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Oddbins Wine Merchants

  • World Cup

    Before we begin what is sure to be one of the most engaging wine blogs you have ever read, we must warn you, there is going to be some football references early on. Don’t worry, this is just a framing device to begin a discussion about Chilean and Italian wine, so if you’re not interested in the approaching World Cup, feel free to sing Red, Red Wine for the next few lines and by sentence 6 we’ll probably be back on track (Oddbins – Popping bottles and breaking fourth walls since 1963).

    You may be aware the Russian World Cup starts in a month and with it false hope, fleeting patriotism and over 8 million tabloid headlines that read “From Russia with Love,” que photo of Harry Kane kissing the England badge, after scoring in a 1-0 victory over Panama. When contemplating the approaching summer of sport, we thought, what about all the footballers who aren’t going to the World Cup, what are their lives like? Perhaps, Alexis will spend much of June holding back tears while he picnics in the park with his dogs, sipping on a Chilean Carménère. Maybe Buffon will holiday on an isolated island, where football conversation is punishable by exile, via an 18 – 30s club cruise.

    These harrowing vignettes prompted us to focus on wine that won’t be going to the World Cup and the people who have far better things to do than watch Gareth Southgate manage to miss another World Cup penalty (we have no idea why the manager will be required to take a penalty but there is literally no way that isn’t happening). Thus, this month let’s all ignore any kick ball build up by going to the beach, complaining when it’s unseasonably hot or unseasonably cold, feeling a bit sad for Buffon and learning all about Chile & Italian wine (and of course sampling a few bottles).


    Chile is maybe the most perfect country in the world for making wine in. There’s lots of space, a great diversity of geography and climate, an abundance of sunshine, relatively cheap labour, low rainfall and the Pacific Ocean and Andes Mountains, which stop it getting too hot and seem to keep the pests and bugs away. Renowned for great value wines, your Pesos go further when you’re buying Chilean wine. That’s not all they’re known for however, Chile have a rapidly increasing reputation for high quality wines from classic grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and particularly Carménère.


    Italy’s not the easiest country to get your head round; there’s 20 regions and over 2500 indigenous grapes. Yeah right, good luck learning all their names! It does mean, however, it’s rather hard to run out of wonderful new wines to try. Pinot Grigio and Prosecco will ease you in with the country’s characteristic friendly warmth. Looking to explore something a little more complex? The likes of Gavi and Sicilian Nero d’Avola will take you gently by the hand, as you foray a little further.

    Want to go for the top-end, old-school, age-worthy big boys? Pick up a Barolo or a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and gawp in wonderment like a tourist in the Sistine Chapel. There are so many weird and wonderful grape varieties and regions, that there is always something new to discover.

    But, just because they have it all, the Italians are no strangers to innovation. They are constantly promoting lesser-known grapes, like Nero Mascalese grown on Mount Etna in Sicily, (one delicious example of which is the Tenuta delle Terre Nerrelo Mascalese - coming soon) and are also having fun with the ‘noble’ grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay et al.)

  • Summer Gin Cocktails

    What with social media, internet broadsheets (Showbiz section of the Mail) and 24-hour BBC World, the news cycle feels like it’s moving faster than a Tour D’ France athlete after a visit to a special Russian ‘doctor.’ The trouble with this, is any good news can easily get swept away in a storm of imminent economic collapse and the start of Cold War 2: This Time it’s Chillier.

    For example, while you were trying to figure out the difference between a single market and a customs union, you may well have missed the news that Snoop Doggy Dogg made the largest ever glass of Gin ‘N’ Juice last month. That’s right; 180 bottles of gin, 154 bottles of apricot brandy and 38 jugs of orange juice, went into make the 500-litre paradise cocktail, which was topped with a pink umbrella-sized umbrella, a giant drinking straw and a garnish of melons and pineapples on a sword.

    The D-O-double-G knows how to live. While most of us didn’t rediscover G&Ts until sometime around the turn of the decade, Snoop has been a bastion of the botanicals. A General of the juniper. He is truly gin gentry; having been waxing lyrical about the spirit since 1994. We sincerely hope that you’ll join us in honouring the great man’s most recent achievement and sip on some Gin ‘N’ Juice this summer.

