Tag Archives: les caves de pyrene

Selling out

While I’m on the subject of wine sales, it strikes me that they remain surprisingly contentious. The very idea makes some people – really rather a lot of people, it seems – shudder with horror, while all they make me is a) merry, and b) poorer.

Obviously, there are wine “bargains” that are still rip-offs, consisting of bottles that have been sold for a while at about double their value in order to later be flogged with a half-price sticker, and often produced by multi-national wine-spewing conglomerates of yuck. Then there’s the 25% off everything sale, which every supermarket seems to wheel out from time to time. While these give me nothing but the impression that their normal prices must be a bit too high, these are the normal prices I usually have to pay – which makes three-quarters of the normal price quite an attractive prospect.

While buying wine from supermarkets doesn’t really suit my research-everything-ridiculously tendencies, Waitrose’s biannual discounting frenzy is a very major exception. The ability to mix your own case of some genuinely decent stuff at genuinely decent prices from your very own sofa is too much for me to withstand; within 15 minutes of me hearing about their last offer, a couple of weeks ago, and knowing that my children would wake up from their lunchtime naps at any moment, I had ordered two cases.

Then there is the genuine wine sale, like the one I found at Les Caves de Pyrene last weekend, where a retailer is trying to get rid of some old stock that’s clogging up their warehouse. The job that sales always used to do, before they became regular festivals of comsumption. Quite a lot of the wine I bought had something clearly wrong with it – it was a few years old but not intended for keeping, or the label was damaged, or it was from Morocco. I’m happy to have bought something for less than the going rate, they’re happy to have got rid of the stuff in the first place, everyone’s happy.

Except those who consider wine to rightfully be above this sort of thing, the shallow pursuit of a bargain. That the obsession with discounting makes life difficult for retailers and impossible for producers. That it stops people from buying any wine that isn’t reduced. That even wine that isn’t discounted is nevertheless cheapened.

I like my sales. They suit me well. But I can see where they’re coming from, to be honest.

(incidentally, last night I cracked open the first of this year’s Les Caves bottles, an Afros Vinho Verde Tinto Espumante 2006 – fizzy, red vinho verde. Brilliantly vivid, a lot of fun. The latest vintage (2008) is £17.99 online (a fair bit more than it’s worth, I think), but at exactly half that in the sale, a bargain!)

Driving force

The main thing I remember about last year’s summer sale at Les Caves de Pyrene, the Guildford-based wine importer (other than the quality of wine I ended up with, which was extremely impressive) is the disastrous traffic Gilad and I encountered on our way home. The main thing I’ll remember about this year’s – the quality of wine being as yet unproven – is the disastrous traffic I encountered on the way there. It was hideous. The North Circular was a car park, the final mile on the approach to the Chiswick Roundabout taking me about an hour. When the cars already on the M25 appeared similarly stationary I asked my satnav to find another route; its selection was astonishingly circuitous, and included not one but two roads that were closed for roadworks.

When I finally did arrive, I was surprised that the small shop wasn’t a bit more crowded – particularly since the sale had been compressed from two days to one. “You should have been here when we opened,” one member of staff said when I made that observation out loud. The early birds clearly caught the vinous worm – there seemed slightly less choice there today, compared to last year, and none of the big successes of a year ago were in evidence. But I wasn’t going all that way for nothing, and quickly compiled three cases all the same.

Most of the people who were there when I arrived at about midday were clustered around the tasting table, so I scurried around the rest of the room selecting bottles more or less at random. I did try a few, when a place at the top table appeared, but given last year’s experience I was happy enough to trust their selective abilities. For the record, as I’ll certainly want this list to refer to in the future and will almost certainly lose my one hard copy within 24 hours, this is what I ended up with. You will notice one bottle that stands out, mainly for being three times more expensive than anything else – a 1989 Mas de Daumas Gassac, a famous wine from the Languedoc that requires a great deal of ageing. This should be ready, and though at £45 it is comfortably the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever bought it is a) only £15 more than the latest vintage; and b) exactly half the lowest price I can find for it on wine-searcher.com. The label was almost totally ruined, (partly) explaining the price. Anyway, here’s that list, all prices per bottle:

Les Cretes torrette 2003 (their fumin was the biggest hit of last year’s haul) x 2 (£5)

Di Barro fumin 2004 x 2 (£10)

Salentein Primus pinot noir 2004 x2 (£10)

Zouina Epicuria Syrah 2005 x4 (£11)

Palari Rosso del Sporano 2005 x2 (£12)

Vaubois pinot noir 2005 x2 (£4)

Afros Espumante Vinhao Vinho Verde tinto 2006 x2 (£8.50)

Mirausse Le Grand Penchant Azerolle 2006 x1 (£6)

Tollo Madregale Rosso 2007 x1 (£3)

Dom Foulards VDT Soif du Mal Rouge 2007 x2 (£8)

Dom Foulards VDT Soif du Mal Rouge 2008 x2 (£8.50)

Dom Foulards VDT Vilains rouge 2007 x2 (£8)

Hatzidakis Santorini Cuvee 17 2007 x4 (£6; slightly damaged labels)

Terras Gauda O Rosal 2008 x1 (£10)

Daumas Gassac rouge 1989 x1 (£45.50; horrifically damaged labels)

Fazio Brusio Blanco Sicilia IGT 2007 x2 (£4.50)

Fondreche Rouge Cuvee Fayard 2007 x2 (£6)

Schuster Twin Vineyards pinot noir 2008 x2 (£8)

Sole e Vento 2007

Les Caves de Pyrene have done it again. This wine was interesting from the first glance, which told me it was made from grillo and zibibbo. Then I went to open it, and discovered that it was sealed with a glass “cork”. Though I know that a few hundred wineries use them, I’ve never had one of these before.
And the wine? Surprisingly good. Italian whites, even from the more celebrated areas, often lack a little zing. They’re a bit vague, if that makes any sense. In the summer we spent a fortnight within spitting distance of the Umbrian town of Orvieto – long enough to work out that Orvieto Classicowas just a classic let-down (though I did discover the rather more impressive Greco di Tufo). This, though, was a pleasure. Softer, more gentle than many whites I try – the age, perhaps – it was still really invigorating stuff.