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  • PEPITA'S CHRISTMAS REVOLUCIÓN

    Let me tell you a story. It is my story. It encompasses microwaveable burritos, FIFA-style investigations, plebs at gates, Brangelina and wine. Bienvenida…

    It was three years ago to the day that I first stepped off the Ryanair plane (following another ‘successful Ryanair flight’ as they enthused over the tannoy), after a 12-hour flight from Mexico with a stopover in flipping Málaga. For a small penguin with big dreams, Luton was not what I expected (I can see why they call it Bedfordshire… zzz) Anyway, I said to the cab driver, ‘take me to Kentish Town, I hear this place is full of intellectuals and artists’ and he muttered something that sounded like ‘depends what century you’re living in’. When I arrive at my new ‘gaff’ as he called it I realised what he meant. Also, I thought ‘studio flat’ meant it would be lovely and bohemian but it does not mean that. So, when Christmas came, I was alone and depressed and all I had to eat was a microwaveable burrito. On New Year’s Eve I watched the Hootananny with Jools Holland by myself, with only half a bottle of tequila for company. Lo siento, if I hear the word ‘Hootananny’ one more time I swear I’m going to hurt someone.

    Pepita Banner for Blog

    This is me, Pepita. Brains and beauty, what can I say?

    A couple of months later I was walking around London and wondered into a wine shop. Crikey, the people spoke to me like they were reading an extract from the Holy Book. I didn’t like it. Then I went to the supermarket, but this time there was no one to talk to at all – so I went to the frozen fish section to cheer myself up. Then (I am aware I am sounding like Goldilocks and the three bears) I went to Oddbins in Kentish Town and the man (Ian was his name) has a big smile and says do I want to try this wine from Portugal. And it was at that moment, as our eyes met over a glass of ‘FP Branco’ that we fell instantly in love. Not with each other! I am not like that soppy love-sick Monty the Penguin and, anyway, I don’t go in for that inter-species business, unlike some unmentionable Arctic cousins of mine. There is just no accounting for them. Anyway, over time, I also kind of fell in love with Oddbins – with the wines (eclectic), the people (mad) and the way they don’t do all that smoke and mirrors pricing like “was £12.99 now £5.99” when, in reality, it's not even worth £5.99 (the British people are getting wise to that one). So I asked Ian if I could get a job with Oddbins and he asked me what my ‘skill set’ was. “Ian,” I said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am a penguin. My skill sets are principally eating fish and swimming.” But I could see that they’re not just going to give me a job out of sympathy, so I make a video showing them my wine journey. They rang me up, said they love it and asked me to come back in two years’ time to be The Face of Christmas 2014. I was so happy! I even made Ian point at me like Alan Sugar and say ‘Pepita, you’re hired’.

    Japanese

    My poster for Nikka From the Barrel. Those turkeys are for it.

    I had two years to prepare, so I went on a wine course and worked on my English but, as a smart penguin, I wanted to do more. So, I followed Angelina Jolie around the world. I thought about following Bob Geldof but Angelina manages to look tidy as well as talking about serious things, so I thought she would be a better mentor. I was right – she was fantastic. She took me under her wing, gave me lessons every day and told me I was part of the family. I felt like Oliver Twist. However, it turns out that she has a wildly possessive PA who decided that I am the devil incarnate and paid off the security guard to evict me and dump me at the zoo. (It’s OK – you can cry here).

    It was there and then, outside Los Angeles Zoo, with kids patting me on the head, trying to force-feed me sardines, that I realised I wanted to get back to Dear Old Blighty, have a nice cuppa tea and start my new job. But, when I returned last month, it was not the same country I left. The whole place has gone mad for penguins, because of that cheesy hombre Monty – that was my act! He’s stolen my act! OK I have no proof, but Oddbins think there might be a spy in their marketing department who is giving JL intel, because two years ago they just so happened to run a Christmas ‘Love’ campaign at the same time as Oddbins. So Oddbins have launched an internal investigation and my guess is that the outcome will not be dissimilar to the recent FIFA report if you catch my drift.

