Something new, something old, something fun to banish the wine blues...Our autumn tasting was a timely dip into the wilds and werewolves of our current portfolio...
Banish the Wine Blues!
Autumn Trade Tasting
Coming from a long line of wine producers, Céline Champalou works with her parents at their domaine in the heart of the Vouvray. They are registered with the Terra Vitis programme, a charter that promotes sustainable farming and respect for the environment. We learn about her work and the family behind the ethereal bubbles.
Whose Wine is it Anyway?
We reminisce our most recent trade tasting, this week looking at some of our French producers, including Domaine de la Chevalerie, Chateau Tour des Gendres and Alexandre Bain.
Autumn Tasting Highlights
Part one: France
Part one: we explore the dictionary of grape varieties beginning with A.
The Great Grape Alphabet
An Ampelographic Wonderland!
Part two: we explore the dictionary of grape varieties beginning with B.
The Great Grape Alphabet
On to Part B!
Part three: we explore the dictionary of grape varieties beginning with the letter C.
The Great Grape Alphabet
On to Part C!
Part four: we explore the dictionary of grape varieties beginning with the letters D, E and F.
The Great Grape Alphabet
Exploring D, E and F!
In homage to our recent visit to Sicily we talk about the wines of Marco De Bartoli, pioneer of Sicilian native grape varieties, Grillo and Zibibbo.
Marco de Bartoli
From Grillo to Zibibbo
Sarah Morris and Iwo Jakimowicz make up the S + I in SI. They are a pretty strong pair, growing their vines in both Western Australia and north-eastern Spain. Along with wine making, Iwo is among other things, pretty good at breeding chickens. He tells us more...
Meet SI Vintners' Iwo
Worlds collide on wine
Did you think that chilled reds were only for the summer months? Or that reds should never ever be served cool? Wrong! Some red wines should always be served frais regardless of the season. Here is a selection of some of the juiciest worth considering…
Chill the rouge!
Snappy all year round reds
Charlie Mellor is owner of The Laughing Heart in Hackney. We talk to him about wines and where he drinks when he isn't in London.
Focus on The Laughing Heart
Charlie Mellor on wine
Part five: we explore the grape varieties beginning with the letters H, K and L...
The Great Grape Alphabet
Exploring H, K and L!
Part seven: we explore the grape varieties beginning with the letter N, including Nerello Mascalese and Negrette...
The Great Grape Alphabet
On to Part N!
We take a look back over the two day natural, organic and biodynamic wine extravaganza that was Real Wine 2017.
Highlights of RWF '17
The gallery goes live!
Part six: we explore the grape varieties beginning with the letter M...
The Great Grape Alphabet
On to Part M!
Planning a big celebration? Don't suffer the usual massive collective taste bud malfunction caused by nerves. Les Caves is here to put things straight.
The ultimate party wines explained
BBC World Service Strategy Manager Tin Radovani moonlights as a particularly well informed wine enthusiast. We posed him some essential questions...
Talking wine epiphanies and more
As the Real Wine Fair takes a rest until 2019 we recap the highs of 2017. The wines, the food and the people that made it all happen.
The Realest of Real Wines
A Rundown of RWF 2017
THE LES CAVES TEAM
Affectionately known as Le Grand Fromage. An all-action rugby player until his knees (and various other parts) gave out, Eric moved to England in the 1980s, taking up the cause of natural wines from his homeland with typically Occitan flair. Now dividing his time between London and Sicily (making wine on the slopes of Mount Etna with partner Anna Martens and their two sons), he is very much the spirit and guiding light of Les Caves de Pyrene, its presiding palate and ideas guru.
Founder & Chairman
As one of its founding spirits Liz’s memories of Les Caves de Pyrene date back to prehistoric times when Les Cavistes were indeed caves dwellers and wine lists were Gascon-heavy and verbiage-small. In those days of yore Liz was Jack (Jill?)-of-all-trades in the company, performing umpteen vital jobs – often at the same time. Now she beavers away tirelessly as Liz the-techo-fiche-geek, cross-examining our growers on the whys, wherefores and SO2 levels of their wines, and not accepting “non”, nor Gallic shrugs, for an answer.
