22 July, 2014
We have some shocking news: we don’t really care for convention at Oddbins. OK, maybe you already knew that. Anyway, that’s why we’re going to be a tad random start this newsletter with a poem:We are all artists
Nothing’s the same in black and white
Use your own colours and create your own light
Don’t doubt your colour is you
Never change the slightest hue
What would the sea be if it lost its blue?This poem sums up how we feel about wine. At its best, we feel a wine should shine through with local character – ‘regional typicity’ as wine folk say – and with the character of the winemaker. When this happens, you’ve got wine gold and we are well chuffed to have been named High Street Chain of the Year 2014 by the International Wine Challenge (IWC) for stocking wines that do just that. So saying, let us introduce you to some IWC award-winning wines that really do create their own light…
First up is Janeil Gros Manseng/Sauvignon Blanc 2013, a zingy, floral belter from the southwest of France, which scooped Gold at the IWC 2014 awards. Although ‘Gros Manseng’ sounds less like a grape and more like an unflattering description of a singer, the producer declares this local variety loud and proud on the label and quite right too: it’s a gorgeous example of this unique grape. Or, as the less florid judges put it, ‘Fresh lemon, apple, pear and grass. Zesty with balancing fruit richness. Great drinking.’
Speaking of staying true to yourself, we’ve got some advice for Newsnight’s new anchor, Evan Davies: don’t try to be Paxo, yo. More news puppy than news hound, Evan is a nice bloke and it’s going to plain weird if he starts spluttering and yelling at interviewees that they still haven’t answered the question. Instead, we think Evan should follow the example of Luís Lourenço, the maker of Quinta dos Roques, and bring his own style to proceedings. Made from the classic Dão varieties Touriga Naçional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro, as well as Tempranillo, this is a proud example of the chunky, soulful reds that Dão does so well. Plus, the 2011 has just won Gold at the IWC 2014 and is the IWC’s Portuguese Red Wine Trophy Winner. It is for wines like this that we have, *dusts off black tie awards dinner outfit*, also won the IWC Specialist Merchant of the Year Award for Portugal. Yieah, boi!
And lastly to a wine, a man and a city that all have splendidly strong, idiosyncratic personalities. We are speaking, respectively, of Viña Leyda ‘Falaris’ Chardonnay, Joe Wadsack and Glasgow. Viña Leyda were the pioneers of winemaking in Chile’s now desirable, cool-climate Leyda Valley, which was named after them in 1997. The cooler climate means they can make more nuanced wines such as this Chardonnay, which has a captivating mineral streak running through the ripe melon and guava fruit, and which won Bronze at the IWC 2014. This was one of the wines that former RAF pilot-turned-wine writer and educator, Joe, put on tasting at The Palate Semi Final Boot Camp in Glasgow last weekend and wowed the contestants. A spectacularly energetic, crazy man, showing a pioneering wine, in a bustling, fiercely proud city: a triumphant triad of ‘regional typicity’ and unabashed personality, we think you'll agree.Ciao for now.
4 July, 2014
Want to be happy? Get more sauerkraut and Bavarian beer in your life. Yup, the Germans have cast off their ‘joyless image’ according to a recent report by the German Economic Institute, which says they are some of the happiest people in Europe. But who thought the Germans were miserable? With their enthusiastic politeness and practical clothing, you couldn’t find a more optimistic bunch. They live in a country of fairy-tale beauty, they have Michael Fassbender off of X-Men and they have many, many sausages. Of course the Germans are happy! However, it’s not just their national character that is often misunderstood. Their wine is too – but for good reason. They have, hitherto, had a predilection for sweet wines with ornate, baroque-esque labels and indecipherable names that take about a year to pronounce, such as ‘Trockenbeerenauslese Graacher Himmelreich’. However, all that is changing… Willkommen in der zukunft .
Our first German is not a red wine; it’s not a white wine; and it’s not a rosé wine. What it is is Dr Koehler Blanc de Noir 2013 and it is very, very exciting. It is a white wine made from red grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and, as such, is bigger on the palate than your average white. It has incredibly fragrant raspberry and rose flavours that are about as surprising, we imagine, as being a Prime Minister let down by a German Chancellor who had suggested she would back him in his quest to block the election of an EU President. But a much nicer surprise, clearly. Anyway, where were we? Ah yes. So, the only other time you’ll see white wine made out of red grapes is in Champagne, where Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are used to make more full-bodied, richer styles of bubbly. So, essentially, this is pretty far out for the usually traditional Germany. At £12.50, it should have you reaching for your Geld sharpish.
In the above poster, we tied our vinous colours to the mast. We also annoyed a few England fans, but most people read the disclaimer and saw that we're not actually supporting our football arch rivals... Anyway, we don’t mean to annoy anyone. We’re here to serve up joy! And our next wine does just that. Its name is Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2012 (£12) and, if you haven’t tried much German red wine, we recommend you begin your journey here. The Germans usually call Pinot Noir ‘Spätburgunder’ but have dropped it this time in favour of the more recognisable Pinot Noir, which reflects the fresh, vibrant, modern style of this wine. In musical terms, they are waving auf wiedersehen to Beethoven and saying hallo to Kraftwerk. Headed up by the dynamic Dr. Loosen, Villa Wolf is a forward-thinking, exciting winery and this spicy cherry Pinot is a cracking example of their Kraft.