    So anyway, Monty has got heart strings twanging everywhere with his search for love. The UK seems to have imported that daft American sentimentality – whatever happened to a stiff upper lip? Tell you what, if Monty comes wondering my way looking for love, I’ll do us all a favour and put him out of his misery. Talking of rubbish American imports, what is Black Friday doing in the UK? Some company bosses must be rubbing their hands with glee – it’s like they’ve managed to secure a frenzied removal team for all the rubbish they couldn’t get rid of.

    Bordeaux

    Best use for bears, if you ask me.

    Dios mío the whole UK is like a big jar of pickles at the moment. One thing I’ve noticed is getting all the politicians worked up is immigration. You’ve got a Labour MP sneering at someone for hanging the St George flag – she should know better than that. Then you’ve got a Conservative-turned-UKIP MP who thinks everybody except the Anglo Saxons should be rounded up and shipped out. Nice. Then you’ve got the Lib Dems who… well I can’t recall their position on immigration. You know what? A plague on all their houses – they’re all as useless as each other. I just hope that they remember that immigration can have a positive effect on the economy. My cousin Carla was trying to explain that to the American officials at immigration and I think it would have gone better for if she hadn’t got angry and called them plebs. But she’s always had a mouth on her. I also hope the politicians realise that penguin migration is a different kettle of fish and we don’t get tangled up in this. Although, if they want to deport Monty, I am here to help.

    Beer

    Christmas with me will be present-filled and magical. Except if you are a pig. Or a bear. Or a turkey.

    Anyway, Ian is now standing over my shoulder and says I should probably step away from politics and tell people what I am going to do this Christmas. Fair point. Good head on his shoulders, Ian. So! I will be hijacking the Oddbins Twitter account (@Oddbins) and I am on the posters (Kate Moss has got NOTHING on me). I have had tête-à-têtes with all the Oddbins Managers and have rounded up the best wines and the best Christmas tips, so I will be dishing those out throughout December. As you’ve guessed, there will be a fair amount of ranting – I haven’t even got started on those blinking bears in my windows – and, lastly, I will be giving out gifts to people who make me laugh (I warn you I am a tough bird to please). Think of me as a kind-hearted, fork-tongued, wine-loving agony aunt.

    I look forward to meeting you.

    Let me tell you a story. It is my story. It encompasses microwaveable burritos, FIFA-style investigations, plebs at gates, Brangelina and wine. Bienvenida…

    It was three years ago to the day that I first stepped off the Ryanair plane (following another ‘successful Ryanair flight’ as they enthused over the tannoy), after a 12-hour flight from Mexico with a stopover in flipping Málaga. For a small penguin with big dreams, Luton was not what I expected (I can see why they call it Bedfordshire… zzz) Anyway, I said to the cab driver, ‘take me to Kentish Town, I hear this place is full of intellectuals and artists’ and he muttered something that sounded like ‘depends what century you’re living in’. When I arrive at my new ‘gaff’ as he called it I realised what he meant. Also, I thought ‘studio flat’ meant it would be lovely and bohemian but it does not mean that. So, when Christmas came, I was alone and depressed and all I had to eat was a microwaveable burrito. On New Year’s Eve I watched the Hootananny with Jools Holland by myself, with only half a bottle of tequila for company. Lo siento, if I hear the word ‘Hootananny’ one more time I swear I’m going to hurt someone.

    Pepita Banner for Blog

    This is me, Pepita. Brains and beauty, what can I say?

    A couple of months later I was walking around London and wondered into a wine shop. Crikey, the people spoke to me like they were reading an extract from the Holy Book. I didn’t like it. Then I went to the supermarket, but this time there was no one to talk to at all – so I went to the frozen fish section to cheer myself up. Then (I am aware I am sounding like Goldilocks and the three bears) I went to Oddbins in Kentish Town and the man (Ian was his name) has a big smile and says do I want to try this wine from Portugal. And it was at that moment, as our eyes met over a glass of ‘FP Branco’ that we fell instantly in love. Not with each other! I am not like that soppy love-sick Monty the Penguin and, anyway, I don’t go in for that inter-species business, unlike some unmentionable Arctic cousins of mine. There is just no accounting for them. Anyway, over time, I also kind of fell in love with Oddbins – with the wines (eclectic), the people (mad) and the way they don’t do all that smoke and mirrors pricing like “was £12.99 now £5.99” when, in reality, it's not even worth £5.99 (the British people are getting wise to that one). So I asked Ian if I could get a job with Oddbins and he asked me what my ‘skill set’ was. “Ian,” I said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am a penguin. My skill sets are principally eating fish and swimming.” But I could see that they’re not just going to give me a job out of sympathy, so I make a video showing them my wine journey. They rang me up, said they love it and asked me to come back in two years’ time to be The Face of Christmas 2014. I was so happy! I even made Ian point at me like Alan Sugar and say ‘Pepita, you’re hired’.

