The early years…
2 Station Place
The interim years…
Old Portsmouth Rd
In the Beginning…
In 1988 an eclectic group of wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts set out to create an independent wine importer and wholesaler specialising in French wines. Their names: Eric Narioo, Liz Reid, Christian Gaucher and Adrian Scholes.
Together, this motley rabble formed what would eventually become ‘Les Caves de Pyrene’.
Back then, in the days when Eric had hair and England regularly beat France at rugby, the shop was to be found in Godalming and there were just 100 wines on the list…it was only 10 pages long (are you listening Doug?!)
There was even space in the window display for rather fetching flower arrangements…
And, probably more due to necessity than actual choice, we even let Eric drive the delivery van…
However, after learning the hard way what Eric was capable of doing to a car…
... we decided it might be a worthwhile investment to employ a full time driver.
Nick Harrison was one of the first additions to the original team but, as they say, ‘from small acorns, mighty oaks do grow’. Since then, the workforce has expanded to 30 full time staff, and the list has increased by gargantuan proportions. Now thick enough to cause serious damage to even the most brutish of sales reps if used with sufficient force, the nigh on 300 page list includes wines from almost every corner of the globe, including an Italian section as extensive as, if not more so than, the French one.
This expansion owes thanks to the immense knowledge and skill of the wine buying team. Eric and the Les Caves team seem to have an incredible affinity, almost magnetism, for likeminded alcoholics - sorry, I mean shopaholics - who are so passionate, not just about wine (indeed most of my friends fit that description), but also about the terroir, identity and meaning behind each and every one, that they seem to find no trouble in whipping themselves into a shopping frenzy!!
Leaving Eric’s trusty erm…sidekick…errrr…Philippe…erm…Lubac to take the buying reins in France, the company’s sights were swiftly directed further afield. Like Dick Whittington in search of gold paved streets, Eric packed his life into his nap-sack…well, maybe slightly battered rucksack…and transported it, lock stock and two smoking wine-barrels, to Italy to see what the beautiful country had to offer. Fortunately for us, when he eventually returned six months later he had indeed struck gold…although not exactly of the hard, shiny variety…
Of course the buying journey doesn’t end here, since the return of every excited shopper signals the simultaneous return of an even more excitable Douglas Wregg to his computer. Closely accompanied by the tattered remains of his trusty thesaurus, he usually manages to add at least an extra tome to the list before our esteemed buyers have even cleared passport control. This particular homecoming was no different, and Eric’s findings have been exceedingly well-documented thanks to Sir Wregg’s literary talents.
This original invasion of Italy, was expanded upon and developed by Signor Bucci, our resident Italian buyer who has returned to his homeland, taking our glamorous office manager at that time, Hannah, with him.
‘Les Cœurs de Pyrene’ dating agency will be opening shortly - check the news pages for updates…
Christian’s departure in no way means Eric’s quest for global domination will be slowed though, and Spain should also be preparing itself for a bout of ‘The Narioo Treatment’ as he prepares to embark on what is now affectionately known as ‘The Italian Job’ on France’s Western neighbour.
I bet sleepy winemakers all over Spain are quaking in their boots!
‘Venga Eric, no hay moros en la costa!’
To list every change that has occurred within the company over the past 19 years would, I think, end up looking about as convoluted as the current trade list… However, since it is clear how far the work and aspirations of a small group of friends has come, here are some pictures to summarise the journey towards life at ‘Les Caves’ now from what we’ve often heard affectionately called ‘the good old days’...
So the levels of organisation haven’t changed much…
But apparently Eric had his own desk!
The company cars looked a tad different.
But, the bottom line is that we still all love to search out a damn good bottle of wine…
Liz Reid, 2008