To end our Deutsch wein special, we toss glitter in the air, put on a Marlene Dietrich record and pour ourselves a glass of the über rare Solter Brut Rheingau Riesling Sekt (£18). It’s rare for three reasons: 1) Unusually for Sekt (German sparkling wine), it is made in the same way as Champagne, which is patently a good thing. 2) Whereas most Sekt uses grapes from outside Germany, this Sekt only uses grapes from Rheingau, in southwest Germany, which gives it regional character and higher quality. The resulting wine is of an impeccable standard and this Rheingau Sekt has very fine aromas of peaches and honey, with smooth acidity and soft, come-hither bubbles. 3) It is the only wine in this email that hasn’t been made by a doctor (no easy feat in a country that produces 25,000 doctorates a year and where even the Chancellor has a PhD in physical chemistry). But if the other two wines are the zany academics, this is the talented musician with a twinkle in its eye. In short, it’s your own Marlene Dietrich.
- Willkommen in der zukunft = welcome to the future
- Geld = money
- Kraftwerk = nutty electronic music pioneers
20 June, 2014
Major sporting tournaments tend to polarise sporty types and non-sporty types into two squarely opposing camps. The sporty types gather together to discuss tactics, glancing dubiously at the non-sporty types, while the non-sporty types wonder what the fuss is about, becoming increasingly incredulous towards their Lycra-clad opposites. But the World Camp introduces a third type: the ignorant enthusiast (Oddbins falls into this category). So, this week, whether you’re a lover, a hater or an intrigued novice swept up in the excitement of it all, we’ve something for you this World Cup…
Firstly, for the haters. We know that, when you haven’t got your head in the sand and your fingers in your ears avoiding football, you’re a really nice bunch. You like a good laugh and you like rooting out curious libations – that’s why you subscribe to Odd News, right? So, to appease your football-weary souls, may we introduce a lama. “What???” you may splutter. But don’t worry, we’re not talking about the fluffy South American camel, we’re talking about Mari – Join the Lama (275ml, 5.9%, £3.95): a medium-sweet fusion of Mosel Riesling, fermented Yerba Maté (tea leaves) from Argentina and Austrian elderflower. It sounds mental but it tastes out of this world. Also from Austria and also rather leftfield, we have a sparkling Grüner Veltliner made by wine wunderkind Markus Huber. With all the sensual orchard fruit and bold spice of still Grüner Veltliner, wrapped up in an enticing, soft fizz, it’s a total delight. Supplies are limited, so get stuck in whilst you can.
Secondly, for the ‘intrigued novice swept up in the excitement of it all’, we have a cunning plan that involves watching the World Cup and winning a £50 gift card, without knowing a crumb about football. Here’s how it works:
- Purchase a pair of wines that are up against each other (wine matching explanations here; wine and fixtures here)
- Taste the wines at home. (This is easier with four friends or relatives).
- Score the wines thus: each taster decides if they prefer one wine over the other or if it’s a draw. Each person preferring a wine scores a goal for the corresponding team. So if three tasters prefer wine A, one prefers wine B and one has no preference, your score is 3-1 to Wine A. If all 5 tasters don’t have a preference between the wines, your score is 0-0
- Post your score (whether it’s 3:2 or 0:0), with a picture of both wines together, on Twitter or Facebook, using @OddbinsWine. To state the bleedin’ obvious, Tweets must be posted before the match.*
- All correct predictions will win a £50 gift card**
- We do not accept bribes. Unlike certain members of a Geneva-based ‘not-for-profit organisation’ reportedly.
*ReTweets do not count as entries
**One prediction is allowed per person, per match
Thirdly, for people who actually know about football. Regardless of whether England cling on to life tonight (Forza Italia!), you can win wine this World Cup. If you correctly predict any score, using your knowledge of the game, we’ll give you both teams’ representative wines. For example, if you predict that Germany will beat Ghana 3-1 tomorrow, you win Château Ollieux La Volière (representing France) and Oveja-Negra Sauvignon Blanc/Carmenère (representing Ghana). For all the team’s wines, click here. To repeat, we’re inviting you to call any match to win wine. Just reply to this email, or Tweet us @Oddbins, using #WorldCup, before the match.*
*Again, one prediction is allowed per person, per match. ReTweets do not count as entries.
Yea, though our football knowledge be sparse and our passion sporadic, we will find a way to involve wine in the World Cup in any way we can.
Let us begin this blog about football by saying that we know nothing about football. Wine is our specialist area. But, like many people, our interest in football ignites roughly every four years, when we become interested in the so-called Beautiful Game. To our own surprise, we start saying things like “that was clearly offside!”, “the ref’s blind!” and “we woz robbed!” So, like a dog at a picnic or a toddler in a sandpit, we are diving in enthusiastically with our own wine-based World Cup predictions, giving you the chance to win a £50 Oddbins gift card. But we’re not just predicting winners, we’re predicting actual scores. Are we mental? Possibly. Is that a good thing? Hell yeah!