    Japanese

    My poster for Nikka From the Barrel. Those turkeys are for it.

    I had two years to prepare, so I went on a wine course and worked on my English but, as a smart penguin, I wanted to do more. So, I followed Angelina Jolie around the world. I thought about following Bob Geldof but Angelina manages to look tidy as well as talking about serious things, so I thought she would be a better mentor. I was right – she was fantastic. She took me under her wing, gave me lessons every day and told me I was part of the family. I felt like Oliver Twist. However, it turns out that she has a wildly possessive PA who decided that I am the devil incarnate and paid off the security guard to evict me and dump me at the zoo. (It’s OK – you can cry here).

    It was there and then, outside Los Angeles Zoo, with kids patting me on the head, trying to force-feed me sardines, that I realised I wanted to get back to Dear Old Blighty, have a nice cuppa tea and start my new job. But, when I returned last month, it was not the same country I left. The whole place has gone mad for penguins, because of that cheesy hombre Monty – that was my act! He’s stolen my act! OK I have no proof, but Oddbins think there might be a spy in their marketing department who is giving JL intel, because two years ago they just so happened to run a Christmas ‘Love’ campaign at the same time as Oddbins. So Oddbins have launched an internal investigation and my guess is that the outcome will not be dissimilar to the recent FIFA report if you catch my drift.

    So anyway, Monty has got heart strings twanging everywhere with his search for love. The UK seems to have imported that daft American sentimentality – whatever happened to a stiff upper lip? Tell you what, if Monty comes wondering my way looking for love, I’ll do us all a favour and put him out of his misery. Talking of rubbish American imports, what is Black Friday doing in the UK? Some company bosses must be rubbing their hands with glee – it’s like they’ve managed to secure a frenzied removal team for all the rubbish they couldn’t get rid of.

    Bordeaux

    Best use for bears, if you ask me.

    Dios mío the whole UK is like a big jar of pickles at the moment. One thing I’ve noticed is getting all the politicians worked up is immigration. You’ve got a Labour MP sneering at someone for hanging the St George flag – she should know better than that. Then you’ve got a Conservative-turned-UKIP MP who thinks everybody except the Anglo Saxons should be rounded up and shipped out. Nice. Then you’ve got the Lib Dems who… well I can’t recall their position on immigration. You know what? A plague on all their houses – they’re all as useless as each other. I just hope that they remember that immigration can have a positive effect on the economy. My cousin Carla was trying to explain that to the American officials at immigration and I think it would have gone better for if she hadn’t got angry and called them plebs. But she’s always had a mouth on her. I also hope the politicians realise that penguin migration is a different kettle of fish and we don’t get tangled up in this. Although, if they want to deport Monty, I am here to help.

    Beer

    Christmas with me will be present-filled and magical. Except if you are a pig. Or a bear. Or a turkey.

    Anyway, Ian is now standing over my shoulder and says I should probably step away from politics and tell people what I am going to do this Christmas. Fair point. Good head on his shoulders, Ian. So! I will be hijacking the Oddbins Twitter account (@Oddbins) and I am on the posters (Kate Moss has got NOTHING on me). I have had tête-à-têtes with all the Oddbins Managers and have rounded up the best wines and the best Christmas tips, so I will be dishing those out throughout December. As you’ve guessed, there will be a fair amount of ranting – I haven’t even got started on those blinking bears in my windows – and, lastly, I will be giving out gifts to people who make me laugh (I warn you I am a tough bird to please). Think of me as a kind-hearted, fork-tongued, wine-loving agony aunt.

    I look forward to meeting you.

