This week is A-level results week. Whether you are a have a younger brother or sister, who’s currently prostrate on a sofa, still staring grimly/elatedly at their results papers, dusting the kebab crumbs off their shirt, or a parent, trying really very hard to be enthusiastic about your off-spring’s C in ‘Citizenship Studies’, but wondering if a quick secretarial course is still an option, Oddbins is here for you. That probably doesn’t sound well-meaning coming from a wine merchant, but we have honourable intentions, we promise. Let us elucidate… All the best people have wobbly beginnings. Before becoming a ‘national treasure’, Stephen Fry was quite the black sheep, having been expelled from two schools and sent to prison. So rest easy, folks – ‘coz ‘black sheep’, like ‘ugly ducklings’, ‘underdogs’ and other animal-related subclasses, are the best. It is in this spirit that we collar some defiantly odd wines from a country not known for experimentation and shove them into the Odd News spotlight…
The country we speak of is that thin, vertiginously mountainous strip of land that is Chile. Chileans are masters of ready-to-go, reliable, top value wines, which is obviously great. Super. Lovely. But… sometimes it’s nice to go mental, take all your clothes off and jump into a lake. Which is what, in vinous terms, the next wine does. Called ‘Oveja Negra’, which is Spanish for ‘black sheep’, and priced £8.75, it is a whacked-out blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenère. A zingy white wine blended with a juicy red wine? Well, like our Citizenship Studies student, the choice may look unlikely, but it works. Sauvignon’s grapefruit-fresh zippiness marries exceptionally well with the plump yet herbaceous Carmenère. Oveja Negra might just be geniuses.
So, if Oveja Negra is Chile’s black sheep, then Viña Leyda is their ‘ugly duckling’. Not that they were ever ugly as such. More like lonesome, frontier-dwelling outsiders. As we mentioned in Odd News a few weeks back, they were the first ones to set up camp in the Leyda Valley, which was previously farmed for wheat and barley, and secured its status as an official wine region in 2001. They continue to push the envelope, leaving the crowd way behind as they experiment with grapes like Sauvignon Gris (£11) – a rare, older sister of Sauvignon Blanc that is more expressive, tropical and spicy than its popular younger sister. If they were a family, they’d probably be the Kennedys; talented and celebrated, with varying levels of fame and exotic tendencies…
Finally we turn to Chile’s underdog. We’ve waxed lyrical many a time about New World Chardonnay. It’s got a bad rep. ‘It’s big, oaky, overblown’, people say. They say ‘it’ll never satisfy me the way a nice crisp Burgundian Chardonnay does’. But we know otherwise, don’t we reader? We know that, if you go high up enough into the mountains, past the cloud line, where the temperature drops and the grapes can cool right down at night-time, you can get some mouth-wateringly lemony, nuanced, flinty charmers like De Martino Chardonnay (£11), which, one day, will go on to rule the world and people will say ‘I am soo glad I didn’t send him off to do a secretarial course’. Know what we mean?
So, as your loved one studies those letters on that bit of paper, you can all be safe in the knowledge that it is a long road and this isn’t the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning… and Oddbins is just down the road (or on the computer) when you need us.