We say ‘so-called Beautiful Game’ because, though we’re happy to revel in the carnival-esque spirit, we reserve the right to dis Fifa at any stage in this blog. Any organisation that has had a Private Eye special edition devoted to it, is fair game. Anyway, not to get distracted by such (alleged) shenanigans, let’s move swiftly on to the scores…
Oddbins’ World Cup Predictions
But just how did we arrive at said scores?
1. Well, firstly, we gathered all of the footballing geeks and pundits we could find in the Company – namely our Head of Operations and our E-Commerce Manager, Paul and Tony – and asked them to describe the playing styles of the 32 teams. Switzerland, for example, were described as “Dependable and solid but not going to set pulses racing”.
2. We then gave those descriptions (without their associated countries) to Ana (our Buyer) who, sceptical but unable-to-refuse, was asked to select wines to match those descriptions. For example, their “Youthful and green. Promising up front, lacking depth behind” description was matched to Bougrier Muscadet.
3. We then paired the wines as per their World Cup groups and pitted them against each other in a ferocious, wine-stained battle to the death (read: a blind tasting carried out by Oddbins customers).
4. Every wine ‘match’ was then marked as a win, lose or draw by each taster.
NB We are limiting ourselves to predicting the first two matches of each group, as we don’t want to hog all the fun… But more of that later.
In the interests of fairness, rather than matching, say Chianti with Italy, and Sancerre with France, we chose to match teams to wines by considering their playing style. Also in the interests of fairness (just call us Solomon m’kay), we limited all the wines chosen to a maximum of £13. This may be a far cry from the ghetto-fabulous, bling-tastic lifestyles of the football playaz, but football is a street sport. It started in the streets and it’s played on scraps of turf by aspirational nippers the world over, so the likes of Krug is out.
If our predictions are right, we’ll probably do a victory lap of the office, go to the pub and have something to talk about for the rest of the year. Ana may also do the Samba down Wandsworth High Street. If we predict them all right, we can collect the accumulator bet that our rather amused MD has placed on our predictions, and will be watching the rest of the World Cup from a VIP stand in Brazil. The odds are somewhere north of 1,000,000-1, but still...
We have noticed that some other businesses are coming up with formulas for predicting the World Cup. To be honest, Goldman Sachs’ ‘stochastic model’ based on ‘regression analysis’ makes us want to weep, and PwC’s ‘World Cup Index’ based on ‘econometrics’ well… surely such rigour and pseudo-intellectual prowess could be put to better use? Fifa’s accounting, maybe? Bottom line is, ours is more fun, there’s more wine – and YOU can get involved!
Yes indeedy, we are inviting you to predict outcomes for the rest of the Cup for the chance to win a £50 gift card for Oddbins.com… But how? Well, after the first round of fixtures, you can predict any match by…
2. Tasting the wines at home. (This is easier with four friends or relatives).
3. Scoring the wines thus: Each taster decides if they prefer one wine over the other or if it’s a draw. Each person preferring a wine scores a goal for the corresponding team. So if three tasters prefer wine A, one prefers wine B and one has no preference, your score is 3-1 to Wine A. If all 5 tasters don’t have a preference between the wines, your score is 0-0
4. Posting your score (whether it’s 3:2 or 0:0), with a picture of both wines together, on Twitter or Facebook, using @Oddbins and #WorldCupWine. To state the bleedin’ obvious, Tweets must be posted before the match.*
5. All correct predictions will win a £50 gift card**
6. We do not accept bribes. Unlike certain members of a Geneva-based ‘not-for-profit organisation’ reportedly.
*ReTweets do not count as entries
**One prediction is allowed per person, per match
The innovative US football coach Tom Landry once said, “Football is an incredible game. Sometimes it's so incredible, it's unbelievable.” Well, we have just taken it from unbelievable to blooming bonkers: just the way we like it.
‘Til kick off.
This blog was written while drinking: Aurora Sparkling Moscato NV. What can we say? It’s Brazilian, it’s fizzy and it’s summery. It’s basically the World Cup, bottled. Saúde!
6 June, 2014
The Oddbins Marketing Department is always trying to get our Buyer Ana to say provocative things. The most recent conversation, over a nice cup of Lady Grey, went something like this: “So, Ana – with two female finalists in The Palate* (our hunt to find the UK’s finest amateur wine taster) – and our two Listings (wines discovered on holiday and recommended to us by the public) sniffed out by women, would you say that women are better wine tasters than men?” To which Ana, thoughtful and unwilling to be drawn on such assertions, replies “no, I don’t think you can say that. What I would say is women are at least as good as men, but none is better than the other.” At which we nod sagely. But why don’t we test this out for ourselves, dear reader? This Father’s Day (Sunday June 15, lest we forget…), why not get the old man one of the tasty morsels below and get him to send us a tasting note to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we agree with what he says, we’ll send him a £30 online gift voucher.