  • ODDBOD’S BEER BABBLE

    This month, we release the reigns of OddBlog to our recently-appointed resident nutter Beer Taster for what can only be described as a 'unique' look at the brews-du-jour. Over to you, James...

    EPISODE ONE: THE DRINKENING

    In the recent past, premier grape-juice peddlers Oddbins offered up, by way of competition, the role of beer blogger in exchange for a Twitter application. ‘Eruditewell-travelled beerhemouth (34) seeks savvycustomer-focused retailer to taste beer and review for #OddbinsBeer’ was my winning Tweet and golden ticket to the special sauce, hand-selected by Oddbins’ own merchants of gold standard no-no juice.

    Oddbins' Beer Taster. We're told he's human.

    Oddbins' Beer Taster. We're told he's human.

    I should state at this point that I am not a professional taster, I have no background in competitive tasting, I have never taken a course in beer tasting, nor can I even name all beer types. What I do have is an appreciation of well-made things, by passionate enthusiasts rather than cynical businessmen. In beer terms this means I would usually avoid the flavourless, filtered, fizzy water created on an industrial scale by corporate robots, whilst wealthy, pin-stripe suit wearing demons rub their hands together on the side lines – not naming names, of course. It means that I enjoy complex flavours brought about by the endless experimentations of beer scientists, or artists, if you prefer.

    Just to give you a vague compass bearing: I favour top-fermenting beers, particularly browns, stouts and old ales. I am happy to enjoy a steam beer (thanks to a recent trip to San Francisco) and even the occasional lager. I am not generally a fan of wheat beers, anything heavily-adulterated with fruit or spices, highly carbonated or overly sweet beers.

    In addition to above nonsense, I am a graphic designer by trade and will be spouting off about reviewing the whole package as I believe in the ‘total experience’ of everything I do and enjoy. The look, feel, smell, taste, perceived effort and love put in by the creators of the product or experience, blah blah blah. Now take a moment to imagine how fun a day out with me is for my future ex-wife Debs.

    Below is an unsparingly honest cross-section of the brews hand-delivered to me by my new BFFs, Oddbins:

    London Field Breweries

    3 Weiss Monkeys White IPA – 6% - £2.50 - Available at most London Oddbins

    London Field Breweries' 3 Weiss Monkeys

    London Field Breweries' 3 Weiss Monkeys

    The un-boxing was a little disappointing; the label looked like a Goth had vomited clip-art and a bulky, free font hastily onto the generic, brown bottle. The accent colours were, I assume, picked out by a marine mammal (monochromatic, essentially colour-blind). Also only 330ml, who does that? Tsk.

    The bottle pour is dark amber, cloudy and heavily carbonated. I lost a ladies serving before I had the chance to swear lots and smash the rim of the bottle against my central incisors. It jumped out on me like a frog escaping a rarely used drawer, wasting precious sips as it erupted down itself. So far, so fizzy.

    Once we’d all had a drink and calmed down, it was time for the smell test. Either I had been indoctrinated by the label or I smelled a hint of banana as promised. Given that its description tells us ‘absolutely tons of Citra hops’ are thrown in, we can guess they were added late as the beer did not smell like a urine-soaked cat litter tray in a teenagers bedroom but, thankfully more of the citrus and tropical fruits (mostly mango) you’d want.

    The beer was light-bodied and summery. Tropical fruit managed to peer through the fizz, but the overly harsh-carbonation gets in the way of discerning the individual flavours. That said, the banana did come through eventually and, overall, inundating the malted wheat with those Citra hops, made it more sweet than bitter.

    Mid-review, my long suffering common-law, live-in cleaner suggested two-word reviews. So here it is, Fizzy Mutha. This is the last two-word review I’ll be doing, except the following two-word review of the two-word review system: For Idiots. 7/10

    Beavertown
    Gamma Ray APA - 5.4% - £2.40 - Available at selected Scottish and London Oddbins

    IMAG0517

    Beavertown's Gamma Ray APA

     

    I love the dated, American style comic art on the can – frickin’ laser-beams and UFOs and vaporised skulls - though maybe a tad inappropriate. I would love to have a crack at designing one of their beers (superface.co.uk), reasonable rates, unreasonably good work.