1 August, 2014Value is a fickle thing. If spotted on the arm of a Middleton sister, the price of a seemingly bland handbag can skyrocket faster than Usain Bolt leaving Glasgow after calling the Commonwealth Games ‘a bit s**t’, while house prices in Lancashire drop as quickly as you can say ‘fracking is dangerous and dirty’. Salvador Dalí was a master at manipulating value and, after taking friends out to dinner, would often do a sketch on the back of the cheque, pretty much safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be cashed as it was more valuable to them as a ‘Dalí original’. Our point? Value is what you perceive it to be. So, without wanting to do a Dalí and inflate opinion and therefore price, we’d like to show some appreciation to that unjustly under-valued sparkler; Cava.Cava is a prince among men. It is the only sparkling wine that, by law, has to be made the same way as Champagne. This ‘traditional’ method, which involves a second fermentation in the bottle, pretty much guarantees extra depth of character and finer bubbles. So why the blazes the prices aren’t higher, we know not. In this context, Cavas like Anna de Codorníu (£10.50) begin to look darn hot. The Codorníu family were the first Spaniards to use the traditional method and are something of experts at it; Anna de Codorníu, for example, is exceedingly Champagne-like, with a soft, well-balanced and refreshing palate, elegant citrus notes and fine, persistent bubbles. So, think of Cava like an eccentric aristocrat that runs around in a battered old Mini, giving no indication that they’re actually Lord Asquith Wellington Montagu the Second, tenant of Walsingham Court and owner of half of England.Now. All this is at odds with the fact that that Spanish food staple, tapas, is often hideously over-priced. We’ve seen grown men break down in anguished sobs, screaming “but it’s a street foooooood” when they see menus listing tapas at £8 per dish. That ain’t pretty. So, whaddaya do? You have a P-A-R-T-why? Because tapas, particularly seafood tapas, pairs brilliantly with Cava and, together, they can make for a great fiesta, for not a lot of pesetas (sorry, euros). Crispy calamari with garlic mayonnaise, for example, is a match made in heaven for Cava Renaixenca Brut (£11). Pronounced ‘rennay-shen-sha’, this is a Catalan set-up that has been in the Pons family for 250 years and, today, Joan and Pere Pons embrace both tradition and modern technology to great effect. This Brut Non Vintage has a gently playful fizz, subtle creamy notes from the 20 months spent ageing on its ‘lees’ (used yeast), combining with a gorgeously cool, thirst-quenching rush of green fruit.For the next six weeks, Oddbins will be looking at the Art of Wine. For it is made by skilled craftsmen who must balance a number of elements and its aim is to stimulate the senses; who says it isn’t art? If a load of bricks on the floor of Tate Modern – or ‘Equivalent VIII’ by Carl Andre to give it its proper title – constitutes art, then we’re darn sure our next Cava does. Shimmering gold, with copper reflections and exquisitely fine bubbles, we’d go so far to say that Torre Oria Reserva (£9.50) is the Gustav Klimt of the wine world. *Rubbing our hands and warming to our theme* which would make the gentle brush strokes of Anna de Codorníu a Claude Monet and the playful, cool Cava Renaixenca an Alexander Calder mobile. Excellent. Wine is so much easier than art. But what do you think? Finish the statement “Wine is easier than art because” on Twitter, using the hashtag #WineVsArt, to win a bottle of Champagne.
And not one ear was cut off in the writing of this email – there’s one reason wine is easier than art for a start…
‘Til next time.
22 July, 2014We 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…
13 MayExperimentation. It takes you to places that ordinarily you wouldn't go to. It reveals new perspectives and possibilities. It requires leaps of faith and a devil-may-care attitude towards tradition. And where does all this get you? Well, in some instances, not very far. The Automatic Smoking Machine, invented by the Victorians to recreate that special odour of a busy bar at home, was arguably not a leap of faith worth making. But in other instances, it can lead to innovations that markedly improve on life as we know it. It is with this in mind that we explore three innovative products and salute the experimental spirit and all its attendant insanity.Firstly, we turn to an innovation from Oxford. We're not referring to Penicillin (invented at Oxford University in 1939), but to Oddbins No.2 (£2.65), our new collaborative beer with Compass Brewery. Whether or not history judges it to be as important as Penicillin, only time will tell. But we can guarantee that it tastes better than mould in a Petri dish. No, wait! We’re under-selling here. Let us start again: it’s a malt-based ale, in the German ‘Kölsch’ style brewed, unusually, with a portion of smoked malt, bringing a gentle smoky complexity to the mix. The upshot is a bright gold beer with gentle aromas of citrus and hay. It has a very approachable palate, with yeasty, bready notes, a lovely earthiness and a gentle