So, first up is Daddy’s favourite, Scotch whisky. The Peat Monster, from the Compass Box Whisky Company, is a blissful blend of peated Highland whiskies. Adorned with a beautiful yet bonkers label featuring some kind of gremlin, it looks great, but just wait ‘til he rips the top off. With deeply satisfying bonfire aromas and heady spicy notes, it’ll give him lots to chew on as he’s writing his tasting note. But we insist you do a Scout’s Honour right now and promise not to give him our tasting note….
*Pauses whilst you solemnly salute the screen*
… Right, moving on.
Maybe your Dad isn’t like other Dads. If he’s like some Dads, he’s more into curious beers, Motörhead and doing up the motorbike (still), and would be happy as a sandboy with a case of local beer. In that case, we’d wag our finger towards our Local Beer – London Mixed Case of 12. Featuring beers from trailblazing brewers, including Stu and Claire at the East London Brewery, and Gary Ward at Bethnal Green’s Redchurch Brewery, it contains some of the best brews from the capital. Redchurch’s Pale Ale, for example, is a bold, fresh ale and – for the geeks out there – is made with high quality Maris Otter pale malt, with a blend of American and New Zealand-sourced hops. If your Dad’s a real BeerHëad, he’ll probably write a thesis on the history and merits of these respective hops, and we can only encourage this.
And finally. For the more dapper, linen-suited, jazz-hands Dads out there, we’ve a little secret from Burgundy that you really ought to know about… Its name is Bourgogne Blanc Sous la Velle Christian Bellang 2012, but the title belies the fact that half of this wine is made with Chardonnay grapes from Meursault. Because their appellation (certified wine region) doesn’t allow Meursault on the label, they declassified it and called it ‘Bourgogne’. Basically that’s the equivalent of putting the Brazilian football team in the Mexico team kit... It’s a bargain.
‘Til next time.
*Last chance to enter Round One of The Palate is this weekend (June 7/8) – get down to your local shop to take part, absolutely free. Alternatively, you can take part at Stockbridge Farmers’ Market, Edinburgh, on 8 June and at The Oddbins Wine Fair at The Church on the Hill, Glasgow – get your tickets from any Glasgow Oddbins (map here: http://www.oddbins.com/ourstores).
23 May, 2014
This week, we have mostly been feeling surprised. Surprised and delighted to discover that Sangiovese goes brilliantly with beans on toast; surprised and mildly annoyed that our brewers have better hair than us (see below); and surprised at people’s surprise at UKIP’s rags to riches story. When you’re stuck with a political class that is hiding in the safety of mediocrity, scared to say boo to a goose, a man with a plan and a gob to go with it starts looking strangely So, although we take no stock in UKIP, they have inspired us to put our fingers up to the middle-ground and offer up a few surprises of our own…
…Not in a Morrissey way, you’ll be relieved to hear. No, our first two surprises are Italian white wines. We’ll tell you for why: Italian reds have a superb reputation, conjuring thoughts of Chianti and Barolo and innovative ‘IGT’ de-classified bargains. Italian whites tend to conjure images of Pinot Grigio. Not to bely this grape’s capacity for charm, but, if we’re talking in terms of Miliband brothers, Italian white has a reputation that is definitely more Ed than Dave. So, today, we turn firstly to Tannu (£8.50), an organic white from the western coast of Sicily which shows another side to bell’Italia. Made with the indigenous Grillo grape and topped up with 30% Chardonnay, it has all the zing of a lemon drizzle cake, with the gleefully bone-dry charm of Jack Dee.
For our second stereotype-smashing Italian white, we head up the mainland coast to Abruzzo. It is here that we find Pehhcora (web exclusive, £8.75), which is made from the Pecorino grape (not from Pecorino cheese – it’s not that out there). All peaches and mangoes, with bold spices, cleansing minerals and a dreamy, creamy palate, it’s more akin to Austrian Grüner Veltliner than many Italian whites. If you were hungry for a Conservative party-based analogy, you could say that mass-produced Pinot Grigio is like our PR-rich, substance-poor PM, David Cameron, while Pehhcora would be the equivalent of the substance-rich, PR-poor Ken Clarke. Anyway, perhaps this talk of traversing the Italian coastline is leaving you resentful of the glowing box in front of you and the cursedly fickle weather. Perhaps, we’ll wager, you’re thinking of using some of that holiday allowance…
January Fun Wine Discounts at Oddbins 2014
This time last year Oddbins brought you the now infamous January Love Wine Discounts 2013 for mothers, Germans, redheads and those ever popular bankers and journalists. Our theme in January 2013 was “LOVE” and we were attempting to start the year by spreading some love to people who we felt hadn’t received the love they deserved in 2012.