    Click. Fizz. This fizzed like a mother-flipper when I opened it and I lost some… dignity.

    The smell was all over the place. It begun nice enough with a light hoppy aroma, which developed into over ripened orange peel, maybe like marmalade.

    This gear poured a big head that receded quicker than a hairline that directly precedes a midlife crisis. Underneath the ephemeral head sat a murky dark golden amber, orange even, brew. I’m relieved/disappointed (delete as applicable) that this wasn’t bright green. That said, this beer doesn’t need any more gimmickry on or in the can.

    A tasty, tasty APA, much like Beavertown’s other output, this runs a little sweeter than the competition, but it totally works in this refreshing, flavoursome APA.

    Most of the carbonation had erupted itself onto my kitchen worktop, the rest was light in fizz and body. The flavour was initially orange-themed and a zesty hoppy madness turned herbal, almost woody. A piny, bitter finish with a slight malt backbone. Delightful, well-balanced and complex.

    I would smash this in to my face all day long. 9/10

     

    Bristol Beer Factory

    Double IPA - 8.5% - £4.80 - Available at Oddbins Bristol

    Bristol Beer Factory's Double IPA

    8.5%! As I approached this grand statement, boldly stated on its minimalist, almost industrially perfunctory label, I found myself almost relieved that this was only a 330ml serving. Almost relieved.

    She’s a bottle-conditioned Double IPA, hopped at multiple stages including two post-fermentation dry hop additions. The blend of Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo and Centennial hops really give you the full American Double IPA experience as the marketing noise on the label emits in its flowery rhetoric.

    It has a decent pour, with a hazy golden colour and timid, small white head that retreats quickly. Smells like a unicorn bathing in a rainbow. Or to put it another completely different and descriptive way; light pine hops, a little fruity on a bed of malt.

    This moderately carbonated devil’s mouthwash is initially sweet, like a caramel-ish biscuit-y malt with an orange and lemon chaser. This gives way to the bitterness of the hops and a drying finish. 8.5% abv and easy drinking should probably not go in the same sentence, but they’re about to. This is very easy drinking for a beer that’s 8.5% abv. This is deceptive and, if you’re not careful, will mug you of your ability to pronounce words of more than one syllable such as; sobriety, unsoiled or functional.

    Tame for its strength, free from the bullish onslaught of syrup you might expect from strong beer. With that amount of hops going in, timing is crucial… and they nailed it.

    Rating: An unexpected gem. 8/10

     

    Moncada Brewery

    Notting Hill Summer - 3.2% - £3.20 - Available at selected London Oddbins

    Moncada Brewery's Notting Hill Summer

    Moncada Brewery's Notting Hill Summer

    The label, much like a drag-queens changing room, has a bold of expression of pink. This, twinned with the flat, pink illustration of a Notting Hill street scene begs the question; why is ‘summer’ written in a ransom note, jumble sale of fonts.

    The bottle pour was livelier than a bag of whippets in zero gravity. It is highly carbonated and fizzed up straight-away, jumping out at me like a squalid, trench coat agitator lurking in the bushes.

    It smelled good, fruity with a little pine and floral hops. My enthusiasm for a sniff was undone by the violence of the carbonation; I was now wearing a foam nose.

    There’s an initial mango, lemon punch with a small amount of hop bitterness (good for the strength, but lacks the depth of a proper mansize beer). Hedgefruit and berry flavours develop after a few swigs. It does get fruitier the more you drink, ahem, as do I.

    Yea, though autumn be gone, Notting Hill Summer lives on.  7/10

    If you want to plunge like Tom Daley with a spring in his step into the ocean that is our craft beer range, then join the Oddbins Beer Club, right here.

    This month, we release the reigns of OddBlog to our recently-appointed resident nutter Beer Taster for what can only be described as a 'unique' look at the brews-du-jour. Over to you, James...

    EPISODE ONE: THE DRINKENING

    In the recent past, premier grape-juice peddlers Oddbins offered up, by way of competition, the role of beer blogger in exchange for a Twitter application. ‘Eruditewell-travelled beerhemouth (34) seeks savvycustomer-focused retailer to taste beer and review for #OddbinsBeer’ was my winning Tweet and golden ticket to the special sauce, hand-selected by Oddbins’ own merchants of gold standard no-no juice.

