The Head Honchos
Eric Narioo a.k.a. Le Grand Fromage
In a bid to escape the paparazzi drawn by a failing rugby career, Eric fled from France to English shores; it was here, in the hope of shaking off the memories of his past, that he turned to drink. Chancing his luck, he happened upon a Peter Dominic’s store in which a certain young Adrian Scholes happened to be working, and he soon infiltrated the team. Nicknamed ‘Old Treacle Tongue’ for his remarkable success with female customers, Eric also imparted his Gallic charm on to his colleagues, often recounting blow-by-blow accounts of the previous weekend’s rugby fixtures - invariably this would have resulted in yet another trip to A&E to have his hands/face reconstructed. Clearly struggling to shake off his boots (and his roots), he returned to France, promising Adrian that he would one day return, and that together they would carry out ‘The Master Plan’. The rest, as they say, is history…
Famous for her ability to play the flute whilst tuning a piano, Liz could rival Nick Cave and Barry White in the lower ranges of her musical talent, whilst simultaneously (almost) giving Maria Callas a run for her money. Despite getting close to the top, she decided not to join the superficial world of music with a singing career, but instead decided to pursue a more worthwhile career in wine drinking…sorry, that should read selling.
Douglas Wregg a.k.a. Sir Wregg a.k.a. The Occasional Royal Visitor
Doug, erstwhile director of Sales and Marketing, joined Les Caves de Pyrène in 1996 when it was but a tiny embryo; now it is a much larger embryo. Having worked in restaurants for several years, he was the classic example of poacher turned gamekeeper, using his experience as a sommelier to persuade all and sundry that now was the hour for regional French wines, a mantra he has been repeating plaintively for the past ten years. Eric convinced him that he would be mad(-iran) not to work with him and being a suggestible kind of (iroule-)guy Doug couldn’t refuse and joined the small, but merry band of vin-archistes hawking Les Caves’ unique brand of lyrical terroirism. Whilst not selling, Doug works on perfecting his own version of Casaubon’s key to all mythologies, a philosophical wine list so referential and self-referential that it disappears up its fundament into the verdant grass of left field, and so extensive that it has been described as everything from “the ultimate encyclical draft-excluder” and “the cure to insomnia” to “the magnum opus that you wouldn’t want dropped on your foot.”
Having refused all approaches from Guinness to front their campaign promoting the black stuff, and hence leaving the door open for budding actor Rutger Hauer, Adrian carried on his quest for the perfect pint. After much pondering, he finally decided to branch into wine importing and selling, on the grounds that the drinks business would be the most likely avenue to help him achieve his dream. Having conquered the only hurdle that loomed in the form of his driving test, nothing could stop him.
Now Adrian, could you just explain to us whose lipstick that is you’re wearing?
Philippe “Err… Umm…” Lubac
Philippe is a guy so cool cats could take correspondence courses from him. He passed our stringent medical examination, succeeding in matching Eric for vinous excess. On top of managing a multitude of trade accounts, Philippe is a veteran of numerous buying trips. He has purchased the ten crus of Beaujolais, a considerable chunk of the Rhône, and consistently manages to discover yet more obscure grape varieties from regions we are not even sure really exist. This is a man at his most happy when let loose in Burgundy with a company credit card and an empty car boot. Philippe’s great passion is for amassing wine: he has a magnificent private cellar and a virtually encyclopaedic knowledge of the top growers.
The Street Hawkers
Phil Barnett a.k.a. El Flaco a.k.a. Phil B Two Ts
When not playing the guitar (badly) or avoiding DIY, Phil enjoys scuba diving, sunny places, and eating and drinking. He has held many diverse positions (although not the Karma Sutra) such as Banker, Busker, Restaurateur and Euro-Layabout and even managed to squeeze in eight years working in Central and South America (Manana Republic). Prior to joining Les Caves, Phil spent five years with Jascots in London - a suitable stepping stone to greatness.
Gideon Clow a.k.a.The Big Hairy Wine Rep
A late starter at University with a huge thirst for knowledge, which was invariably quenched by downing pints of beer in under three seconds in the Union bar, Gideon worked at various eateries in London, eventually meeting Doug whilst incarcerated at The Chiswick and then Villandry, where he became one of our biggest customers. To put an end to complaints about vintage changes, we decided to offer Gideon a job with us and turn his inestimable charm upon unsuspecting restauranteurs across the capital.
