Cloudy with a Chance of Manure…the way ‘Real Wines’ should be
A Call to Arms for Natural Wines
Many flourishing compliments have been written about wine importer/agent/distributor Les Caves de Pyrene over the years….and now it’s my turn. My crush on Les Caves began fairly recently. I only properly discovered them a few months ago although I’ve known of them for years.
In February my Italian winemaking friend Luca Roagna, whose wines are part of Les Caves’ portfolio, was in town and crashing at my flat. One night he invited me out for drinks with two ‘Caves guys’, Didier and Carlo, at Terroirs, the French wine bar founded and part-owned by Les Caves. I almost didn’t make it as I’d worked all day and had that ‘getting ill’ feeling (probably due to many drinks with Luca the previous few nights!). However Luca convinced me to go, and boy am I glad he did. Not only was Terroirs itself a gem of a place in every respect (I could and may write a whole other blog just on Terroirs), but the company was fabulous and extremely generous (I also had the pleasure of meeting Eric Narioo, founder of Les Caves, who was a very humble, warm-hearted soul). And most importantly the wines were fascinating. My motto has always been to try and drink exciting wines. Wines that challenge your palate and get you talking, and these did just that. Bottle after bottle was plonked onto our table, each one more weird and wonderful than the next. We stumbled out of Terroirs well after closing, and although Luca insisted that because we’d been drinking natural wines we’d have no hangover the next day, let me say on record that his theory was most certainly incorrect.
I’ve since returned several more times to Terroirs and have always been impressed. One visit was to have lunch with Les Caves’ Sales and Marketing Director, Doug Wregg, a kind and passionate man whose knowledge of wine, particularly of lesser known regions and grape varieties, is astounding.
When Doug invited me to Les Caves de Pyrene’s rather cheekily named ‘Real Wines’ fair , a chance to taste nearly all their wines in one room, I was gutted to discover that I would be out of the country and unable to attend. However, one of the few good things to come out of my holiday being cancelled thanks to the Volcano Ash Cloud of Doom was that I was able to make the tastings after all.
Whenever I taste Les Caves’ wines, I have mixed emotions. The first is of pure enjoyment, because the wines are either so lovingly made and delicious, or they’re wacky and therefore wonderful in their weirdness, or both. Secondly, I’m a bit overwhelmed because the wines are often made from grape varieties I’ve never heard of and from wineries unknown to me and therefore I feel completely inadequate in my wine knowledge! And finally, I feel an admiration for a company that seems to live by an ethos that should be envied by all others both in and out of the industry. First of all, based on the many Les Caves employees whom I’ve now met, they’re a cracking group of people. Eric has surrounded himself with passionate, down to earth people who truly care about Les Caves and its wines. More importantly are the company’s principles with regards to the wines themselves. Les Caves are the champions of organic, often Biodynamic, natural wines (wines that haven’t been tampered with by being filtered into nothingness or by the addition of chemicals). In other words they’re real wines. Because these natural methods are time consuming for the winemaker and must be carried out by real people and not by machines, there’re very few large scale wineries making wine in this way. Caves’ wines come from mostly tiny producers who follow a motto of responsible winemaking. Their wines therefore express not only the land where grapes were grown (dare I say, the ‘terroirs’?!) but also the winemaker him/herself. However, natural wines are still far from the norm. It is unfashionable for a wine to be cloudy or to throw some sediment. Eric used the perfect metaphor when I spoke with him at the tastings. He said that several years ago it was thought it best to drink apple juice clear and bright. However it was revealed that cloudy apple juice was actually much healthier and more flavoursome and now the fashion is to drink it cloudy. This same movement needs to happen with wine–a realisation that wine, just like food, is much better the less you mess with it.
There is still a long way to go until the world’s biggest wineries go ‘au naturale’. But in the meantime it’s up to you, dear wine consumers, to seek out organic and eco friendly wines, and they are becoming more affordable. Check out your local Odd Bins or even better a private wine shop in town or online and you’re sure to find at least a handful. Be brave fellow wine lovers, and boldly go where few winos have gone before. Follow Les Caves de Pyrene’s lead, and Go Natural! Huzzah!*For some of my Les Caves favourites, check out my ‘Adventures with Vino’ album on the right*