    Edinburgh GinKing of Soho GinSaffron GinGordon's Sloe Gin

  • Chardonnay Day or Chardoday if you Prefer

    You’re not sure you like Chardonnay, right? We’ve heard it all before, “It’s too oaky, it’s too sharp, it burns my eyes when you spray me with that Chardonnay super soaker!” Babies. Poor Chardonnay it’s had an undeservedly rough ride, we blame Bridget Jones. She tainted Aussie Chardonnay’s with her whimsically uncool escapades. It also didn’t help, that those Australian wines so widely available and favoured by dear Bridget were questionable at best. Over-ripe, over-extracted and far too oaky; so, all in all, we totally understand why you may have had reservations, we all did. Thankfully, those days are well and truly behind us, Chardonnay is one of the most versatile and high performing white grapes out there. Do you like Chablis? That’s all Chardonnay folks! At times it can be voluptuous and buttery, at times citric and minerally. Chardonnay is the secret genius behind White Burgundy, a key partner in Champagne and has made its name all over the old and new world alike. It does well when matured in oak or bottled o-natural and its happy fermenting solo or blending with other grapes like Viognier, Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc.

    It’s official gang. Chardonnay’s cool again!

     What is Chardonnay?

    Chardonnay is a versatile white grape, grown all over the world but its home is undoubtedly in Burgundy.

    Is Chardonnay Called Anything Else?

    Due to the worldwide recognition of the name Chardonnay, mainly because of new world varietal labelling in the 80s most synonyms have fallen out of use but some wines maybe labelled as Aubaine, Beaunois, Gamay blanc and Melon blanc but these are rare and unlikely to be found exported to the UK.

    Where is Chardonnay From?

    Where do we begin? Anywhere it is possible to grow grapes some sod has planted Chardonnay vines, we can guarantee. This is because it performs well in almost any climate; steely and citric in cool climates, intense and tropical in the warm. However, it is best known for being the white variety of Burgundy (that is if you don’t include Aligoté… which no one does because Aligoté is the Ringo Star of Burgundy). In Burgundy, arguably, the finest white wines in the world are made, in villages like Meursault and Montrachet wines tend to be aged in oak to deliver an intense and rounded flavour profile of stone fruit and buttery brioche. Whereas in Chablis, Chardonnay tends to be unoaked, crisp, fresh and razor sharp. Despite its French heritage, Chardonnay’s fame was refreshed in the new world; particularly in California and Australia where rich fruit forward wines and varietal labelling raised Chardonnay’s reputation above any other wine. It is also possibly the most important grape for sparkling wine production, it is the key white grape in Champagne blends and this is adopted all over the world.

    What Does Chardonnay Taste Like?

    As we’ve established it sort of depends on where its grown and how it’s made. In places like Chablis, Carneros, Tasmania and Germany, Chardonnay will have striking acidity with plenty of tree fruit characters such as green apple, and citrus notes. In slightly warmer climates, like southern Burgundy and parts of South Africa, you can expect more stone fruit characters particularly white peach and apricot. In warm-hot climates like much of Australia there will be a decided tropical character; pineapple and melon in particular. Unlike more aromatic grapes, Chardonnay does well with new oak and if used the wine will have a marked vanilla, toasty, nutty aroma to the wine, which can either be subtle or distinct depending on the winemaker’s style.

    What Food Goes with Chardonnay?

    With wines like Chablis think Oysters, Scallops and other shellfish. If the wines are richer like a new world Chardonnay or an oaked Burgundy, it pairs beautifully with herby roast chicken even some pork dishes.

    What Other Wines are Similar to Chardonnay?

    We’d Recommend a dry Chenin from either the Loire or South Africa; these wines have a refreshing acidity have a similar weight and fruit flavour profile although Chenin can develop an interesting waxy note you won’t find in Chardonnay.