The response was almost unanimously and gloriously loving, with the exception of one gentleman, let’s call him Jeff. Jeff made a formal complaint on account of not fitting into any of the groups, but also because he had a sizeable chip on his shoulder, a sense of humour failure, way too much time on his hands and an unusual desire to give birth without having the appropriate genitals, which we can only assume was the result of unresolved, possibly oedipal, parental issues. Sorry, we Freudianly digress. Where were we? Oh yes… Well, this January our discounts are back…
Our theme for January 2014 is “FUN”. But it is difficult to have any fun when the country seems to be bound up in the negativity of our economic situation. Some things appear to linger indefinitely, outstaying their welcome and our boredom threshold, for other examples please see Plebgate, Miley Cyrus and would it be wrong to say UKIP? Mustard in the pantry? Seriously? You know women have been able to vote since 1918 and make up, give or take, 50% of the population, right?
So we want to put the fun back and celebrate the people who will make 2014 joyful by carrying us, and our largely ineffectual politicians, up that unforgiving slope of recovery to the pinnacle of pleasure and merriment (please note that is not a smutty euphemism). Each weekend in January we will be offering a different select group a 10% discount off full price wines (including sparkling and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop. But who is capable of rescuing our economy and restoring the exuberance? We put our top people on the case to find out…
The results were undeniable. Back off Jeff, we said they were undeniable. And these are the people we are backing to make 2014 a vintage year of fun and frivolity…
Lovers: Friday 3 – Sunday 5 January 2014
A recent study showed that we in the UK aren’t having as much sex as we used to. A certain baker obviously didn’t get that memo. So we want to celebrate the lovers. Not the procession of love rats reported daily in the press like the transcript of some Jeremy Kyle show. For the record, Harry -ironic surname- Styles, Simon -shouldn’t it be easier to keep it inside those high waisted trousers- Cowell and Jermain Defoe, who Alexandra Burke, sensibly in our book, replaced “with Merlot”, need not apply. No, we want to celebrate the real lovers. And this is why…
A lil’ lovin’ is not only excellent exercise, but it also boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure and risk of heart attacks, improves sleep and eases stress. So forget an apple a day, apparently the beast with two backs could reduce pressure on the NHS, make our workforce stronger, healthier and happier and help to rebalance our ageing population. Apparently the reasons for the UK’s currently limping libido are financial problems, unemployment and too much technology. Well, unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate since early 2009 (who would have thought Gideon could affect our sex lives? *involuntary full body shudder*), so to combat the other two our answer is: sell your technology to ease your monetary worries and get back down to doing the “bad thing”. Maybe a glass of wine would help get you in the mood? Just one mind, it is January and as Shakespeare advised the drink “provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.”
So if you head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 3 and Sunday 5 January 2014 and can convince our staff that you are a lover, without resorting to smut, nudity or depravity, you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* Not sure how to go about it? Why not bring your partner with you? Flash that photo in your wallet? Show us that late night text sent just because you missed each other? Who knows, we might even believe you if you come back in wearing the same clothes as the previous night!
Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH PASSION.”
Engineers: Friday 10 – Sunday 12, January 2014
OK, we know we told you to sell your technology in the previous section, but we lied, we’re fickle like that, we just wanted to demonstrate the absurdity of smartphone internet browsing as an alternative to foreplay. We love technology. Well not all of it, hence why you will never have unexpected items in your bagging area at Oddbins or have your wine delivered using a method which has had its accuracy called into question by Pakistan (do you really want your online orders to land on a neighbouring school?), but we are amazed by most of it.
Human invention is rapidly changing the world: the Gastric-Brooding Frog will soon be resurrected from extinction to once more literally spew forth its babies on to this earth, 3D printing will revolutionise the drunken office party, buildings like The Shard pop up on our skyline almost overnight and may disappear just as quickly if South Korea’s Infinity Tower is anything to go by and who knows we may even find out what-in-the-blazes a Higg’s Boson actually is. We would love to get our puny appendages on the James Dyson Award-winning Titan Arm to allow us to carry more wine for you. We are super excited about mayoral theme park: Boris Island. Iran sent a monkey into space and it came back completely different, which added weight to the moon landing conspiracy theories, because those guys came back the same. Our imagination and inventiveness seem to know no bounds: cronuts, duffins, OK maybe that’s the end of Franken-pastries, well let’s hope it is before someone combines a Malaysian “curry puff” with the walnut and honey packed “nunt”. We jest of course, but on a serious note the future of the UK lies in development, ingenuity and creativity. Even former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, a man rumoured to have bought 38,000 menthol cigarettes just in case the EU tried to ban them and so obviously knows a thing or two about forward planning, says that Britain needs more engineers, there must be some irony it that…
So if you are an engineer, engineering student or inventor head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 10 and Sunday 12 January 2014, prove it to our staff and you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* You can prove it by showing us your business card, your student card or text books if you are an engineering student or simply by telling us about a project that you are working on.
Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH INNOVATION.”