    Oddbins' Beer Taster. We're told he's human.

    Oddbins' Beer Taster. We're told he's human.

    I should state at this point that I am not a professional taster, I have no background in competitive tasting, I have never taken a course in beer tasting, nor can I even name all beer types. What I do have is an appreciation of well-made things, by passionate enthusiasts rather than cynical businessmen. In beer terms this means I would usually avoid the flavourless, filtered, fizzy water created on an industrial scale by corporate robots, whilst wealthy, pin-stripe suit wearing demons rub their hands together on the side lines – not naming names, of course. It means that I enjoy complex flavours brought about by the endless experimentations of beer scientists, or artists, if you prefer.

    Just to give you a vague compass bearing: I favour top-fermenting beers, particularly browns, stouts and old ales. I am happy to enjoy a steam beer (thanks to a recent trip to San Francisco) and even the occasional lager. I am not generally a fan of wheat beers, anything heavily-adulterated with fruit or spices, highly carbonated or overly sweet beers.

    In addition to above nonsense, I am a graphic designer by trade and will be spouting off about reviewing the whole package as I believe in the ‘total experience’ of everything I do and enjoy. The look, feel, smell, taste, perceived effort and love put in by the creators of the product or experience, blah blah blah. Now take a moment to imagine how fun a day out with me is for my future ex-wife Debs.

    Below is an unsparingly honest cross-section of the brews hand-delivered to me by my new BFFs, Oddbins:

    London Field Breweries

    3 Weiss Monkeys White IPA – 6% - £2.50 - Available at most London Oddbins

    London Field Breweries' 3 Weiss Monkeys

    London Field Breweries' 3 Weiss Monkeys

    The un-boxing was a little disappointing; the label looked like a Goth had vomited clip-art and a bulky, free font hastily onto the generic, brown bottle. The accent colours were, I assume, picked out by a marine mammal (monochromatic, essentially colour-blind). Also only 330ml, who does that? Tsk.

    The bottle pour is dark amber, cloudy and heavily carbonated. I lost a ladies serving before I had the chance to swear lots and smash the rim of the bottle against my central incisors. It jumped out on me like a frog escaping a rarely used drawer, wasting precious sips as it erupted down itself. So far, so fizzy.

    Once we’d all had a drink and calmed down, it was time for the smell test. Either I had been indoctrinated by the label or I smelled a hint of banana as promised. Given that its description tells us ‘absolutely tons of Citra hops’ are thrown in, we can guess they were added late as the beer did not smell like a urine-soaked cat litter tray in a teenagers bedroom but, thankfully more of the citrus and tropical fruits (mostly mango) you’d want.

    The beer was light-bodied and summery. Tropical fruit managed to peer through the fizz, but the overly harsh-carbonation gets in the way of discerning the individual flavours. That said, the banana did come through eventually and, overall, inundating the malted wheat with those Citra hops, made it more sweet than bitter.

    Mid-review, my long suffering common-law, live-in cleaner suggested two-word reviews. So here it is, Fizzy Mutha. This is the last two-word review I’ll be doing, except the following two-word review of the two-word review system: For Idiots. 7/10

    Beavertown
    Gamma Ray APA - 5.4% - £2.40 - Available at selected Scottish and London Oddbins

    IMAG0517

    Beavertown's Gamma Ray APA

     

    I love the dated, American style comic art on the can – frickin’ laser-beams and UFOs and vaporised skulls - though maybe a tad inappropriate. I would love to have a crack at designing one of their beers (superface.co.uk), reasonable rates, unreasonably good work.

    Click. Fizz. This fizzed like a mother-flipper when I opened it and I lost some… dignity.

    The smell was all over the place. It begun nice enough with a light hoppy aroma, which developed into over ripened orange peel, maybe like marmalade.

    This gear poured a big head that receded quicker than a hairline that directly precedes a midlife crisis. Underneath the ephemeral head sat a murky dark golden amber, orange even, brew. I’m relieved/disappointed (delete as applicable) that this wasn’t bright green. That said, this beer doesn’t need any more gimmickry on or in the can.

