Hand drawn by Christian Gaucher
The Origins of Our company name
- Hello, this is Douglas from Les Caves de Pyrène calling.
- The Cow’s Disprins?
- No. I’ll spell it. That’s Les as is Les Dennis, Caves as in where you and your relatives obviously live, de as in Marquis de Sade and Pyrène as in the fleas that tease in the Pyrenees, but without the extra “e” and the “s”.
- The Cows of the Marquis de Sade?
Hold that thought. If I had a penny for every time I’ve had to pronounce the name of our company in a “mockney-Franglais” accent I would have 243 pounds 8 shillings and tuppence.
What’s in a name? Or, what’s with our name, as people repeatedly ask us? Therein lies a small tale. Our first company, if that’s not too grand a word, was originally set up in 1988 with the express purpose of importing and marketing the hitherto little-known wines of Gascony. And why not seven Madiran estates? The idea came from Gascon rugby-player and wine… ahem… enthusiast Eric Narioo who spent his childhood and adolescence in the Pyrenean region of Ariège. He invited university friend, Christian Gaucher, a fellow native Gascon (and sometime traveller to the wilder shores of this planet) - to join a team comprising Englishman Adrian Scholes (from Guildford in Surrey) with his extensive experience of the English drinks trade, and Liz Reid, another Guildford resident with a university degree in French and Spanish and wide-ranging experience of administration and marketing for various British companies. The name we collectively chose for this embryonic venture was Santat Wines. ‘Santat!’ means cheers! in Béarnais, the western Pyrenean version of the ancient southern French language, Occitan. That expression, oozing bonhomie and generosity of spirit, exemplified (and still exemplifies) our informal, uncomplicated and hopefully unpretentious attitude towards wine.
However, the Santat wasn’t really cutting the mustard with our increasing number of restaurant customers, who, for some reason, found it difficult to remember. So we changed our name to Les Caves de Pyrène. Why Pyrène? It actually refers to the story of the girl called Pyrène. Legend has it that a very long time ago there existed a race called the Bekrydes who settled in a mountainous region near the Mediterranean Sea. Their king, Bebryx, established his royal court in an immense underground grotto (this grotto is now known as Lombrives and is found in the region of Ariège in the Pyrenees - it is the largest underground cave in Europe- and can be visited today). The king had a young and beautiful daughter named Pyrène, her beauty and grace was renowned, and she was courted by kings and noblemen from many distant lands. One day a handsome young man from the Aegean called Hercule arrived in Berbyx, met Pyrène, and they fell deeply in love. (You can see where I’m going with this.) Hercule, however, was soon obliged to leave the kingdom of the Bekrydes to deal with some important matters in a land far away. Pyrène was therefore left alone, and feeling her belly swelling with child, she decided to run away from her father and his kingdom. Whilst fleeing she encountered a big brown bear which knocked her down and began tearing her flesh with his claws. Pyrène cried out so desperately, that her voice reached Hercule, and, although he ran to her aid, he arrived too late, and she died in his arms. The funeral was held in the in the King’s court in the grotto- and at this ceremony, Hercule cried out, “Oh my beloved Pyrène, so that your name shall always been known by men on earth, these mountains shall be called the “Pyrenees”. Over the years stalactites have formed a huge white mound in the grotto of Lombrives. It is said that this is the tomb of Pyrène, although it is also known as the “mammouth” (mammoth), due to its shape.
And that is how, oh best beloved, the elephant got his long trunk.
To cut a short story long ‘Les Caves de Pyrène’ neatly encapsulates who we are and what we are about. Our first wines came from the Pyrenees and neighbouring regions and we are very proud still to be associated with the area. The wordplay on Caves (grottoes and cellars), meanwhile, acknowledges the joint English/French roots of the company, while the legend of Pyrène reminds us that there is an abiding link between the land and folk mythology.