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 that, in the hope of shaking off the memories of his past, he turned to drink. Chancing his luck, he happened upon a wine shop in which a fresh-faced (at the time) 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, 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… Struggling to shake off his boots (and his roots), he returned to France, promising Adrian that one day he would 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 giving Maria Callas a run for her money (almost). 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, we mean selling. These days Liz splits her time between life in Nice - where she spends much of her time hounding our suppliers for gleams of information that can be used in her colourful fiches techniques - and regular visits to the UK to check that the rest of us are behaving properly.
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 ‘grit-over-glamour’ campaign promoting the black stuff, hence leaving the door open for budding actor Rutger Hauer, Adrian carried on regardless in 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.
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 - 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 restaurateurs 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 - hailing from Bari in Puglia - has made a fine addition to our Sales Team. Before joining us he was the sommelier at Mr Conran’s Sartoria restaurant on Savile Row, where he gathered a loyal following. He provides 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. Bravo.
Half-French and half-Italian, Didier puts on a fantastic English accent just to confuse us all. He 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 someone may have said earlier, history.
An extremely well-known face on the London restaurant scene, Thierry has worked as both 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 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 can apparently whip up the best tortilla in West Norwood (we are yet to verify this claim). Since he arrived at Les Caves he has done a splendid 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 can be found hanging with his ‘homies’ in the darkened streets of West Byfleet, 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 many a year now (although it seems like even longer to the rest of us…) and is regularly confronted by disorderly queues of office staff prostrating themselves before her in order to glean some kind of clue as to we can next expect to be blessed with Eric’s presence at Pew Corner. When she is not dressing up as Santa on pub crawls (e-mail us for photos), Amy likes to don a cocktail dress and rinse it with the hoi polloi of the wine world - invariably she is 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, Will, famed across the land for his ability to drink his own bodyweight in Prosecco, spent his youth balancing the demands of academic life at Bristol University alongside the rigours of the top-notch training programme at Oddbins. After graduating, he crossed paths with a certain Mr Scholes when serving him a Guinness (what else?) from behind the bar at a local public house and was persuaded that he would be better off seeking gainful employment at a certain company up the road… And it must be said that he has embraced the challenge magnificently, and may often be spotted wistfully swirling a glass of something cloudy-looking as he makes his rounds, accosting anyone prepared to listen to his ramblings concerning carbonic maceration and the judicious use of sulphur.
Paul joined Les Caves back in the day 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 helps to oil the cogs in our PR & Events department and spends long hours liaising with suppliers. 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 luminous 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 vacuum the frost from inside a freezer.
Marathon-running Yolanda works in PR & Events and holds the title of resident “Cupcake Queen”. She often makes her entrance through the mists of Artington on a chilly morning laden bearing trays laden with appetising treats for all to share. After taking a degree in Psychology, Yolanda trained as a legal secretary but - fortunately for us - chose to trade litigation for libations when she joined the team at Les Caves. The two burning desires in life that have eluded her thus far are (in no particular order): visiting the Great Barrier Reef and owning a dachshund.
Ben ‘Seeds’ Fisher
After studying winemaking at Plumpton College and getting some vinous qualifications under his belt, Ben (our Head of Sales Support) 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.
One of six children, Carla’s suspicions that she came from a rather large family were confirmed when her new (at the time) boyfriend spent 30 minutes at the table before everyone realised he wasn’t related. Despite her many achievements in life, Carla confesses that she is still scared of the dark which causes no end of problems at ‘lights out’. At weekends Carla loves nothing better than planning her next travels to sunnier climes whilst sipping ice-cold vodka, followed by a Disney classic or two. We are pleased to report that Carla has finally been persuaded of the merits of drinking red wine - we were a little worried for a moment there!
When she’s not tele-flirting with sommeliers, ex-air hostess Sian can be found daydreaming about epic nights out in Ibiza and consuming prodigious amounts of cheese. She has had an unnatural fear of saltwater ever since she lost a battle with a jellyfish (she stresses that the urine technique does NOT work) and still suspects that teddy bears come alive when you leave the room. Can deliver a belting rendition of the national anthem (she’s just not sure whose).
Vicky has been welcomed warmly back into the fold following a stint away working for a large Champagne house, having seen the light and renounced the dreaded commute to the Big Smoke. Ever-ready with 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. One might say there’s a pattern forming…
Having previously worked as the assistant manager at a pub, Sophie knows a thing or two about drinking. In her spare time, when not propping up the bar and chatting with the locals, Sophie can be found trackside at the races hollering out the odds and enjoying the odd flutter herself. Sophie confesses to having once baked a chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day with garlic butter icing – whether this was a genuine mistake or a deliberate attempt to ditch her beau we have yet to learn…
Gastronome Ed is the latest recruit to our sales desk and master of the reverse commute. Never happier than when in the kitchen rustling up a bold new recipe, Ed also mixes a mean cocktail. Maintaining his status as the current dark horse of the sales desk, Ed sometimes tells us of his past life test-driving cars and on occasion will break into French just to keep us all on our toes. He admits to being an Arsenal fan and is currently relishing the prospect of living off the glory of winning their first piece of silverware in nine long years for the foreseeable future.
The Number Crunchers
Larger-than-life financial accountant Natasha has been cooking the books for us for some time now and settled into the Les Caves way of operating very quickly, although she did wear a suit on her first day… Natasha has an unnatural penchant for Ted Baker clobber and very fast cars, and can be found most weekends bombing it down the A3 at 130mph, 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 soakin’ up some rays.
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.
Virginie ‘Nini’ Champalou
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.
Mark, a self-professed champion of quality and craft, helps to run our shop and is never short of a recommendation or two. In the early days of his wine career he started out at Majestic and learned/drank a lot very quickly before joining Les Caves – he has never looked back. His hobbies revolve around watching too much sport, yet not participating in enough, dabbling with film photography, hoarding music and chasing the world’s best wine and craft beer… and gin… and cider.
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…