Teachers: Friday 17 – Sunday 19, January 2014
Question: How do people become superhero engineers capable of improving our economic fortunes? Answer: They need superhero teachers. In August we wrote a blog post offering to give away ten cases of wine to teachers who inspired you. The number of responses we received? Zero. But we will not be deterred in our admiration of educators…
Apologies if we get a bit heavy for a moment, but we believe that teachers mould our lives and through them we learn to appreciate the world around us. Some of our favourite teacher moments of the year were reading about a teacher who took a student to basecamp on Everest, a teacher who confiscated a phone from a student and returned it with a selfie of himself and two colleagues, Jeremy Paxman asking Tristram Hunt the same question five times and still failing to get an answer (did you feel his pain teachers?), physics exam questions that start “Justin Bieber is thrown horizontally at 10m/s from the top of cliff 122.5m high…” and “Yo momma’s so fat that objects 5m away accelerate at 1m/s² toward her…”, the website www.thankateacher.co.uk, Channel 4’s Educating Yorkshire that on paper appeared to be a painful mockumentary but through the power of good teaching produced one of the feel good highlights of the year and The Guardian’s Secret Teacher’s suggestion of Ofsted inspections for nativity plays because “this unnecessary frivolity is having a direct and catastrophic impact on our position in international league tables.” We should be doing everything we can to prevent the steady exodus of teachers, they should not be scapegoats for politicians, prey for the tabloid press or an excuse for poor parenting. We should appreciate them because we need them, they teach us to appreciate everything else. And life is way more fun if you have the slightest Scooby Doo how any of it works!
So if you are a teacher or lecturer head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 17 and Sunday 19 January 2014, prove it to our staff and you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* You could prove it by showing your union membership if you are a member, you elbow patches if you are a geography teacher or we'll happily probe you on some subjects that we remember from school.
Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH APPRECIATION.”
Brewers: Friday 24 – Sunday 26, January 2014
The first rule of Oddbins Fun Club is: if you don’t like wine, there’s beer and it is also awesome. Drinking anything that wasn’t lager used to put you in the beards, cardigans and boring brigade. Well recently beards, cardigans and boring (read geeky) became hip, and with it so did drinking good beer, with a little help from the most unexpected of places: America. We can argue the toss over what a craft beer is, but we can all agree that the revolution, like it or not, started in the more forward thinking areas of the US. Did you know that studies have shown a positive correlation between the concentration of microbreweries and the likelihood of that area voting for Barack Obama? Need more celebrity endorsement? Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzenegger declared: “When you grow up you have to drink beer.” And supermodel Christy “Fatso” Turlington admitted: “I have a beer belly.” Looking down at our own paunch, we think our own love of beer may be growing more rapidly than Ms Turlington’s…
The number of breweries in the UK topped 1,000 in 2012 and another 187 were added to that total in 2013 (roughly 30 more than the previous year). Although craft beer only represents 0.5% of the total beer sales it is one of the rare areas showing growth in this country. And it doesn’t stop there, it has long been thought that agriculture and therefore modern civilisation started because of bread. Although we do love a slice of hot buttered rye bread toast with our rillettes, we were pleased to hear that a rogue group of presumably ale-loving scientists now believe that it was actually beer that kicked the whole thing off. We have accepted this hypothesis as fact and are proud to announce that all that is good about Britain was built on beer. And so shall it return if we continue to back craft brewers across this great nation.
So if you are a brewer head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 24 and Sunday 26 January 2014 and you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* But because we realise that this is a relatively small group, anyone who comes in on this weekend can have 10% off the full price of any beer in our “local craft beer” range (ask staff for details).
Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH FERMENTATION.”
And finally, if anybody manages to pick up the discount every weekend and can prove it by way of receipts, then we have some bonus fun for them.
*The above discounts are only applicable to full price wines. No further discount will be applied to items already on special offer.
Part Five: Waking Up
Waking up, Terry thought something was different. He could see that the landscape before him had changed, quite considerably. He also noted that he was swinging back and forth in what, he was beginning to deduce, was a glass jar.
His deductions, having taken some time to occur, had brought him up to speed with Gwinny, who was, he also now noted, standing in front of him, shouting her head off.
“Wake up, you stupid ant, WAKE UP!”
“Er,” Terry managed. They were indeed in a glass jar, accompanied by a panic-struck stick insect, a bay leaf and some cotton wool. He tuned back into the monologue streaming from Gwinny’s mouth: “… why did you go to sleep? Now this sodding human’s packed us in a sodding jar with a sodding stick insect and a sodding bay leaf and there’s sod all we can do about it!” The honeymoon period’s over then, thought Terry, before beginning a long, confused apology.
The apology was still continuing when the swinging motion stopped and they were transferred, very carefully, by some enormous pink fingers, into a tank in a warm, dimly lit room that appeared, for some reason, to have a colourfully lit fir tree in the corner.
By now immune to further changes in circumstance, Terry and Gwinny set about exploring their new habitat, as did the still panic-stricken stick insect. “I’m sorry, Gwinny, I didn’t know I was so tired.” “Oh that’s alright, I’m equally to blame,” she relented. “Anyway, we’re here now – why don’t we have a look around?” So they did. Curiously wondering over piles of cotton wool, partially soaked in milk, further bay leaves and artfully arranged pieces of bark, they stumbled on a very surprising sight indeed. There, on a large leaf, lay the Queen and her children.