Dario was born in Germany, the offspring of a Sicilian mother and a Sardinian father - be nice to him as he has a couple of ‘uncles’ who work in construction… We first met Dario whilst he was the export manager for Gianni Gagliardo, supplying us with our first foray into Sicilian wines, a section which is now a major part of our Italian portfolio. It has taken a concerted effort and numerous tastings, but he is now beginning to enjoy (and sell) French wines as well.
Our first dealings with Patricia were when she was working for Thierry’s, selling us Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne (including the famous ‘pineapple’ bottles of their Palmes d’Or). Patricia does a fantastic job of keeping all our regional wholesalers’ palates whetted with their favourite vinous oddities, but in the process seems to spend more time on the M1 than should be reasonably expected of any human being.
Carlo ‘Bello’ Lupori
Carlo is one of the latest additions to the Sales Team, hailing from Bari in Puglia. Before joining us he was the sommelier at Mr Conran’s Sartoria in Savile Row. He is a breath of fresh air whenever he appears in the office, and from what we hear he is making a similar impression upon our insatiable customers.
Half French and half Italian, this man puts on a fantastic English accent just to confuse us all. Didier first encountered Les Caves whilst working behind the bar at one of our favourite foie gras spots, Cellar Gascon in Smithfield. They didn’t let him drink enough there so he sidled up to Eric one evening and proffered his services (as a salesman) - we snapped him up immediately and the rest is, as they say, history.
An extremely well-known face on the London restaurant scene, Thierry has worked as a manager and sommelier for a raft of high-end eateries across the capital, infusing them all with his very individual style and sense of humour. For many years we tempted him with offers to come and seek gainful employment with us before he finally succumbed a couple of years ago to our collective delight.
David Canadas a.k.a. GT (Goat Track)
David is another in a long line of members of staff hewn from the Oddbins block, the crowning moment of his High Street career being that he sold Richie Benaud a bottle of Aussie wine - “marvellous delivery that”, he reminisces. David was born in fascist Madrid under Franco, moving to London in the 70’s and along the way has acquired an immense aversion to Angel Delight. Apart from supporting some terrible football teams, David apprently cooks the best tortilla in West Norwood (we are yet to find out). Since he arrived on Les Caves shores he has done a wonderful job sourcing an ever-burgeoning range of Spanish wines and looking after a diverse range of accounts.
James took his wine training with Laithwaites, working in one of their shops before heading on to greater vinous employment with ourselves. He is an ardent fan of “The Cultural Teachings of Peter Cousins” (our Warehouse Manager), and when James isn’t slumped in the corner of some Spanish nightclub with a slightly glazed expression on his face, he loves hanging out with his ‘homies’ in the damp, dark streets of Pyrford, discussing such pertinent topics as Hinduism and Huggy Bear.
The Pencil Pushers
Amy Morgan a.k.a. The Voice of Reason
Amy has been with the company for quite some time now (although, it seems like a lot longer than that to the rest of us…) and regularly has the office staff prostrating themselves in front of her in order to glean some kind of lowdown on when we might next expect Eric at Pew Corner. When she is not dressing up as Santa on pub crawls (e-mail us for photos), Amy deigns to don a cocktail dress and rinse it with the hoi polloi of the wine world and invariably becomes the life and soul of the party. As Director of Operations, Amy has a thankless task on her hands and we all salute her heartily for the magnificent job she does.
William ‘Will Do’ Johnston
Our erudite Office Manager, famed across the land for his ability to drink his own bodyweight in Prosecco, Will spent his youth balancing the demands of academic life alongside the rigours of the top-notch training programme at Oddbins. Then, seeing the error of his ways, he decided he would be better off gaining meaningful employment with a company that promotes the imbibition of ‘Real’ wine. And it must be said that he embraced the challenge wonderfully, and can often be spotted wistfully swirling a glass of something cloudy in a darkened corner of our shop, accosting anyone prepared to listen to his mutterings concerning carbonic maceration and the judicious use of sulphur.
Paul joined Les Caves in 1996 as a van driver, and has possibly held more roles within the company than any other member of staff. Twice he has tried to break free by heading off to foreign climes, both times to be drawn back to the fold because of his love for the ever elusive holy grail of Pinot Noir (it was a bottle of Gevrey Chambertin). An ex warehouse party DJ and general lover of electronic music, Paul enjoys nothing more than torturing his friends and colleagues with the latest piece of production that he has painstakingly created in his front room.