The voice of reason. Amy’s efficiency and super-powers of organisation have propelled her speedily through the ranks at Les Caves de Pyrene. Since becoming operations manager in 2013, she has been the very glue of the company - involved in every aspect of organisation and corporate strategy. In 2015 Amy was appointed managing director - despite the gravitas that the position confers she is still the partiest animal in the Les Caves menagerie.
Former sommelier Doug was an early recruit to Eric’s merry band and is author to the epic poem/doorstop that is the Les Caves de Pyrene wine list. Recently, he has been allowed out to play and is cultivating a role as a wine buyer in several foreign fields. The rest of his time is spent herding stray cats in the sales team and blogging his heart out. His appearances at the office are so infrequent that he is reputed to be a mythical creature and for this reason has acquired his folkloric sobriquet, Sir Wregg.
Sales & Marketing Director
As Philippe can testify, it is dangerous to get drunk with Eric because you may find the King's Shilling at the bottom of your glass. Our senior French wine buyer looks after some pretty groovy accounts in London, where he will often take a "quick bite of lunch". For three hours. Monsieur Lubac has accumulated a formidable personal cellar over the years (or, as we call it, Grand Cru Cooking Burgundy), his knowledge of the wines of the Rhone valley is encyclopaedic and he never wears the same tasteful designer t-shirt twice.
Director & French Buyer
David is one of a long line of members of staff hewn from the Oddbins block and our expert on all things Iberican. He was born in Madrid but raised in Letchworth, somehow emerging from this reversal of fortunes with humour and grace intact. Having resolutely put Spain on the map for Les Caves de Pyrene, he also doubles as senior account manager and is trying to teach the world to love and respect sherry.
Director & Spanish Buyer
Half-French and half-Italian (Fritalian?), Didier wears two colourful Mediterranean hats - but not at the same time. He first encountered Les Caves whilst working behind the bar at Cellar Gascon in Smithfield, where the Pacherenc flowed unpronounceably alongside the gateau basque. He started at Les Caves on the phones (as we say) before eventually donning the shoe leather as a sales rep. A key member now of the sales and management team, Didier also shares responsibility for buying the wines of his mother-and-father-lands.
Director & Italian Buyer
After graduating from Bristol University, by way of Oddbins, erudite Will crossed paths with a certain Mr Scholes when serving him a Guinness (what else?) at a local pub and was persuaded that he would be better off at a certain company up the road... He has embraced the challenge magnificently, and may often be spotted wistfully swirling a glass of something cloudy as he makes his rounds, accosting anyone prepared to listen to his ramblings on carbonic maceration and the judicious use of sulphur.
Business Support Manager
Our Dario is a mash up of Sardinian and German genes. Pick the Riesling bones out of that Cannonau. Now a double-digit Les Caves vet Dario not only sells our Italian portfolio to the London, ahem, (rhymes with raffia), but as part of the Italian buying team, liaises with our many growers. His regional wine maps are a thing of beauty – and very useful to boot, and his customer trips to the land of the boot are planned with military precision, guaranteed to result in shock and awe.
Italian Buyer & Sales Representative
24/7 party animal Carlo has more nicknames than any one at Les Caves. Lupo. Bello. Bello Lupo. And Lupo Bello. (We’re not very imaginative). A native of Puglia, and a talented former-sommelier, Lupo has a fearsomely good palate and can spot cork taint before the bottle is even opened. He brings colourful emotion to the monochromatic world of wine-selling and has many devoted customers to whom he is also devoted and can be observed of an evening carousing in all of Hackney’s brightest and beautiful watering-holes.
AKA Boardie. Yes, we’re that good with nicknames. James patrols the southern borders of our sales empire, seeking to educate the natives in the ways of the natural force (thereby needing the patience of a small green Jedi). Recently, James has been blessed by fatherhood. The twins should keep him out of mischief for the next eighteen years. One of life’s natural athletes, James is a mean footballer and can whack a golf ball with alacrity miles into the fynbos in the Bot River region.
Mr one N and two Ts is a sun-baked roué, can party like it’s 1974 and is liable to launch into a segway of the filthiest ditties and shanties known to man. Phil’s past is equally as colourful as his occasional singing forays and he speaks Spanish with the confident lithp of a native hipther. The genial Jekyll side to his Mr Hyde is muchos respected by his customers, who value his diligence, politeness and willingness to wine-train recalcitrant members of staff who’d muchos rather be sinking a few lagers!
