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Oddbins Wine Merchants

Blogging about everything Wine & Champagne

  • A FOX IS FOR LIFE

    They say you’re either a dog person or a cat person. When you get home you are either endeared by the sight of a wagging tail, eyes bright with the expectation of cuddles, dinner and W-A-L-K-I-E-S, or you prefer to be greeted by a pet that doesn’t give a flying fox. However, there is a third way: the fox way. Foxes combine the best of both worlds – they have the cool nonchalance of cats, combined with the exuberance of dogs, and we reckon they make the ideal companion.

    Jim Morrison

    Now, we are not suggesting that you befriend the fox that eyes you warily from behind the privet hedge at No 7 – that probably wouldn’t go down very well. We are suggesting that you befriend one of the foxes in our windows! These aren’t just any foxes – they are three-foot, bespoke, hand-knitted, Oddbins foxes and they happen to be for sale at this month’s Silent Fox Auction. So, if you think that you, or a small person known to you, might rather like to be greeted by a dapper fox after a long day, all you have to do is hotfoot it to your local Oddbins, scribble the amount you’re happy to pay, pop your bid in the box and cross your fingers.

    Lady Gaga

    The foxes have been extremely popular at Oddbins but with none more so than our Buyer Ana, who it seems will do anything to be accepted by them. Ana knows the foxes love a bargain so, in a move completely out of character, she decided to slash the price of dozens of our wines. However, she wasn’t thinking straight at the time, so she slashed them by up to 32.7% and reduced Fine Wines such as Sarget de Gruaud Larose 1999 from £39 to £27.30. Château Grand Pontet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2007, the ‘first wine’ from a renowned château on Bordeaux’s Right Bank? Slashed, from £28 to £22.40. What. The. Actual. Fox.

    Liam Gallagher

    While they have the cunning of cats, foxes definitely have the easy-going temperament of dogs – you wouldn’t catch a cat letting you dress it up like Liam Gallagher for love nor money. But the foxes are bang up for it (particularly if it's a well-tailored waistcoat and top hat). It is no surprise, then, that their 2015 Wine of the Year comes from one of the most whacked-out, laid-back Californians we know of… a certain Randall Grahm, who makes the totally stunning Le Cigare Volant Blanc, down from £30 to £15. WTF? Made according to the lunar calendar, using white grapes normally found in the Rhône Valley and a hands-off approach to production, it is an incredibly sexy, finessed, lavender and quince-driven beauty. You might even say it’s foxy. Good choice, fellas.

  • ATTENBOROUGH ON CHRISTMAS: THE HUNT

    *Adopts hushed David Attenborough voice* Behold, the Christmas Shopper! This strange creature emerges once a year, on its winter migration down the High Street, to hunt down presents for its family. Whilst not essential to the group’s survival, they appear to do it for fun.

    The crew here at Oddbins have been studying their feeding habits and, along with their well-documented preference for raw salmon, turkey and Christmas pudding (although this last one seems to make some Christmas Shoppers confused and angry), we have noted their favourite Christmas drinks, which reveal a remarkable sophistication.

    Ever ritualistic, the Christmas Shopper always tracks down a sparkling wine which they pair with the salmon. Extraordinary. The particularly skilled hunters know the best hunting ground is in Oddbins and are able to track down rare Champagnes such Drappier Carte d’Or NV. Made by a family House, with a large proportion of Pinot Noir, it has incredible flavours of peach, quince and spice that make the perilous High Street a risk worth taking.

    Rush

    The circle of life is sometimes cruel and, whilst it giveth to the Christmas Shopper, it taketh away from the turkey. These two groups – mortal enemies – only ever do combat at Christmas and it only ever goes one way… Once the group has its turkey, they will only settle down for feeding time once the parents have found a decent bottle of Pinot Noir. Tagging devices placed on the parents suggests a favourite is the Cuvée G Burgundy from Albert Bichot. Experts believe it is a hit owing to the fact that it was made in collaboration with the renowned Bernard Loiseau restaurant, specifically to go with food. Yet again, we can only marvel at the skill of the Christmas Shopper.

    For the past two years, outside influences new to this species sent them into an unseasonably early frenzy on ‘Black Friday’. A curious phenomenon with worrying consequences, you can see the unique footage of the confused Christmas Shoppers captured by Black Friday experts below…

    Attenborough

  • A CELEBRITY FOX AUCTION? WTF?