Svelte, “nomadic” Charles Porter, whilst not tasting wines on behalf of thirsty customers and company representatives, can usually be found clinging to the side of his capsized dinghy in Chichester Harbour - eat your heart out Chay Blyth. Our Logistics Manager has been with the company since time began and probably has the longest commute of any member of our office staff - it just goes to show to what lengths people will go for a glass of Pacherenc…
Multilingual Vanessa joined us not all that long ago, and she works closely alongside Amy, helping to oil the cogs in our PR & Marketing department and also liaising with suppliers. She describes her role as ‘Je fais un peu de tout’. In her spare time, Vanessa can be found dangling from ropes at the local climbing centre or wielding a brush dipped in oil paint. Vanessa grew up in France and later spent a year in Italy. Known around the company as ‘Audrey’ because of her eyes, Vanessa once ate five large bars of fruit and nut in two days and her biggest lapse of judgement thus far in life came when she tried (unsuccessfully) to hoover out the frost from a freezer.
Marathon-running Ms Kloppers is our resident “Cupcake Queen”, frequently appearing through the misty car park on chilly mornings bearing multicoloured baked goodness for all to share. After taking her degree in Psychology, Yolanda trained as a legal secretary, only then to trade litigation for libations by joining our team. The only two desires in life have that eluded her thus far are visiting the Great Barrier Reef and being a proud owner of a Dachsund!
Ben ‘Seeds’ Fisher
After studying winemaking at Plumpton College and gaining his Advanced WSET, Ben (our Sales Team Leader) decided to try his luck with us. When he is not calmly dealing with the demands of the sommelier elite of London, he loves nothing more than driving the odd steam train, deciphering the indecipherable or taking a long walk. His two claims to fame are (A) being turned down for a job by those sneaky folks at Vauxhall Cross and (B) winning the ‘Harveys Bristol Cream Challenge’ at college - don’t ask!
Born in the middle of a six-child family that all still lives together, Carla understands what it takes to get along with her fellow human beings in a confined space. Unfortunately she is still scared of the dark, which causes no end of problems at ‘lights out’. She loves nothing more at weekends than drinking vodka whilst dreaming of babies, drawing sketches of Pugs and planning future travels to sunnier climes.
Subsequent to completing his BSc in Marine Geograghy, Andy left the shores of Old Blighty to go and surf the shores of New Zealand (we mean work there!) and was finally allowed back in to the UK once he had sheared off his dreadlocks. A keen sports fan, Andy plays rugby for the local club but also swims, skis and cycles whenever he gets the chance. Andy’s pivotal moment in life, however, was being chased off a beach by a large sea-lion called Errol. How he managed to get on first-name terms we do not know…
When she’s not tele-flirting with sommeliers, ex-air hostess Sian can be found day-dreaming about Ibiza and eating copious amounts of cheese whilst singing to anyone that will lend her an ear. She has had an unnatural fear of salt water ever since she lost a battle with a jellyfish (apparently the urine trick does NOT work) and she still thinks that teddy bears come alive when you leave the room. We won’t even mention the tattoo!
Stacey has reached us with a meandering career path that included a short stint as a masseuse at The Four Seasons, a sojourn for three months in the Big Apple and a longer spell at a large un-named, very local to us, wine company that specialised in BOGOFs and 3 for 2’s. Stacey can be often found at weekends walking her dog and drinking NZ Riesling, sometimes at the same moment. She has an irrational unease when confronted with plant bulbs and her claim to fame is having appeared in the music video of a boy band whos name we can’t disclose….(pm me for details!)
The Number Crunchers
Larger than life financial accountant Natasha has been ‘cooking the books’ for us for some time now and settled in to the Les Caves way of operating very quickly (although she wore a suit for her first day!). Natasha has an unnatural penchant for Ted Baker clobber and very fast cars, and can be found most weekends going at 130mph in the fast lane of the A3, heading for the TB sale at Gunwharf Quays with her husband’s soon-to-be-empty wallet. She has an intense distrust of any transport that is public, and needs to take multiple shots of Sambuca if forced to step on board the number 37.
