Escoda-Sanahuja "Els Bassotets"

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Regular price $34.00

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Grapes: Macabeo

Region: Catalonia, Spain

Vintage: 2022

Viticulture: Biodynamic

Soils: Clay + Limestone

Vinification: Pressed into barrels

Aging: Stainless Steel

Fining or Filtering: None

Sulfur: None

Notes from the Importer: When I think about the rise of Catalan natural wine culture in the mid-2000s, I’m reminded of how Mike Davis described Los Angeles in the turbulent 1980s: “one of those moments, ripe with paradox and non-linearity, when previously separate currents of history suddenly converge with profoundly unpredictable results.” It’s worth recalling that at the turn of the century, Spanish wine was in total crisis. A few hustlers had stirred enough oak chips to pass off their Priorat as Bordeaux, but those who didn’t embrace the export market – and even many of those who did – were hung out to dry. Vineyard land prices collapsed. Cheap credit lines only postponed the inevitable. An ocean of dull, headache-inducing enological wines was dumped into the world’s supermarkets.

Raised in the petro-chemical capital of Reus, Joan Ramon Escoda was a regional champion motocross driver until his wife Maria Carmen demanded that he choose between her and motorcycles, which really meant choosing between motorcycles and wine, her family’s profession. Newly minted as a winemaker in the late 1990s, Joan pondered what to do with the 5 hectares of vines his father-in-law had planted to ancient limestone terraces in the cool mountain air of Montblanc. His farm was planted in large part to imported, French varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and even Chenin Blanc, but Joan was not interested in emulating his neighbors to the North. He wanted to do something singular that reflected the land and traditions of Catalonia. Having already converted to biodynamic viticulture, the real evolution started in 2007, when he completely eliminated so2 from his wines, a development that coincided with several changes in the cellar: less use of barrels, more use of old Catalonian amphoras, lighter extraction of the reds, and gentle maceration of the whites, now a standard feature in his lineup. At one point in those early days, Joan walked into a bar in Montblanc with a cloudy bottle of Parellada. He found the oldest person at the bar and asked him to try it. The old man said it reminded him of something he had forgotten. Joan took this as a sign that he was “on the good road.” 

Lara and I met Joan Ramón in 2013, at the second edition of H20 Vegetal, the now-famous summit that he co-hosts with his best bud Laureano Serres. We already knew the scene in Terra Alta – which consisted of about a winemaker and a half – but knew very little about Catalonia more broadly. Laureano, who tends to see the big picture, had insisted that we visit Joan. I think his exact words were, “without Joan, there’s nothing.” After the peasant garage wines of Terra Alta, visiting Joan’s new winery in the comparatively posh mountain region of Montblanc was something like going to Hollywood from Europe. Everything seemed big, loud, and new. And it turns out that “big, loud, and new” was precisely what I should have expected from someone whose idea of a good time is listening to Dark Side of the Moon at full volume, but not at all what one would expect from a crunchy Catalonian farmer who buries cow horns full of poo in the ground and drinks macabeo for breakfast. But that’s Joan Ramón for you – one big paradox of a winemaker. Despite being one of the best known figures in Catalan natural wine, he serves visitors with a kind of child-like enthusiasm that seems to exclaim, “I can’t believe this actually worked!” Having come of age in a time when natural wine was taboo, he clearly relishes transgression. He’s the kind of person who will pour you a really messed up wine in a big Zalto just to get a good laugh. And before you figure out if it’s the glass or the wine that’s so funny, the bottle is empty. 

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