain microbiological diversity and stronger disease resistance.
Biodynamic practices also boost indigenous yeast populations on grape skins, which are required for biodynamic fermentation rather than inoculating with cultured yeasts. Cazes view the wealth and diversity of local flora and fauna in the vineyard as helping to create wines that display a distinct sense of place, much more recognisable than in non-biodynamic wines.
These fortified wines are a speciality in Roussillon and of Cazes especially. Rivesaltes is a perfect location for growing very ripe grapes perfect for sweet vin doux naturels. Cazes produce three highly rated styles:
Muscat de Rivesaltes – a fresh, young aromatic style, aged on fine lees for five months with no oak ageing.
Ambré Rivesaltes – a peculiarity of the Roussillon made from 100% Grenache Blanc, aged in large oak barrels for 12 years, nutty with dried fruit complexities, a lighter alternative to Tawny Port.
Cuvée Aimé Cazes Rivesaltes – Cazes top wine made only in exceptional vintages since 1963, aged in large, old oak barrels for 20 years and a further 10 years in bottle. There are notes of dried apricots, figs and sweet spices such as cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to spiced desserts or Duck a l’Orange.
Canon du Maréchal, Cazes’ great value range, provides good quality with affordable pricing. The fresh and mineral dry white is a blend of Viognier and two varieties of Muscat harvested at night to preserve freshness. The red is a typical Mediterranean blend of Syrah and Grenache. The wine is light and fruit-forward due to carbonic maceration and low temperature fermentation. Both are bottled under screwcap to retain freshness and fruit purity.
A step up from Canon du Maréchal, Ego is made from low yielding vines of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. Fruit is completely destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel vats with only indigenous yeasts. The fermentation lasts four weeks with twice daily pumping over and punching down of the cap to maximise the extraction of flavour, body and tannin.
Cazes still remains family run (now by fourth generation Emmanuel Cazes) and continues to carve out a distinct path in today’s wine industry. Their pioneering conversion to biodynamics has lead them to create wines of distinct character famed for reflecting their sense of place.