A parachuting ex-school nurse who loves a good book, Justine is queen of the Credit Control department. She sits around her cauldron all day, chanting incantations to shrivel the nether regions of restaurant accountants countrywide, cackling to herself. There are, of course, frequent pauses to visit the great tea-bearing kettle in the sky for nourishment and guidance.
Our jovial accounts administrator joined us a while back now, fresh from a full-body mud pack and seaweed wrap at the spa. She has a thankless task with us, dealing with the myriad of invoices, final demands and threatening letters that pile through our letterbox on a daily basis. Yvonne, in the little time she gets to herself, enjoys nothing more than kicking back on a sun lounger with a bottle (or three) of wine and soaking up whatever the nearest star to Earth has to offer.
Sam ‘Part-Time’ Kirk
Sam has been with us now on and off for a few years, recently returning part-time after the birth of her second child to carry on squeezing pennies from our elusive clients. Ex timeshare marketer Sam has an extremely diverse set of qualifications up her sleeve and puts every last one of them to use as she executes her militarily planned Christmas shopping in July!!! Sam can also regularly be found in the karaoke bars of Surrey performing the finest Meatloaf covers known to man!
Please give a warm welcome to our kick-boxing credit controller. A passionate half-Italian and a self-proclaimed horse whisperer, Ms Nuonno studied all things equine for four years at college and loves nothing more than a good canter about the place. Failing that, you may find her gently sipping Baileys over ice whilst shopping for foot apparel or enjoying the ‘magic bubbles’ of Bellenda Prosecco.
Becci is the most recent addition to our burgeoning credit control department (what does that say about our customers!). Working part-time with us she also manages to run her own business as a nail technician and beauty therapist when she is not at Zumba class or training her dog. Becci is not a fan of any red wine (we are working on it!) but will happily befriend anyone that possesses a case of Prosecco as long as there is no cling film around it!
Virginie ‘Nini’ Champalou XX- ON MATERNITY LEAVE….AGAIN!! -XX
We had been buying ethereal Vouvrays from the Champalou estate for many years, when one day we found they had shipped their daughter to us, tucked away inside a pallet. Now an invaluable part of the team at Les Caves, Nini runs our retail outlet in Guildford and organises all the tastings we have at the shop. Her other great skill is being able to drink every man in the place under the table - no mean feat, we can tell you.
We would like to welcome back the long absent Ms Riddell. After a lengthy stint with a large Champagne house, she has seen the light, given up the commute and re-entered the Caves commune to help out whilst Nini nurses her newborn. Chances are we will probably keep her when Mme Champalou returns as Vicky always has a giggle and a smile for all that cross her path. Her regular pastimes are…listening to cricket (with a drink), watching rugby (with a drink) and having a drink (you guessed it!). One could say there’s a pattern forming.
Pete is from the old school: he’s from a time when men were men and beer meant bitter. He has been with the company since its early days in Twickenham, where he began his illustrious career as a delivery driver. Uncle Pete is now the resident Warehouse Manager at Pew Corner, where his wealth of experience, skill and patience is tested on a daily basis (mainly by Anthony). From forking his way around Borough Market in the late evening, to attempting to fathom Anthony’s latest nonsensical outburst, Pete is always willing and able to rise to the challenge.
Anthony is not renowned for his wine pronunciation or common sense; ‘reliability’ is the word which probably best sums our intrepid delivery driver. He is always at the ready, whatever the ‘palaver’, be it helping customers to carry wine to their cars, painstakingly polishing every last bottle in our shop, or cooking bacon sandwiches by the dozen. ‘Tony’, as he is also known, can and regularly does navigate the streets of London like a seasoned professional, stopping at nothing to get customers their wine - including traffic signals and pedestrians. Put quite simply, Les Caves could not operate without the services of Tony ‘Bottle Smasher’ Williams.
One of the founding members of the company. Having qualified from university, where he was an active member of the local ‘Dead Poets Society’, Christian managed to drag himself away from the crowd and decided to try his hand at teaching maths. It wasn’t long, however, before he decided the classroom wasn’t the place for him and he embarked on an epic adventure through the Amazon Rainforest, feasting on grubs, discovering Inca settlements, and generally pretending to be Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, his map reading skills got the better of him and he accidentally stumbled upon British shores, where he was reunited with Eric, an old friend from his university days…