Inveigled to join Les Caves many moons ago when he was the buyer for Villandry restaurant, rugby-dad Gid manages only behemoth accounts - with the odd gargantuan one. All the world’s his spreadsheet; he loves marshalling his armies of statistics. He buttonholes our buyers with requests for wines that we’ve never heard of (decent Prosecco rose, decent Pinot Grigio rose…). No blush Zin so far... A danger to the Atlantic pulpo population he’s racked up more trips to Galicia than the rest of the company put together.
Laura hails from Ireland and still sports the gentle brogue of her homeland. She formerly worked at a biodynamic Italian wine estate, immersing herself thoroughly in wine (not literally) and there acquired her love of the subject and Italian culture. On her return to Blighty she managed the award-winning Loire-focused wine list at The Green Man & French Horn, where she acquired the priceless Les Caves ability to wax lyrical on the 57 varieties of Chenin.
No serious party in South London is worth its salt without a visitation by the TT. Former general manager of the Lindsay House in Soho our own Mr Congeniality has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the late night/early morning watering holes in London. When he isn’t selling his reproduction French(y) furniture for an armchair or a table leg TT consorts with the upper echelons of the French restaurant, ahem,… rhymes with mafia.
Andrea Ash… Ask… represents Les Caves de Pyrene north of the Watford Gap. In the north of our scepter’d isle they are want to call a spade a spade and Pinot Grigio wine, but Andrea is slowly civilising the indigenous populations and hawking wines other than barely fizzy Prosecco by the keg. Our Andrea likes a riff on a stiff quiff and comes to each sales meeting modelling a different hair gel and is known to pack the entire contents of his bathroom cupboard for brief trips abroad.
Leaving behind her career in the world of opera and classical music, Breton-born cellist Line has brought her vibrant, spirited nature to the Sales Support orchestra. When it comes to imbibing, she has always possessed a suitably esoteric palate (aubergine tea anyone?) but the latest string to her vinous bow has been the discovery of the strange charms of the Savagnin grape. She has now set herself the immense task of ‘tasting the Jura’. Expect our minuscule allocations of Ganevat and Houillon to be further reduced to satisfy the curiosity of this avid taster!
Yet another of Les Caves’ vinyl-spinning charmers Charlie Prymaka was brought in to communicate with the strange hipster tribes of Eastern London, where he has since settled and now speaks their language like a native. Having originally worked for Indie Wineries in the US (he knows his way around an obscure natural wine or several), he arrived to take the reins as events manager at Terroirs and shocked and awed the public with his famous wine boot camps. Now he shocks and awes our trade customers with some shocking(ly) and awful(ly) (good) natural wines. Natch!
With the Mission Impossible theme playing in the background our Elena P pilots the supertanker that is the CdP shipping department. She is the multi-tasking polyglot’s polyglot conversing at a million miles an hour with our growers across the planet. She’s thoroughly familiarised herself with the arcane procedures of groupage, shipping procedures, types of containers – an education in itself. Cracking the whip (in the nicest possible way) Elena ensures that we receive wines from the farthest shores of manana-shire (except Crete).
Shipping & Logistics Manager
Charles “Mr” Porter used to drive one of our battered old vans in the days of waybackwhen delivering Gascon goodies to the local French bistros and pubs. Now he sits in the shipping lane despatching orders all o’er and wrestling with the linguistic linguine of unpronounceable cuvées and growers’ names. A keen cyclist our Mr Porter has also been known to take to the high seas (or the Solent) in a yacht, trying to avoid the shipping lanes!
Signor Jackson (told you our nicknames were imaginative) is our shipping magnet (boom-boom) and pores over the ancient runes (and ruins) of our stock sheets. Tipple-wise he’s not averse to the Pinot-ier things in life - Gevrey-Chambertin goes down well apparently. His other knotted handkerchief is as a DJ extraordinaire, and he’s wont to wax lyrical on the esoterica of mixing desks and whatnot. His fave rave destinations include Thailand and Cambodia and a certain wine bar in Barcelona.
Another of our resident polyglots Laura can converse in French, Spanish with a little Italian. Her language degree led initially to a career selling book rights (her proudest claim is to have sold books on French cheese to the French). Dealing with three children under the age of 3 has given her experience in time management and diplomacy, useful for working in our busy shipping department! Laura’s not averse to wine with bubbles (Champalou Brut a fave tipple, Gerbais if you’re paying), otherwise prefers to sup the light ‘n’ fruity stuff.
