My Taste: Caves de Pyrene

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Claire Hu reviews Les Caves de Pyrene's new and recent releases tasting.

You have to hand it to Les Caves de Pyrene. While all the talk in the trade is of simplifying and dumbing down the wine offer, it hasn’t budged one inch from its ethos of selling weird and wonderfully niche wines that express where they come from.

In fact, according to sales and marketing director Doug Wregg the policy of stocking “pure, natural wines with integrity” has paid dividends for the company during the recession.

Where else, for example, would you find a sparkling, red Vinho Verde than at last week’s Les Caves tasting of 50 or so new releases? And when was the last time you went to a tasting that actually put a smile on your face?

As befits a company which made its name through pioneering the south west and south of France, there was a great selection from the area including two fantastic 2008 Minervois from Jean-Baptiste Sénat (£9.95 and £11.95, all prices ex-vat) and a Bandol from Domaine de la Tour du Bon 2005 (£14.40) which was delicate and perfumed compared to most Bandol bruisers.

The Vouvray Sec La Dilettante 2008 (£9.78) from Catherine & Pierre Breton had great mineral concentration and depth, while the sparkling version (£11.99) was a rich and floral stunner.

I really liked two Chenin Blancs that were very different in style - the honeyed, deeply mineral Savennières 1999 from Domaine Laureau (£12) and the more austere, flinty and bone dry Goutte d’Or vin de Table 2007 from Sylvain Martinez (£18.95).

There was a great Italian selection, including the unusual and elegant Le Due Terre Sacrisassi Rosso 2007 (£18.95), the Monte di Grazia Rosso 2007 (£10.95) and the Etna Bianco Cru Pietramarina 2005 (£22.93), grown at nearly 1000m altitude.

Les Caves has just started stocking Australian wines and plans to feature six garagiste-style producers by early next year. For now, there is the lovely Close Planted Pinot Noir 2007 by Timo Mayer, as well as two wines by Luke Lambert.

With no or very low use of sulphur and many wines organic or bio-dynamic, some of the wines were bordering on being downright dirty. But this is perhaps a risk worth taking for wines with real personality.

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