  • Veggie Week


    Now, typically we’re rather sceptical about social media led national days, weeks or months. You know the ones; when you wake up on some Tuesday morning to find an onslaught of omelette photographs across your Twitter timeline because apparently, everyone except you knew it was International Spanish Omelette Day. The vitriol you received when you started your day with a bowl of Special K opposed to an Iberian, egg and potato based breakfast, shocking! What’s the deal with those events; do you have to get it approved by some sort of panel or can you just stick your flag in May 14th and state this is International Camembert Day? For example, could we just make August the 6th – 12th National Oddbins Week, where everyone would be excepted to social media themselves browsing through Burgundies in one of our stores? Sounds unnecessary; we all know every week is Oddbins week!

    That being said, it’s National Vegetarian Week, which we feel is worthy of some acknowledgment. We understand here at Oddbins, it’s not the easiest task being a Vegetarian. From people questioning where you get your protein from, that bloke in the pub regaling you with the tale of how he once ate Tofu or having to explain to your Nan for the 1000th time that salmon does in fact count as an animal product. Therefore, we thought, whether you’re a full-time veggie or if you’re just trying to reduce your meat intake by observing this week, we could make it easier on you by offering up some of our favourite Vegetarian friendly wines, paired with some of our favourite veggie dishes.











  • Sauvignon Blanc Day


    Today is May the 4th or as more of you will know it by; Star-vignon Blanc Wars Day!... That’s a bit clunky, Star Wines Day? The Fermented Menace? Sky Walker-Bay Day? Like the work of George Lucas, those were of a very mixed quality. May the 4th is the day we celebrate the return of Sauvignon Blanc.

    A long time ago (the 80s), in a Galaxy known as France…

    (If this is going to work you’re going to have to start humming the Star Wars sound track and imagining the following text flying through space.)

    The full-bodied-side had won, through a ruthless points-based rating system Emperor Robert Parketine Jr convinced all the wine buyers in the galaxy that the light-side was weak and short lived. Parketine even turned nuanced Anakin Burgundy into Darth Chardonnay; uncompromisingly alcoholic, dominatingly oaky, together they conquered every wine list and off-licence throughout the Empire. There was but one hope for the light-side, Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon lay unknown & relatively insignificant in the Loire. When all seemed lost and everyone appeared destined to only have access to wines that could be drunk with a knife and fork. Obi Wine Kenobi of Cloud(y Bay) City, found troubled Sauvignon Blanc and told him to travel to the forest moon of New Zealand. There, with a focus on intensely aromatic, fruity wine the resistance was formed. Now, Sauvignon Blanc is known throughout the galaxy and the light wines of the galaxy have a new hope…




          Yoda - It's Green.                       Rey - The next Generation.                Princess Leia - Classy!


      Admiral Akbar – Not a Trap!                  Chewy - AGGGGHH                 Han Solo - Sharp as a whip!



  • Wines That Unite!


    Once again, we sit down to write a blog that is going to be so full of joy and wine facts, that all our lovely readers would’ve inevitably spent the rest of the day in a glow of cheer and incredibly well-informed oenophilia. Yet, as so often is the case, we’ve been distracted by stuff that’s neither been distilled nor fermented and feel it is only right to address it…

    Who is telling Tories to do the power pose!? We thought it was dead, we thought it was gone like New Labour or common decency, but then, like a phoenix from the ashes, rises the majesty of Sajid Javid. Striding towards his shiny new Westminster offices, he turns to face the press, rapturous in the knowledge it is almost impossible for him to do a worse job than his predecessor.  Screw what the PR guys have said. Just because literarily no one has responded well to it, doesn’t mean it won’t work for him. This is his time. He’s worked hard for this moment. He’s doing the Tory power pose! “This is strong & stable,” he thinks “not even my past voting record could knock me off this pedestal, with my feet planted like this!” We kid Sajid! It’s a solid look.

    The point is, just like the legs of protrusive politicians, this country feels a little divided. We think it is important to remember there is far more that unites us than pushes us apart. Therefore, no matter your opinions on politics, football or the appropriate distance of leg separation, let’s all come together this bank holiday and share some common ground and of course some delicious wine!