“What the…” exclaimed Terry, as the Queen looked away, whistling, and did her best to pretend she hadn’t seen them. “Wait, Terry, let’s not start a war. There’s only one tank, and we all have to share it. Let’s be the bigger ants,” said Gwinny, though the irony of who was literally the bigger ant wasn’t lost on her and she giggled despite herself. She picked up a piece of the milky cotton wool and carried it over to the Queen.
“I thought your kids, I mean, their Highnesses, might like this,” she said gently.
Not knowing how to arrange her face, the Queen said she was thankful and accepted Gwinny’s offer. Looking and feeling very contrite, she wasn’t sure what to say, but thought she’d attempt some conversation, saying “I think this human is something of a collector,” to which they all grimly nodded. Terry wasn’t quite as ready to bury the past, thought, and asked the Queen why she persecuted Talkers.
Leaning forward, fiddling with her forelimbs, she said “I understand. You need answers.” And she proceeded to explain that, generations ago, there was a brother and a sister who could talk. This ability led them to fall out: the brother thought they should try to find a way to teach the colony to talk, but the sister thought that they were the Chosen ants, and the power should stay with them. She assumed power and banished her brother to prison, but didn’t realise that he had had children, who could also talk. When she discovered he had family, she undertook to eliminate them all, but didn’t succeed. “And, generations later, I have done my best to continue her work”, then, hanging her head, she added “but I may have been gravely mistaken.”
“OK, I’ve got it. I don’t want to dwell on the past anymore ,” said Terry, “I want to think about the future, because the reality is that we are family, and I think we have a lot of mending to do. And the first step is to teach that colony to Talk.”
Gwinny thrust her head between them, dusted her shoulder theatrically, and reminded Terry that they were, more specifically, a royal family.
“So that’s what I intend on doing, as soon as I can find a way out of here” continued Terry. Looking at Gwinny, he feistily asked, “are you with me?” to which she nodded vigorously.
Turning back to the Queen, he quizzically asked, “are you with me?” at which she raised, possibly for the first time in her life, a little smile. Which turned into a big smile and, looking at her children, proudly said, “we’re with you.”
“That’s settled then! But there’s one thing I don’t get: how did your great grandmother put her brother in jail after he’d copulated? Copulation Means Extermination – we all know that.”
“Of course, you don’t know,” said the Queen, looking like she had some very good news indeed. Terry sat there rigid, eyes bulging in anticipation.
“Talkers don’t die.”
“We don’t die?”
“We... Gwinny and I… can live?”
The thought struck him not with joy, strangely, but with a slight anguish. “But all this time! I thought it was hopeless and I accepted that it would never happen. And I was prepared to die in order to do it. And now…” Terry didn’t know what to feel. The same doubt and fearful confusion that he’d felt when he met Gwinny came flooding back even stronger. “But I can’t…”, now weeping.
“Yes you can. And you will… and, frankly my dear, it will blow your mind. But,” noticing Terry’s face turning crimson, “enough of that now…”
Then quite a different doubt entered his mind: “But, my father didn’t survive – he died after copulation.”
“Ah, I heard about that – natural causes, Terence. He died of a heart attack.”
“It’s Terry,” he muttered, abstractedly, as he looked at the fire place, and then at Gwinny, bathed in the amber glow of the flames and heard the humans shout something that sounded like Happy Christmas, before bursting into a rather pretty song about some merry gentlemen. He felt merry indeed, now, actually, very merry indeed…
Images artfully crafted by Catalin Ardeleanu.
We are proud to introduce Oddbins Nº1...
In November 1952, Italian crooner extraordinaire and future star of The Godfather, Al Martino, topped the first ever UK Singles Chart with the enormously forgettable Here In My Heart. It stagnated there on the top spot for nine whole weeks, thus becoming the first ever Christmas Number One.
The list of its successors over the past 50 years makes for fairly tortuous reading and even more painful listening. Mr Blobby, Bob the Builder, the Spice Girls three times, Cliff Richard the same, Paul McCartney eight times, Jimmy Osmond’s Long Haired Lover From Liverpool, Slade (perpetrators of the first cynical Christmas Number One-abe), Michael Jackson’s Earth Song described by San Jose Mercury News as “flat” and “whiny” and an almost never-ending procession of The X Factor protégés, who would go on to inevitably drop off the face of the earth after successfully ruining Christmas for everyone else.
But this year Oddbins has released a potential Christmas Number One for the people. Before you worry that we have recorded Wine Aid by The Oddbinites, let us assure you that there is no singing involved; we are talking about a beer, a very special beer indeed…
Over the last few years we have been quietly building up an extensive range of glorious beers from areas local to our shops. We are now working with over 50 breweries and cider makers from up and down the UK, including Rocky Head, Tempest, Bristol Beer Factory, Moncada, Redwillow, Pressure Drop, Beavertown, Old Dairy, Celt Experience, Fyne Ales, By The Horns, Cromarty and Kernel, to name just a tasty handful.