Hailing from the land of Prosecco, cycling enthusiast and polyglot Laura brings an in depth knowledge of all things sparkling to Les Caves Shipping Department. Spending her childhood exploring her grandparent’s vineyard and teenage years wine tasting with her father, she is somewhat of an expert on her native Veneto region of Italy. When not observing the merits of different Prosecchi, baking magician Laura can be found creating an endless number of baked goods.
Skilful linguist Vanessa is often given the unenviable task of contacting our more hermetic growers to prise info out of them. An essential part of the Real Wine Fair organising team, she’s goddess of the spreadsheets and has perforce had to immerse herself in any sort of organisation and logistics. Known as Audrey Hepburn (the eyes have it!) Ness loves anything artsy-crafty from jewellery making to pottery. She loves discovering new interesting wines – Patrick Sullivan's Haggis is a particular favourite!
PR & Events
Vicky is another member of our superstar team beavering away in PR and events. She is responsible for updating our multiple lists and trying to upload the avalanche of new wines that arrive unannounced every month. (It aint gonna stop!). An avid tea drinker and amazing chef she loves holidays and sunshine and is a big rugby fan – no surprise having spent eight months in New Zealand. Vicky’s idea of bliss (which is how they say bless in NZ) is a chilled glass of Albarino o’erlooking an azure seascape.
PR & Events
Linguist Isabel joined the PR & Events department not long ago, shortly after discovering her love for Stefano Bellotti, sorry, we mean 'vino naturale'. She moved from the Big Smoke with a passion for all things French/Italian and a background in food journalism, Isabel now manages Les Caves’ and The Real Wine Fair’s newsletter and website content and is key in making sure the company moves in the direction of the 21st century, hooray! When Isabel is not drinking the wonderful wines from our portfolio, she can be found in the crowd at a concert or wedding, air guitaring to her heart’s content.
PR & Events
Ben joined Les Caves at a tender age upon graduating from Plumpton College. He heads up the crack team on our sales desk, doing his utmost to keep our customers happy and their glasses full. Ben sports a bewildering array of eclectic tastes in film, music and literature, and is a gung-ho adventurer, liable to take himself off to some of the less hospitable corners of the globe - including North Korea and Eastern Ukraine. Being no stranger to danger he should be right at home with volatile natural wines.
Head of Sales Support
Banjo-playing, bird-watching mathematician (what are the odds of that??) James has brought his eternally cheerful outlook and disarming enthusiasm to the sales island. He has also been broadening his wine horizons after a long stint at Majestic, and has already developed a truly eclectic palate. While harbouring a soft spot for the classical Chateauneufs of Barroche, he especially enjoys challenging the taste buds of his former colleagues with wines such as skin-contact Rkatsiteli – bravo!
Self-confessed wordsmith and book-worm, Elliott works his cheeky charm with the punters. His jocular reputation has resulted in a ‘pun jar’ being installed to curb the constant flow of witticisms. From Hemingway to Harper Lee (what - both books??), there’s not much he hasn’t read and although book and wine matching has yet to go mainstream, the Foillard Morgon Côte du Py is a good place to start we’re told!
Pete is cool as a cucumber when it comes to meeting the needs of our on-trade customers. Another convert from the Majestic stable, he was first introduced to the portfolio with some of our skin-contact Georgian offerings, although he still has a soft spot for a “big” Chardonnay every now and then. A history-loving wanderlust with plenty of stories to tell (ask him about being mistaken for Michael Owen on the Argentinian/Chilean border by customs officials). A lot has also been mentioned of his singing ability of 90’s pop classics, so a karaoke evening will be arranged to see if the rumours are true!
Passionate and driven, our rock-and-roll academic Roman comes to Les Caves after an already very distinguished career both as a researcher in the Philosophy of Psychiatry at King’s College London and as guitarist in legendary prog-rock band ‘Of The I’ which graced the waves at Radio 1. Now, he joins our equally esteemed Sales Support Team with his thirst for the juice taking him to various trade fairs across the UK and Europe. A lover of all things orange, he’s also been a vocal enthusiast of the new wines of Paolo Balgera from Valtellina.