  • St George's Day


    Welcome, to what may be the greatest St George’s Day in the history of canonization! Firstly, Kate has birthed a child that we can be certain won’t be named George (they jumped the gun on that one a bit, ay). Still, a royal born on St George’s Day, if this kid doesn’t slay a komodo dragon intent on spreading jam on scones before the clotted cream, with a union jack, then this country has frankly been short-changed. Also, old Jezza Corbyn has pledged to make St George’s Day a bank holiday! Even, if like most people you feel rather sickened by Jeremy’s choice of ill-fitting casual beige suits, you must agree that is solid policy. In fact, we’d give him a boob-5 for that idea!

    It’s a very odd holiday, though isn’t it? The symbol of this fine nation is a Roman man, whose father was from Palestine, his mother from Iran and who never set foot in Britain. Yet, for some reason it emboldens troglodytes in EDL t-shirts to stand outside a Gurdwara complaining about ‘Muslamic Law.’ We, here at Oddbins, say poppycock to that. Let’s not let our national holiday be hijacked by people that think mosque is spelled with a ‘k.’ Let’s celebrate the things English people should genuinely be proud of; multiculturalism, the work of William Shakespeare, sarcasm, umm… putting cucumber in drinks and most importantly gin!

    Let us all, come together and refuse to go to work, referencing Jeremy Corbyn’s attire as a cause for our absence. Instead, choose to sit around with our friends, family and neighbours, drinking delicious gin and sarcastically undermine each other’s analysis of Hamlet. “O, you think Hamlet might be imagining the ghost, that’s an original thought!”

    God bless you England!


  • World Malbec Day

    We started this year full of optimism; we were confident we’d achieve our fitness and financial goals without sacrificing the quality of our wine consumption (there are some lines you don’t cross). We were certain Elon Musk would find a way of transfiguring ocean plastic into young and virile white rhinos and that the Arctic Monkeys would go on tour, releasing a readily available and reasonably priced allocation of tickets… Guess what, now were on the brink of WW3, are you happy with yourself Mr Turner? We would’ve looked good on the dance floor but now it’s nothing but a radioactive desolate discotech and frankly we’re not even in the mood for dancing!

    With the destruction of humanity pencilled in for some time next Tuesday, we implore you to leave no celebration unobserved. Thus, it is with great festive fervour that we wish you all a happy World Malbec Day! In honour of the occasion we thought we’d answer a few frequently asked questions about Malbec (if you’d rather just get straight into drinking Malbec we completely understand… time is short.)


    What is Malbec?

    Malbec is a full bodied red wine that is mostly produced in Argentina.

    Is Malbec Called anything else?

    Cot, Auxerrois & Pressac

    Where is Malbec from?

    Originally Malbec came from France where it was one of the 5 key Bordeaux varietals however after the outbreak of Phylloxera (a troublesome tree bug) in the late 1850s that ravaged French grape vines, plantings of Malbec became much less significant in Bordeaux. There is a growing trend for Malbec produced in Cahors (south of Bordeaux) but by far the most important place for Malbec is Argentina. You have probably seen Malbec from the Argentinian region of Mendoza where it is most densely planted and particularly at higher altitudes the grape does exceptionally well. However other regions in Argentina such as Patagonia and Salta are becoming increasingly significant.

    What does Malbec taste like?

    Typically, Malbec will taste of blackberry, bramble and plum if it is from warmer climates like Mendoza or it will have more of a tart dark cherry character if it’s grown in a cooler region like Cahors. This fruit profile will usually be balanced with a varying amount of mocha, coffee, blackpepper and sweet spice depending on the amount of time the wine was aged in new oak.

    What food does Malbec go with?

    Due to the Argentinian link, most wine & food types would recommend a nice juicy steak and we whole heartedly agree. However, it will also pair really nicely with barbequed meats with plenty of herbs and spices, blue cheese and Portobello mushrooms.

    What other wines are similar to Malbec?

    If you like Malbec, give Australian Shiraz a chance as it’s similarly full-bodied with an equally appealing dark fruit profile and a typically spicy undertone.

  • Front Runners

    Grand National Wines

    The year’s gone by with a gallop,

    And now that summer rears its graceful head,

    We seem to find ourselves back on track,

    The best performers of the year before,

    Of course, are bursting out of the gate,

    But we also thought a leg-up was necessary,

    For some fresh young contenders,

    They come in all colours and varieties,

    Yet the line-up seems to be stronger than ever,

    Perhaps you favour a racy young white,

    Or is your money on one more mature, big and dark?