    A tasty, tasty APA, much like Beavertown’s other output, this runs a little sweeter than the competition, but it totally works in this refreshing, flavoursome APA.

    Most of the carbonation had erupted itself onto my kitchen worktop, the rest was light in fizz and body. The flavour was initially orange-themed and a zesty hoppy madness turned herbal, almost woody. A piny, bitter finish with a slight malt backbone. Delightful, well-balanced and complex.

    I would smash this in to my face all day long. 9/10

     

    Bristol Beer Factory

    Double IPA - 8.5% - £4.80 - Available at Oddbins Bristol

    Bristol Beer Factory's Double IPA

    8.5%! As I approached this grand statement, boldly stated on its minimalist, almost industrially perfunctory label, I found myself almost relieved that this was only a 330ml serving. Almost relieved.

    She’s a bottle-conditioned Double IPA, hopped at multiple stages including two post-fermentation dry hop additions. The blend of Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo and Centennial hops really give you the full American Double IPA experience as the marketing noise on the label emits in its flowery rhetoric.

    It has a decent pour, with a hazy golden colour and timid, small white head that retreats quickly. Smells like a unicorn bathing in a rainbow. Or to put it another completely different and descriptive way; light pine hops, a little fruity on a bed of malt.

    This moderately carbonated devil’s mouthwash is initially sweet, like a caramel-ish biscuit-y malt with an orange and lemon chaser. This gives way to the bitterness of the hops and a drying finish. 8.5% abv and easy drinking should probably not go in the same sentence, but they’re about to. This is very easy drinking for a beer that’s 8.5% abv. This is deceptive and, if you’re not careful, will mug you of your ability to pronounce words of more than one syllable such as; sobriety, unsoiled or functional.

    Tame for its strength, free from the bullish onslaught of syrup you might expect from strong beer. With that amount of hops going in, timing is crucial… and they nailed it.

    Rating: An unexpected gem. 8/10

     

    Moncada Brewery

    Notting Hill Summer - 3.2% - £3.20 - Available at selected London Oddbins

    Moncada Brewery's Notting Hill Summer

    Moncada Brewery's Notting Hill Summer

    The label, much like a drag-queens changing room, has a bold of expression of pink. This, twinned with the flat, pink illustration of a Notting Hill street scene begs the question; why is ‘summer’ written in a ransom note, jumble sale of fonts.

    The bottle pour was livelier than a bag of whippets in zero gravity. It is highly carbonated and fizzed up straight-away, jumping out at me like a squalid, trench coat agitator lurking in the bushes.

    It smelled good, fruity with a little pine and floral hops. My enthusiasm for a sniff was undone by the violence of the carbonation; I was now wearing a foam nose.

    There’s an initial mango, lemon punch with a small amount of hop bitterness (good for the strength, but lacks the depth of a proper mansize beer). Hedgefruit and berry flavours develop after a few swigs. It does get fruitier the more you drink, ahem, as do I.

    Yea, though autumn be gone, Notting Hill Summer lives on.  7/10

    If you want to plunge like Tom Daley with a spring in his step into the ocean that is our craft beer range, then join the Oddbins Beer Club, right here.