    You may have seen the Oddbins’ furry mascots popping up in shop windows – and, though they may not have Annie’s signature freckles, we reckon they’ve got the little orphan beat for red hair and cuteness.

    Charity Blog - Fox in Window

    Granted, it hasn’t been much of a hard knock life for them – unless you consider wine tastings and photo-shoots a rough deal, that is. That said, although our friendly staff are far more like Miss Hannigan-at-curtain-close than Miss Hannigan-at-curtain-open, perhaps our stores weren’t the most kid-friendly of environments for our wards – what with all that booze about, and the obscene number of #WhatTheFox’s that have been thrown around lately.

    Regardless, it warms our hearts that five of our furry friends have been adopted by benefactors as generous as billionaire Mr Warbucks himself.

    Who are these mysterious philanthropists, you may be asking? Well, they’re not so mysterious; in fact, they’re five of the most recognisable faces, voices, cover drives and penalty saves on Britain’s televisions, airwaves and sporting fields – both past and present.

    For Twitter

    Move aside Annie, Mr Warbucks and Miss Hannigan – it’s now time for Sir Ian Botham, Olivia Colman, Bob Wilson, Greta Scacchi and Henry Blofeld to enter centre stage and take their bows! For each will be putting their fox up for an auction on eBay with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity of their choosing.

    The winners will win the fox, of course, but that’s not all. As a bit of an encore, if you will, each celebrity will be hosting a lunch with the highest bidder, which will include a wine tasting by our Head Buyer, Ana, and feature some of the very wines our foxes have been rapt about since coming on board.

    So get bidding! You can bet your bottom dollar that the auctions will be running throughout today, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and the rest of the week.

    And if you miss out, don’t worry; the sun may still come out for you after all if you email us at WhatTheFox@oddbins.com!

  • BLACK FRIDAY

    Before we get accused of cheap anti-Americanism, may we begin by saying that we are big fans of American imports. It goes without saying that we love American wine, and we obviously finished all series of The Sopranos/Mad Men and The Wire before they went mainstream at the water cooler, because we’re just totally cool and zeitgeisty like that.

    However, there is one US import that we have watched increasing in popularity in the UK with growing trepidation: Black Friday. This mega discount-fest (held on the Friday after Thanksgiving) has been running in America since before the Second World War, but has only really made its mark on the UK shopping calendar in the last few years. Since then, it has raged out of control to the extent that some industry experts expect internet sales to surpass £1bn on Black Friday this year, making it the biggest shopping day of the year.

    Now, we are a retailer. We sell things, and we are as fond of a spot of rampant consumerism as much as the next capitalist. But we can no longer sit back and ignore the fact that the increasing power of Black Friday is having a terrible impact on customers and retailers alike.

    Rush

    To start with, it’s dangerous. In the US, there are countless examples of customers and employees being injured and even dying in pursuit of a so-called bargain. There’s even a website dedicated to detailing its cost on human life and wellbeing: blackfridaydeathcount.com. One woman was arrested outside of a Toys 'R' Us store after pushing in the queue then threatening to shoot other shoppers who complained. Let’s imagine THAT moving scene on Christmas morning: “Mommy got you the VTech Toot Drivers Super RC Raceway you wanted, Chuck, but she had to threaten some other naughty shoppers with a handgun to get it. MER-RY CHRISTMAS!” Admittedly things are not as bad in the UK yet, but the mad scenes of violence across the country last year are a harbinger of disaster if retailers continue with this insane one-upmanship.

    Discount Poster

    The next problem comes with the ‘discounts’ offered. Yes, there are undoubtedly some genuine savings out there, but in such limited supply that they are impossible to find, and lead to the scenes of mayhem and aggro above. But so many retailers just go down the age-old, shonky route of inflating their prices to improve the perceived discount: that electric banana peeler was never £50 and it still isn’t worth the £10 they are trying to charge for it now. At Oddbins, we are always banging on about the subterfuge of high-low discounting and the importance of keeping prices stable and Black Friday has become a monstrous illustration of the art of artificial discounts.

    Black Friday PosterIt could be argued that Black Friday is good for economic growth, but that doesn’t add up. In the UK last year, a study showed that Black Friday failed to increase profits or sales over the entire Christmas shopping period. Instead, it has concentrated the eight-week Christmas shopping period into one day, while severely dampening spending before and after. This puts massive pressure on the retail infrastructure with websites crashing, warehouses thrown into disarray and shops filled with panicking hordes. This translates into a much, much poorer shopping experience for customers, unless you really enjoy being put in a headlock by a sweaty lunatic who wants the last electric banana peeler in stock.

