So farewell 2013…

…a year of many highlights.


A massive thanks to our customers, those have kept faith in us and supported us in the last twelve months. And thanks to all who have been our friends, written and said nice things about Les Caves in print, blogs and the social media. We wish you fun and frolics for the festive season and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

On a personal note I experienced a revelatory trip to Georgia, a country of beautiful, kind people, amazing hospitality, not to mention the wines, made in a unique idiom.

Delighted to be a part of The Real Wine Fair 2013, a profoundly satisfying event which amply demonstrated the strength of the artisan natural wine scene. A special mention to those responsible for organising: Amy Morgan, Vanessa Woodfine and Yolanda Kloppers as well as Christina Pickard for all her indefatigable work on social media for Les Caves and The Real Wine Fair,

The London restaurant wine scene continues to evolve. Toasted, East Dulwich with its wines from the tank selling point. Recently, small became beautiful with the opening of The Remedy, a fantastic natural wine refuge off Warren Street,

Plaudits also to The Green Man & French Horn for showing the rule of Loire and for winning Best London Wine List at Harper’s French Wine Awards. Other restaurants we have loved include Ember Yard; Drakes Tabanco; The Pendleton as well as the more established Ottolenghi in Upper Street and 10 Greek Street and Duck Soup, both in Soho.

The Real Wine Fair 2014…

… is back in Tobacco Dock in Wapping. Natural, organic and biodynamic deliciously tasty wines from across the globe, cracking street food, seminars, dinners and promotions. It’s not just a tasting, it’s also a party.

Booking soon!

So far around 100 growers confirmed. Check the RWF website for updates and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

What’s the matter? Read all about it!

Which writer would you pay to read on wine? That’s easy-peasy for us. Check out Alice Feiring’s newsletter The Feiring Line and subscribe toot sweet for a draught of unfiltered honesty. Alice writes sans flimflam and flubdub and with lashings of wit, knowledge and rare passion. Her lapidary recommendations are worth following, her extended feature articles cut to the chase – loads of fun for the real wine aficionado. And for those who enjoy unreal wine also.

In This Month’s Issue

An in-depth look at the mistreated grape of Piemonte, freisa. Can it ever make a great wine? Was Robert M. Parker, Jr. right in calling it repugnant? There’s a few places for you to spend your drinking dollars out and about in NYC, where Kermit Lynch likes to eat in Corsica, gift suggestions and the wines, of course.

Why put out the bucks for this?

Mine is the only independent newsletter focusing on real wines from real soils. (Check the chemicals and additives at the door please.)

$65 gets you nine-ten issues of real wine (recommendation) to drink and ideas to think

New Wines!!!

A cluster of newbies checked in recently. See this article for gushing details of a natural 11.7% Grenache from Swartland, the murkiest Colfondo Prosecco ever and some eloquente wines from Alicante care of maestro Rafa Bernabe.

There’s more. There’s always more.

The Pepière Challenge

The final piece in the Nantais jigsaw sees the addition to our list of Domaine de la Pepière, Marc Olivier & Remi Branger with a sur lie (but friendly) salty-granitic Muscadet and a juicy young vines Côt. With the wines of Pierre Luneau, Jo Landron and Marc Pesnot, we are pleased to represent some of the Maine men in this oh-so-underrated region.

Double Bubble

Fancy some unfancy boules? We do! Eureka Pet Nat is the latest effort from La Coulée d’Ambrosia stable. I suspect when these wines are disgorged every winemaker says Eureka! since the outcome seems to be pot luck. Or rather pet luck!

Pet Nat Terre Blanche from Noella Morantin has been nestling on our list for nearly a year, whilst nestling in Noella’s cellar in yeasty limbo. The Pet was not – until now – when the natural conversion has finally taken place and conferred natural full-fizzicality.

The Chenin! Here’s Jean-y… and Jo… and Gregory…

Because the world needs more Chenin. Or at least we do. These bevy of beauts prove the sheer versatility of this grape.  We begin with Anjou Blanc Mozaik from Pithon-Paille, a straightforward example from youngish vines fermented in old oak and wooden tanks. A clean style, not one to frit the cavalry.

Gregory Leclerc, Chahut et Prodiges makes the great value mouth-filling “Tête de Gondole”, an old vines Chenin from Touraine in the natural idiom. Jean-Christophe Garnier in Saint-Lambert du Rattray, meanwhile, plays with various cuvées of Chenin including La Roche & La Roche Bezigon. Jean-Christophe is an individual, doing his own thang; his wines are similar to Jean-François Chêne (La Coulée d’Ambrosia) with cider-wth-rosie-lees ageing and utterly-nutterly flavours.

Never Mind The Balzac

One could certainly say that the Loire rocks. And one rocker who is not off his rocker is Brendan Tracey making uber-natural wines up in the Vendôme near Emile Heredia. He works with a range of grapes – we are starting with Le Clocher Rue de la Soif, a turbid Sauvignon; his Pineau d’Aunis, Côt, Gamay blend called Gorge Seche Rouge and Pour Une Poignée de Bouteilles, a 50/50 split between Pinot Noir and Côt.  For chapter and verse read Bertrand Celce’s excellent piece.