One of our favourites is the East London Brewing Company, a husband and wife team who run a 10-barrel microbrewery in Leyton. While many of the new wave of brewers have gone down the route of making beers that spank and slap your taste buds around like they’ve taken the submissive role in Fifty Shades of Ale, ELB make beer with integrity, beer for drinking, beer for grown-ups. Their honest style has made them firm favourites amongst our customers and staff, and therefore the perfect choice for our inaugural craft beer collaboration. So we rounded up a posse (Oddbinites Sarah, Kaleigh, Cat and Dave) and headed down there to bash some spices, manhandle some hops and help make something beautiful…
Oddbins Nº1 is a limited edition amber winter ale infused with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, orange peel, nutmeg and vanilla. For the beer geeks amongst you, it’s brewed with oats, Styrian Bobek hops from Slovenia and Pale, Maris Otter, Cara, Wheat and Crystal 150 malts. The result is an intensely aromatic brew that tastes like bottled Christmas: tangy orange and ginger marmalade, mulling spices, vanillary oak, lebkuchen, pfeffernüsse, stollen and a gentle hoppiness. For those who prefer beer to wine, it is the perfect partner for turkey and all the trimmings, farmhouse cheddar and mince pies or just for getting into that festive spirit. Available exclusively at Oddbins in selected shops (London and Scotland for the moment) for £2.95 a bottle or by the case in the beer section of Oddbins.com.
Call it a hunch, but we don’t think that Nigella Lawson is going to release this Christmas’ bestselling cookbook and surely Jamie Oliver has his fingers in so many pies there isn’t a spare one to pen a recipe. So we’re going to take over the reins by releasing our first culinary experiment too, inspired by Oddbins Nº1. It’s very much our kind of recipe; three ingredients, one of which you are allowed to drink some of…
Festive Spiced Beer Chocolate Mousse
Makes 4 servings
- 200g Dark Chocolate
- 125ml Oddbins Nº1
- 300ml Double Cream
- Gently melt the chocolate in the beer.
- Whip cream until stiff.
- Gently fold chocolate mixture and cream together.
- Pour into 4 ramekins or glasses and chill.
- Drink the remaining beer immediately.
To conclude, our advice is don’t waste your money on bad songs this Christmas. Make Oddbins your Christmas Number One, specifically Oddbins Nº1. And keep your eye out in the New Year for the next episode in our craft beer series. To be continued…
This blog was written while drinking: Oddbins Nº1, Quadrant, Pale Ale and Nightwatchman from the delectable ELB Mixed Case. Grab one before we drink 'em all.
Part Four: Thumbs Down
There they were: the Queen slumped and agog; Terry and Gwinny sparkly eyed and irreverently happy.
After a word with her Lord Lieutenant (they had appointed themselves military titles after finding an old army register in the woods), the Queen regained her composure and a cool, surmising look spread across her face. Her previously concerned offspring, who lay, lazily, all around her, relaxed a little as their Mother regained her composure.
“We are amused at one’s earnest outpouring,” she drooled, enjoying what she considered highly sardonic emphasis, “but we must arrive at the admittedly unfortunate occasion of your… extermination” the last word delivered with such bile even her litter shuddered.
Looking from the rotund Queen, lolling in her lair, to the sycophantically approving Generals, to the terminally absent-minded colony beyond, Terry and Gwinny felt like the fun might be finally over. Barely hearing as the Queen gave the order for their removal, and the hideously sober reality hit home.
Offering their heads up for the collars placed before them, they started and hunched suddenly to the ground as an almighty noise, rocked the entire chamber: a high-pitched, gurgling giggle, that made way for delighted tones, that sounded like “Daddy, I found a big ant hill,” as the roof began pitching in in great clods above them.
The ensuing pandemonium saw the guards jumping in terror before pelting headlong to the nearest exits. Terry, now in full super hero mode, grabbed Gwinny’s arm and swept her with him towards a smallish side tunnel. “Quick!” he cried, grabbing her arm, and they hurried towards it.
The roof was now pouring in on the Chamber and the bright sky opened up above them. Having reached the tunnel entrance, Terry and Gwinny turned back to watch it all collapse, only to see the intruder, grinning from ear to ear, greedily scoop up Her Royal Highness, hissing and helpless, for a thorough examination.
Bursting out of the tunnel, they were greeted with a white landscape, the like of which they’d never seen before. Darting across the wintry scene, which was interrupted only by the snow-covered fir trees and a lark, rising up into the sky above them, they made for the shelter of some nearby gorse. Here they allowed themselves to pause for breath, and did so, with considerable relief.
Evening was falling and the forest air was cool and refreshing after the hot chaos of the inner chamber. Leant up against the trunk of the bush, Terry allowed himself to reflect. As far as days go, it had been pretty eventful. That morning he had awoken in turmoil, believing it unwise to confuse his steady life with women and now here he was, the colony prodded and poked to oblivion, with Gwinny by his side. All his life, he’d lived in placid acquiescence. Why? But it didn’t bother him now as he gazed out over the snow, watching the hill continue to fall in on itself; he was simply amazed at his own complacency. Deep in these thoughts, he nodded off, into an instant slumber.
Read Part Five by clicking here.
Images artfully crafted by Catalin Ardeleanu.