    So, in the spirit of peace and goodwill to all, we challenge all other UK retailers to join us by refusing to engage with this nonsense: it is a race to the bottom which benefits no-one. So, let’s reject Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Sofa Sunday, Gray Thursday and avoid why-have-I-spent-a-month’s-wages-on-this-useless-crap-Wednesday, or, at least, summon our national pride and agree an amnesty until the traditional British day when retailers are permitted to ruin Christmas by promoting massive sales: Boxing Day.

  • WHAT THE FOX?

    Being an adult is hard. We might have jobs and suitcases, and go into meetings with faces that say ‘you-can-do-business-with-me-and-no-I-absolutely-did-not-roll-in-at-3am-last-night’, but sometimes we can’t do it. Sometimes we just want to play with woolly foxes and stuff. Is that so wrong? We hope not, because we have just put 47 foxes in our shops…

    IMG_3069

    *Wipes Farley’s Rusks crumbs from face* in all seriousness, we have actually put a three foot fox in the window of each and every one our shops. Yes, it’s partly because we wuv the liddle foxy-woxy woos, but it’s also because we feel an affinity with foxes: we may not be the most powerful predator on the block, but our Buyers are cunning at digging out unexpected treasures and unearthing incredible bargains. Ana and Jenny have been foraging in Italy (not literally: they’re demure ladies as you can see, honestly), as they believe that the really exciting wines are the ones off the beaten track… Prosecco Ca’ Dei Noni, for example, is a ridiculously unusual still prosecco, made by Follador, with boundless pear drop-esque, floral charm.

    What The Fox

    It’s all well and good wanting to play with foxes and but we can tell, you, these foxes play hard. Really hard… You know when you go up to a cute-looking Chihuahua or other vertically-challenged dog and then it turns into a gnashing, yapping beast, scaring the living daylights out of you? Well, we had a similar experience with the foxes: it turns out they’re not as cute as we thought. In fact, seems they become insanely angry with people who fail to get into the festive spirit, as one customer learned to his eternal shock. We’ve got the footage here and it makes for some disturbing viewing but the fox redeems himself and, actually, turns out to be a bit of a Christmas hero.

    So, if you want to play – and are prepared to play hard – follow the foxes’ exploits in our shops and on Twitter using #WhatTheFox. Because we’re grown up like that…

  • PIMP MY PUMPKIN

    What can’t pumpkins do? They fend off evil spirits, you can make pumpkin pie, soup, bread, curry and… well, pretty much anything out of them! Country types even have festivals in their honour (evidence below for doubting city folk). Scoop out the pips and bake them and you’ve even got yourself a tasty snack (as sugar and Peperamis are apparently off the list). So, unless Jamie Oliver and the World Health Organisation discover that pumpkins have been conning us all this time about fending off evil and they are the ones that are evil, have a peep at these pimped up pumpkin pairings…

    Halloween DoliaInstead of carving a dastardly expression onto your pumpkin, why not make bread?! Warming and satisfying, there is nothing lovelier than the smell than freshly-baked pumpkin bread wafting through the house. Actually, maybe there is something lovelier: serving it with a doorstop of nutty comté and a glass of a sassily fruity, pert red such as Dolia Merlot. It may not be so effective as a Jack o’ Lantern at handling ghouls but at least you could try to pacify them with cheese.

    Pumpkin soup is classic autumnal fare but, combined with fresh ginger, pear nectar, chilli satay sauce, can create a surprisingly fresh, summery dish. However, when it comes to pairing drinks with soup, many people tend to freak out – “liquid with liquid? How’s that going to work? Isn’t there a law against that?” Well, *waggles finger in front of face* we’re here to tell you that there ain’t no po-po gonna stop y’all – if you want to put Asian-style pumpkin soup with wine, you go girlfriend. Indeed, the zingy, floral and even slighty spicy Pora Py'a Torrontes, from Argentina, is a match made in heaven...

    Halloween Amaretto Rum

    ... speaking of which, you can also make stella desserts like yours truly's above (we’re nothing if not talented… and modest). Whipped up with maple syrup, cream, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and baked in a buttery pastry, pumpkin transforms from, well, a pumpkin into a princess. But every princess needs a prince charming to dance with at the ball and we have two to choose from: Sette Vie Amaretto and Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum. Both are on tasting in all stores this weekend and both are suitable suitors. Sette Vie brings dashing almond nuttiness, while Diplomatico brings handsome orange peel and liquorice – and both have a very happy ending.