Bright as a button, Beth joined us having previously worked at one of her local pubs in Sussex – a fine establishment which also happens to be one of our customers. Whilst plying her trade there, Beth developed a real passion for good food and – importantly – wine. Beth holds the distinction of having been stung by a jellyfish and treading on a poisonous sea urchin on the same day. We note that all of Beth’s favourite wines seem to have a strange habit of running out – she stresses this is absolutely not her fault, though we’ll be keeping an eye on this.
Ollie came to us already equipped with a good working knowledge of a number of our wines, having spent his formative years working in the London restaurant scene. He still vividly recalls his first fateful encounter with a bottle of Cheverny rouge from Clos de Tue-Boeuf, which completely funked his head up. He is also a huge fan of Rafa Bernabé’s orange Benimaquia, not being a man who likes to feel constricted by binary red/white choices. Between napping on South West Trains and attending Leicester games, he likes to put the mental into experimental with his long time band, Joy-Rides.
Our Financial Controller is also our resident petrol head having come to us from the whizzy world of GP2 Racing. Two bambinos have put a gentle brake on the days of shopping and socialising in London; she now spends weekends looking for the best soft play locations in Surrey. Preferred tipple? Laurent Perrier Rose. Not gin! (Don’t ask). Tasha’s claim to fame is to get LCDP collectively hurled out of a pub in the middle of Spain after deciding that the service would be swifter if she was administering the drinks!
Our erstwhile flashmobber may be found at weekends supping the bubbly stuff or zumbaring her way around the local town centre. There’s a sentence you don’t read every day! Yvonne has been part of the CDP family for many years, and deals with all of our supplier & producer invoices, payments, expenses and many other things... the list is endless!
Zoe hails from Aldershot and is an avid supporter of Aldershot Town FC. When she isn’t sipping on a G&T – with lime – not cucumber, she can be found in our accounts department where she acts as Purchase Ledger Assistant. She likes wine (particularly the Henry Marionnet, Touraine Gamay Charmoise), but not quite as much as a good G&T. When not training hard in the gym, which she does twice a week, she is also partial to a karaoke session and loves to steal the mic from unsuspecting DJs.
Purchase Ledger Assistant
Abbey is our resident karaoke queen. She’s a big dog loving, shellfish loathing (the two are not mutually exclusive) Accounts Assistant… Every week she heads to the wilds of East Dulwich to Toast.ED Restaurant to ensure that the books are at least half-baked rather than totally cooked.
This cake-baking, animal-loving, biker chick can often be found at weekends on the back of her boyfriend’s Harley zooming back and forth from Essex. Victoria is the newest member of the credit control team and works alongside Avril chasing our lovely customers for their pennies! And pounds!
Nini first arrived at Les Caves stashed between cases in a pallet of Vouvray shipped over from her parents’ estate. She is the long-standing manager of our shop at Pew Corner, keeping the boys downstairs placid through a steady diet of French pop music, and juggles this with handling our customers’ Ex-Cellars orders. When the proverbial hits the fan, her voluble cries of “Peteeerrr” can be heard from the office upstairs – and most of Artington. Her penchant for “les bulles” is renowned and that certain sparkle is prevalent in almost everything she does.
Shop Manager & Ex-Cellars Dept
Danny started his wine journey at one of Edinburgh’s Michelin-starred restaurants, worked alongside a sommelier from Toulouse called Viv who regularly impressed upon him that “South West is the best”. He went on to spend a period working as a sommelier at another top-end establishment on the Isle of Skye, before heading south of the border and joining the team at Les Caves. Danny’s ready enthusiasm for increasing his knowledge of our portfolio (drinking) more than makes up for his questionable sense of humour.
Pete originally joined Les Caves as a van driver, leaving the warehouse at some godforsaken hour in order to get the wine to our thirsty customer on time. Since then he has taken on the mantle of Warehouse Manager at Pew Corner, and spends most of his time behind the scenes finding ever-ingenious new ways to cram in bottles from our ever-expanding range into every last nook and cranny available. Pete is a master raconteur and never short of an anecdote, whether required or not.
Joining the company not long after Pete, Anthony has been and remains one of our most valuable secret weapons. He is always at the ready to come to the rescue and only he can navigate across London in his red van quite as efficiently as he does. When not out on deliveries, Anthony spends his time assisting his colleagues in the shop at Pew Corner (aka smashing bottles). Anthony also heads up the catering department at shop tastings, and the bacon sarnies he lays on at our annual stock take are the stuff of legend.