A version of this article first appeared in Hampshire View, January 2009.
The three Caviste shops in Hampshire (www.caviste.co.uk), are something of a beacon for independent wine merchants. They hold the IWC (International Wine Competition) Regional Wine Merchant of the Year award for the south east, having been nominated by the judges for the quality of their range and service.
The first shop was set up not quite six years ago by David and Hannah Thomas, in Overton, the family home of Hannah’s parents. Not ones to endure an easy life, they managed to negotiate buying the shop whilst they were living in Australia, where David had trained and was working as a winemaker. On their return, they had just one month to refit and stock the shop.
The vision driving the success of Caviste comes from the undisputed passion for wine, and love of sharing this passion with customers. And searching for wines that are really typical, or unusual, or that have a real story to tell means David has more than 50 suppliers to deal with. Whatever the story, he says, the wines must always justify their position on the list because of the quality and style of the wine.
The enthusiasm and knowledge of his staff are rarely far from David’s mind, and to encourage this further, each of the managers buy 25% of the range for their shops. Mark, who is well known in Hampshire vinous circles, manages the recently-opened shop in Newlyns Farm Shop, Odiham, and has worked in the industry for nearly 20 years; indeed he and I used to work together at a different wine merchant. And David poached Rachel, who manages Stockbridge, from Majestic, which has a deserved reputation for training their staff well. All are deeply knowledgeable, relaxed and approachable and won’t offer any snobbish stuff and nonsense about wine. They will talk to you about the wines and the people and the stories behind the wines. You’ll be infused with passion and enthused about the wines.
Try these sub-£10 wines for size.
Quando, sauvignon blanc 2007, South Africa. £8.75. Derived from the Latin for ‘when’ after so many friends of brothers Fanus and Martin Bruwer kept asking ‘so when are you going to make your own wine?’
Château Saint Cosme, Côtes du Rhône, 2006, France £8.95. David reckons Louis Barruol makes the best Gigondas. This Côtes du Rhône though, made entirely from syrah, (Côtes du Rhône is usually a grenache/syrah blend) may be a little more affordable for January’s usually restrained budgets.
West Cape Howe, Zeepaard Shiraz 2005, Western Australia, £7.75 is one of Rachel’s recommendations. She says is it makes a lovely change from other Aussie shirazes, being more structured and peppery, with a savoury, spicy finish.