    Take that, demons.

  • DISCOVER ANOTHER SIDE TO CHILE

    What do you think of when you think of Chilean wine? We would bet our bottom dollar that the first thing that springs to mind is fresh, easy-drinking good value Sauvignon Blanc. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with fresh, easy-drinking good value Sauvignon Blanc. Indeed, if you were to present us with a bowl of chili, ginger and garlic prawns with coconut rice and fresh coriander, we would demand nothing other than a fresh, easy-drinking good value Sauvignon Blanc, such as the laser-sharp zest fest that is Pora Py’a.

    However, like a latter-day John and Yoko, with a slightly different agenda, we are here to say ‘give other wines from Chile a chance’. For there is a small but fascinating group of producers who are moving away from full-throttle, pure varietal wines, to blended, nuanced wines made in the cooler fringes of this towering, strip of a country.

    Chile - Pic 1

    Via Wines, for example, have created Oveja Negra – a madcap blend of Sauvignon Blanc and… Carmenère? Bizarrely, it works. Really well. When made into a white wine (by not leaving it on the skins during fermentation), Carmenère’s spicy fruit and capsicum freshness complement the juicy, zingy pizazz of Sauvignon Blanc perfectly.

    Another small but important trend in Chilean wine is their almost supernatural way with Pinot Noir. This most fickle of grapes can end up flabby and boring in the wrong hands, but Chile seems to have become particularly green-fingered with Pinot. Viña Leyda Reserva Pinot Noir, for example, is as delicately fragrant as a midsummer breeze and is a tasty testament to the lighter side of Chile.

    Chile - Pic 2

    Here comes the science: cooler climes mean fresher wines and another trend for forward-thinking producers is, instead of focusing on the coolness found at more southerly latitudes, they are realising the importance of the cooling effect of the ocean. The windswept, maritime environment almost convinces the grapes they are in Europe and the resulting wines are very much European in style. Viña Leyda Canelo Syrah, for example, is more like a delicately spiced, violet-laced northern Rhône Syrah than many Chilean examples, which can be quite blockbuster-y in fruit, spice and structure. So, if you're looking for more art-house than blockbuster, take another look at Chile - its cinematic landscape and vinous auteurs means there's something for everyone...

  • HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?

    “How low can you go?” sang Chubby Checker all the way back in 1962, popularising the Limbo all around the globe.

    ‘Thanks, Chubby!’ you very might well say. ‘Now my little weekend away on a cruise ship has just turned into another kink to take to the chiro on Monday.’

    chubby_checker-limbo_party-front

    Big chains have been doing the limbo for years, though, trying to shamelessly cash in as much as Chubby did in ’63 with the forgettable Let’s Limbo Some More.

    The Limbo certainly looks like fun but – as the now-septuagenarian Checker can probably attest – not for everyone. And in the wine trade, it’s the winemakers whose backs break under the strains of ever plummeting costs.

    To demonstrate, it’s Maths time! (Sorry, Chubby, not Pony Time, we're afraid).

    If you take a £5 bottle of wine, for example, you’re left with roughly 47p for the winemaker after you deduct tax and all the other pesky costs like bottling and transportation. But a £10 bottle of wine, on the other hand? Roughly £2.87 (or six times more) for the winemaker. That means they can purchase higher quality grapes, hire more staff, update their machinery, and yada, yada, yada – it means they can stay in business and provide customers with an even better product.

    Some of the biggest wine producers might be able to swallow the deduction but the little guys? Not a chance. Slashing prices just makes the wine market monopolised and monochromatic when it should thrive from variety and ingenuity.

    Beyond that, however, it’s a simple matter of honesty and fairness. Unlike Chubby’s psychedelic flop Chequered, we won’t lead you astray like the retailers who hike their prices sky high just to pretend a discount’s bigger when they put it on ‘half price’. Instead, Oddbins’ pricing model is consistent so you can trust that you’re never being tricked, and never paying anything but the actual price.

    And unlike the controversial *ahem* ‘measuring’ app ‘Chubby Checker’– we don’t believe that size is all that matters; we relish working with smaller wine producers. Rather than tying up all our investments in volumes of standard promotional stock which all tastes the same, we hunt for new and exciting parcels from a vast array of companies so an even wider world of choice can be provided to our customers.