Monsieur Thierry, Au Contraire

All change with our Puzelats – cuvées come and go and you’d need a microscope to see our 2012 allocations. Instead of the late-lamented Brin de Chevre we bring you the Touraine Tesnière Blanc, an artful blend of Menu Pineau & Chenin – if you are an acidity-freak you will NOT be disappointed. Fizzling-fresh off the grapes is 2013 Gamay Primeur, Clos du Tue-Boeuf, some loose-juice for chilling and quaffing. The collective term for this is a glug of Gamay.

Frickin’ Good Sylvaner & Some More Jurassic Larks

Pierre Frick makes dozen of vintage-sensitive cuvées, so our selection is somewhat of a moveable feast. A new guest at this feast is his 2008 Sylvaner Bergweingarten, a rich, spicy Alsatian with equal bark and bite. Fabulous food wine.

Anyone who has been following Les Caves appreciates our deep love of Jura wines – from the beautiful Chardonnays, amazing veil-wines, vivid topped-up Savagnins and the sui-generis reds, so pale yet turbid, mineral and refreshing austere. So, here’s another producer, François Rousset-Martin with a fabulous Savagnin Ouille and a very good Chardonnay.

Drink more h-herries

People are taking sherry seriously. And why not – this is addictive stuff, umami in a glass. Two new bodegas to introduce, firstly, Sánchez Ayala in Sanlucar, where the Manzanilla is a delight. Two versions – a smashable style, and a pasada version.

César Florido in Chipiona in THE Moscatel specialist – two delightful versions here as well as some Cream (not what you might imagine), a Fino and a Palo Cortado. We hope also to get some en rama style wines from both these wineries in the future. Watch this space.

Georgian Portions

A shipment from Georgia is imminent with some new lovelies from Pheasant’s Tears (check out the Tsolikauri), Alaverdi Monastery (including a lesser-spotted Khikhvi and a phenomenal Saperavi), Teleda (Saperavi), a Krakhuna from Didim Maghlakelidze, which is a mouthful – as is the wine, and tiny allocations from Ramoz Nikoladze, Niki Antadze and Iago Berishvili. Qvevri thing they do is magic. Naturally.

Basket Case Wines

Anton von Klopper paid us a flying visit in December to spread the gospel according to the Basket Range growers. He came with two newbies, a delicious Chardonnay called Village Chardonnay and Gris Noir, a red from Pinot Gris. Yes, a red, none of this bashful blushing ramato. And it’s just great. Microscope out for two new growers – Patrick Sullivan, sublime mineral wines from Yarra that truly reflect their provenance and Si Vintners (Sarah & Iwo) first instalments from the Margaret River – a Semillon/Chardonnay blend and a flor-influenced Semillon.

Shine a Luyt!

Louis-Antoine Luyt’s Assemblage Pais should finally be hitting our shores in Jan. This is a nubbly-natural wine from ancient vines – 250 years and counting.

De Martino is 80 years old in 2014

One of the oldest family-owned wineries in Chile De Martino will be celebrating its 80th birthday in 2014. To mark this milestone they will be holding a special event – alongside their UK partners Les Caves de Pyrène –to release their 2011 Single Vineyard range wines which are a considerable departure in style from previous vintages and exemplify perfectly De Martino’s objective to rediscover authentic terroir flavours in their wines.

Back to the future – rediscovering authenticity

These 2011s reveal the extent of De Martino’s journey to arrive at what is essentially a “house style”. “Like growing up we now know what we stand for and what we like, but this would have been impossible to achieve if we had not experimented with the extremes”, says Sebastian De Martino. And now De Martino are returning to their origins, including vinifying without new wood and seeking greater balance, gastronomic appeal and delicious freshness in their wines– but now with increased knowledge of, and greater respect towards, the terroir.

A Mosaic of Terroir

De Martino’s vineyards stretch from the high Andes to the Pacific coast, from the 2000m high Alto Los Toros in Elqui to unirrigated old bush vines in Maule and finally, to the cool maritime climate of Itata with its thrilling potential (tipped by Peter Richards MW to be “one of Chile’s most exciting regions in the next decade”), and from where their new releases Tinajas & Gallardia derive. Sympathetic winemaking brings out the nuances in all the wines and is achieved by using indigenous yeasts, gentle extraction, and maturation in vessels ranging from large foudres to clay pots (tinajas).

Unique Vertical & New Release Tasting

The event will comprise a tasting throughout the day of the new style single vineyard wines as well as other new releases and a small selection of natural wine from Les Caves de Pyrène to compare and contrast. There will also a ticketed masterclass with a tutored tasting hosted by Marco Retamal, winemaker at De Martino, Peter Richards MW, who has written the authoritative report on Chilean wines, and will include a mini-vertical of Carmenere to demonstrate how De Martino’s winemaking has come full circle in the past twenty years.

Chilean Dinner with De Martino

Afterwards, Terroirs Cellar will host wine dinner with De Martino wines paired to a menu that is Chilean in inspiration.

Recommendation of the year

A trawl through my personal wine epiphanies of 2013

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