whiff of smoke. Following the dizzy excitement of this discovery, we spun around in our lab coats to cast our eyes over our Beer Buying department. What have we done? We’re offering you the chance to help us choose beers to list. So if you have a love of beer and want to be paid in beer, to taste beer, then please apply on Twitter, using #OddbinsBeer. It might just be the best job in the world.For the second innovation, *offers up hands to be cuffed by police*, we have to commit a crime. A crime against tradition that is! (We’re here all day, folks). Yes we are going against hundreds of years of history and are now stocking – wait for it – a sparkling wine in a screw cap! No doubt to the despair of half of France, we now stock the beautiful, fresh-as-a-daisy Willowglen Brut NV (£10) from South East Australia. Sealed with a screw cap, the Italian-Australian makers just didn’t feel the need to have a cork. Screw caps are easier and generally less fuss. And Australians don’t do fuss. Anyway, after you’ve twisted the top off you’ll love discover a blissful blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (a French tradition that they have kept), with pure, clean apple-y flavours served up on a lightly creamy palate.Lastly we turn to an existing innovation that produces a drink so ephemeral and delicate that you could reasonably assume it was made by a fairy at the bottom of the garden. We speak of Tio Pepe Fino En Rama (£16), which is a dry, unrefined Sherry taken from the middle of a wooden cask during spring, when the protective blanket of ‘flor’ is at its thickest. Flor - the naturally occurring crust that forms on Sherry whilst it’s ageing in the Solera casks – is what gives dry Sherry its iodine-like, salty twang. With En Rama Sherry, those flavours are more pronounced and have a limited shelf-life so, to taste it at its best, it should be consumed (assuming the sun’s past the yardarm as you read this) right about… now.Toodles.
25 AprThe world is scary and, quite frankly, the news does nothing to help. They could give us more heart-warming stories about kittens but, oh no, they have to tell us about Eastern European conflict that’s threatening to destabilise the entire continent. It’s like Orson Welles famous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast from the 30's all over again – except that whilst the US public was huddled under the kitchen table with the misguided assumption that aliens had landed, we’re huddled under the table in justified fear. So, we say, shun the news-stand, turn off the radio and telly and enjoy an alternative take on the news from yours truly, via the medium of delicious wine and whisky. So much better than actual news.Whilst Kate and Wills proudly parade young George around Australia and the press coo at his every hiccup and marvel at the wisdom of Kate’s choice of dress, we have a slightly different bundle of joy for you. It is not teething and its surname isn’t Windsor, but it sure is cute: it’s Oddbins’ Spring Breeze Mixed Case. It’s a selection of bright ‘n’ breezy wines for the bargainous price of £50, including the eternally popular, pear-scented Prosecco Ca’Rosa (£10), so you can raise a glass to George (and his dragon-bothering namesake, if you didn’t do so on Wednesday).Speaking of national pride, we now turn our beady eye to Cornwall, with the news that, as the BBC put it, ‘Cornwall is not England’. Yes, the region has won its battle for minority status, in recognition that there’s more to Cornwall than pasties and the grumpy yet affable Doc Martin. Great news for Cornwall. But, though we love them and they have the best regional flag ever, we are going to disagree with Tori here. We think we've spotted one down-side; Ireland, Wales and most definitely Scotland all produce famous whisky, so if they’re joining the gang in their official minority status, we reckon this is a ‘could do better’ area. Scotland has new malts coming out of ears, such as Flaughter, from anCnoc (the C’s silent, the flavours aren’t). anCnoc usually offer a more gentle, honeyed Highland style, but Flaughter (£55) is a new arrival that combines come-hither vanilla and toffee flavours with smoky, manfully peaty notes. Take heed Cornwall!Now. If we offered you six years’ pay for only 10 months’ work, you’d take it, right? Well unlike Manchester United’s remarkably well-remunerated former manager, David Moyes, you’re not quite so lucky. But – ta da – we have an alternative offer to ease your bitter disappointment. How about the chance to win one of two pairs of tickets to the terrifically trendy (people still say terrific, don’t they?) Meltdown festival this summer for simply subscribing to this newsletter (i.e. for doing nought). Not bad eh? The winners will be announced in the next email, so stay tuned.
Anyhoo. If we’ve managed to coax you from under the kitchen table in the tentative hope that the apocalypse isn’t nigh, then why not celebrate with a glass of the luscious, star anise, cinnamon and blackberry-flavoured antidote to unpleasant news that is Domaine de l’Arnesque’s Côtes du Rhône ‘Fleur de Garrigues’ (£9.25). And… relax. Just stay away from the radio.
‘Til next time.