    You might well back something lively that starts with a bang,

    Whichever it is you fancy,

    Make sure you don’t forget the Red Rum.

    Oddbins; nothing but front runners!


    Château Coussin Rosé 2016

    A strong favourite; lightly coloured and youthful with an undeniable elegance. It’s fast out of the gates and performs exceptionally well in sunny conditions.

    First Creek Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2015

    Already illustriously awarded, which has lead it to become a household name, it’s racy, sharp as a whip but perfectly balanced.

    Manuka Springs Pinot Noir 2016

     Pinot Noir seems to really deliver when guided by a firm New Zealand hand; there is an intensity and concentration that really seems to put it a nose ahead of the rest.

    Bollinger Special Cuvée NV Champagne

    To the victor, goes the spoils…

  • Big Wine Hunting

    You can comeback from South Africa with all sorts of things, it is an extraordinary place. It's highly likely you'll return with Rodriguez’s entire discography stuck in your head. How good was ‘Searching for Sugar Man?’ “I wonder, what this has to do with wine and I wonder, why I’m wasting my time;” perspicacious man is Sixto Rodriguez, like a Central American Dylan.

    If you’re a special kind of person you might feel like returning from South Africa with a suitcase full of mounted animal heads - why would you want to decorate your house with animal heads? Clearly, these big game hunter’s personalities weren’t driving away visitors fast enough and required a short hand to inform guests that they’re ‘unbalanced’. Bet those heads talk to them at night; “bro, you know you look super fat in camo, like, fatter than normal;” murdered Buffalo have a real problem with body shaming apparently. If you are considering taking up big game hunting, just remember that you would be occupying the same spiritual space as Donald Trump Jr, a man so inept he’s managed to make Jared Kushner look competent.

    Our buying team went to South Africa last year and instead of bringing back harrowing memories, they brought back incredible wines. They confirmed there’s been a bit of a winemaking revolution in South Africa over the past decade, the wines are less-oaky, less-extracted and not over ripe like South Africa of the past. Today, these Saffer wines offer some of the best value wines across the board. Here’s some of the South African varieties and winemakers that are well worth knowing about.


    Chenin Blanc is the most planted grape variety in South Africa, often referred to locally as Steen. You may well have caught up with Chenin in the Loire Valley, where it will show off flavours of tart apple with waxy, mineral undertones. In the Western Cape, Chenin tends to be riper, presenting a profile of peach, tropical fruit, hay and floral aromas. The finest examples are reminiscent of Chardonnay in Burgundy or Viognier in the Rhone, with a succulent fruit profile, well-integrated oak and a smooth creamy texture. Check out Chenin from Paarl in the Western Cape like Wild Olive or the wines of Ken Forrester in Stellenbosch where the winemaking community refer to him as ‘Mr Chenin.’


    Pinotage is South Africa’s signature red varietal, which is actually a crossing between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (in SA it went by the synonym ‘Hermitage’ hence Pinotage). You might think; therefore, it would taste somewhat like Pinot Noir given the Pinot paternity but it seems Pinotage is its own grape and won’t be dinning out on its parents’ reputation. Nope, its profile is actually much more like Syrah with a relatively full body and a spicy, smoky dark fruit character. Pinotage does exceptionally well in Walker Bay like Southern Right wines and grows wonderfully well in Stellenbosch, like Ken Forrester’s Petit Pinotage.



    Syrah is a wonderful grape for demonstrating the bridge between the Old and New World that South Africa offers. Even in just the name; some producers will, like the French, call the varietal Syrah while others will follow the Aussie line and call it Shiraz. It straddles the fence in flavour as well, often displaying a classically European savoury character; tobacco and mocha are common. Yet the voluptuous, unrelenting dark fruit profile of black cherry and blackberry is decidedly New World. The Lismore Syrah form Greyton is a fantastic expression and must be tried, as is the Marvelous Red by Adam Mason if you’re looking for a more affordable South African Syrah blend.

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