    Ultimately, we want you to love wine. We want you to taste and experiment and broaden your palate with the gems our buyers are constantly on the look out for. If you come into the store and are excited by our dynamic range – focused on the label, not the price tag – then we’ve done our job well.

    Apologies, Chubby, but at Oddbins we don’t like our customers to ever be in limbo; we set the bar high, not low.

  • DISCOVER THE WORLD

    Q3b 2015 - Discover the World Ansel Adams

    We’re with Ansel Adams on this one: every experience is a form of exploration: every vista seen, every person met – and every wine tasted – is an exploration. Sometimes these experiences may be small; perhaps you’ve never tried garlic chilli sauce on cheese on toast, but then you try it and you realise it’s really, really good. Sometimes these experiences are grand; you discover that cheese on toast with garlic chilli sauce is amazing with Chianti.

    With that in mind, we would like to invite you to explore the world with us – on a shoestring ‘to boot’! We’re not saying we should hitchhike around Europe wearing a poncho and a ban the bomb badge – no, we’re saying we can explore the world on a budget, via the medium of wine! The point is, you don’t have to have a Learjet and a Coutts bank account to appreciate the vast expanse of human experience; you just need an open mind, man. Plus, unlike certain 'budget' airlines, there are no nasty surprises on Oddbins.com if *shock horror* you want to take luggage with you...

    *Spreads out a map and plants three pins* we can think of no better place to start than with France, New Zealand and Argentina. All packed? Let’s go…

    Q3b 2015 - Discover the World Ansel France

    Rocking up in the garrigue-scented hills of Languedoc, southwest France, we arrive at L. Metairie; a unique cooperative with cutting-edge technology, an inventive winemaking team and an emphasis on wines that have a sense of place. Having spread out the picnic rug and bust out the brie, we will be wanting some of L. Metairie’s Dolia Grenache (£6.50). With its fresh red fruit and sprinkling of pepper, it is a cracking way to begin our adventures. Alors…

    If you have always wanted to go to New Zealand then now, by the Power of Wine, we can! New Zealand makes us think of cool streams, emerald mountains… and Hobbits. Whilst The Giesen Brothers’ Salmon Run Sauvignon Blanc (£8) doesn’t taste like Hobbits (we’re not completely sick), its dazzling aromas of elderflower, kaffir lime leaves and pink grapefruit does transport you to a verdant Kiwi brook. Now, if we could only catch some salmon, we’d be laughing all the way to…

    Q3b 2015 - Discover the World

    Argentina! More specifically, to the Tulum Valley at the foot of the Andes. This little-known corner of South America has an altitude of around 2,000 feet and a semi-desert climate. Maybe we’ll gather for an asado (a feck-off big barbecue), maybe we’ll gawp at some Alpacas, maybe we’ll try some Malbec. Like your trip, you want your wine to give you an authentic sense of place and, with its forward black fruit, mocha and spice, that is exactly what Incienso Malbec (£7) does.

  • WHISKIES OF MASS DELIGHTFULNESS

    It’s a sad and slightly hilarious fact that Bruichladdich – the gentle giant of Islay distilleries – was once spied on by the US on suspicion of making chemical weapons. In 2003, having locked onto the distillery’s web cam, the Americans thought that they were making WMDs, until they were assured otherwise. It’s almost as sad and hilarious as the time that an outraged UK united behind the ‘Free the Weatherfield One’, after the fictional character Deirdre Barlow was wrongfully imprisoned in Coronation Street.

    It has been a rollercoaster ride for Bruichladdich, which closed down in 1994 after 114 years’ operation, before being rescued in 2001. The apparently sinister-looking equipment – including the unusually tall and narrow spirit stills – was restored to its Victorian glory and is now the pride of the Rhinns, on the westernmost shore of Islay.

    Bruichladdich

    Under the governance of the not particularly dangerous Jim McEwan – formerly of Bowmore Distillery – they have resumed their place amongst the eight working distilleries on Islay. The team is passionate about provenance and use only Scottish barley, sometimes from the neighbouring fields, and water from Bruichladdich loch and the Octomore spring.

    They produce three styles of whisky – the unpeated Classic Bruichladdich, the heavily peated Port Charlotte and the ‘super heavily peated’ Octomore. Oddbins is proud to stock all three expressions and invites you most warmly to come and sample ‘The Classic Laddie’ at any store this weekend. Trickle distilled, then matured by the shores of Lochindaal in premium American oak, it encapsulates Bruichladdich’s soft, mossy style.

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