  • THE PALATE, FASHION FAUX PAS & EVIL

    This week saw the culmination of London Fashion Week and, thank heavens, people now know what to wear again. We’d been running out of ideas and feeling afraid, and had started lashing out with clashing prints, double denim and anything else close to hand. Oddbins’ Managing Director Ayo, however, is bold and doesn’t need such direction. Too bold, some may say, but nonetheless, he stuck to his guns with his red trousers at The Palate Final last Saturday, September 6:
    Some people, like Odd Writer, are Followers, becoming manic and Gollum-like without annual direction from Jean Paul Gaultier. Ayo, however, is not. Neither is Steve Saunders, this year’s winner of The Palate (our annual search for the nation’s finest amateur wine taster). Steve is a fashion leader (not in a sartorial sense, though we do admire his black pinstripe shirt), but in terms of his communication style. When he was asked to do a presentation on why he had paired a pumpkin tart with the Verget Mâcon Bussières 2012, Steve gloriously avoided any prescribed Wine Speak whilst hitting the nail on the head, in a fresh, direct manner. So what did he say? “I chose this particular match as the classic oatmeal and peach characteristics of the Chardonnay went very well with the pumpkin, while the wine's buttery finish complemented the pastry. The subtle hazelnut notes on the finish combined seamlessly with the truffle and, overall, the wine had sufficient weight and texture to cope with the egg filling. Together, both food and wine lifted each other, flavour-wise, to something greater than the sum of their parts.” In almost Churchillian style, this was the speech what won it for Steve, earning him the title of The Palate 2014, a luxury holiday for two to Australia, a magnum or Laurent-Pérrier and an engraved ‘Palate 2014’ decanter.
    Over 21,000 of you entered The Palate (not you, in a Being John Malkovich way; that would be weird) this year and, we have to say, some of the other suggested food and wine matches were memorable. Quarter Finalist Jerome, from Oxford, went wildly left-of-centre with his suggestion of ‘salted aardvark’ with Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2013 and Heather, from Aberdeen, broke new ground with her suggestion, ‘cantaloupe melon carved into the shape of a shark, swimming in a sea of lemon sorbet’. We’re reassured to see that you’re all just as mad as we are. Anyway, if you took part this year, we hope it left you with a renewed sense of how fun and unpretentious wine tasting can be. We reckon runner-up Robert Macaloney, from Glasgow, who won £300 to spend at Oddbins (“which was promptly cashed in the very next day”), summed it up nicely when he said: “I’ve always felt my tasting abilities were very, very average but I surprised myself throughout the competition in that I actually wasn’t too bad at all.”
    OK. You know how we’ve always said how pleasant and modest our Buyer, Ana, is? Yes well she’s not – she’s evil. Ana set the wines for the sparkling wine exam at The Palate Final and included Albert Bichot Crémant de Bourgogne Réserve Privée NV, which is really, really delicious. Just cruel. With its fine bubbles, crisp acidity and inflections of manuka honey and toast, it could easily pass for Champagne and is, therefore, darn tricky to answer questions on. As we say, pure evil. If you want to see just how demonic Ana and the other judges were, just have a look at our blog, and keep an eye on our website for The Palate video. Just have a sofa to hide behind. S’alls we’re saying.

    ‘Til next time.

    This week saw the culmination of London Fashion Week and, thank heavens, people now know what to wear again. We’d been running out of ideas and feeling afraid, and had started lashing out with clashing prints, double denim and anything else close to hand. Oddbins’ Managing Director Ayo, however, is bold and doesn’t need such direction. Too bold, some may say, but nonetheless, he stuck to his guns with his red trousers at The Palate Final last Saturday, September 6:
    Some people, like Odd Writer, are Followers, becoming manic and Gollum-like without annual direction from Jean Paul Gaultier. Ayo, however, is not. Neither is Steve Saunders, this year’s winner of The Palate (our annual search for the nation’s finest amateur wine taster). Steve is a fashion leader (not in a sartorial sense, though we do admire his black pinstripe shirt), but in terms of his communication style. When he was asked to do a presentation on why he had paired a pumpkin tart with the Verget Mâcon Bussières 2012, Steve gloriously avoided any prescribed Wine Speak whilst hitting the nail on the head, in a fresh, direct manner. So what did he say? “I chose this particular match as the classic oatmeal and peach characteristics of the Chardonnay went very well with the pumpkin, while the wine's buttery finish complemented the pastry. The subtle hazelnut notes on the finish combined seamlessly with the truffle and, overall, the wine had sufficient weight and texture to cope with the egg filling. Together, both food and wine lifted each other, flavour-wise, to something greater than the sum of their parts.” In almost Churchillian style, this was the speech what won it for Steve, earning him the title of The Palate 2014, a luxury holiday for two to Australia, a magnum or Laurent-Pérrier and an engraved ‘Palate 2014’ decanter.
    Over 21,000 of you entered The Palate (not you, in a Being John Malkovich way; that would be weird) this year and, we have to say, some of the other suggested food and wine matches were memorable. Quarter Finalist Jerome, from Oxford, went wildly left-of-centre with his suggestion of ‘salted aardvark’ with Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2013 and Heather, from Aberdeen, broke new ground with her suggestion, ‘cantaloupe melon carved into the shape of a shark, swimming in a sea of lemon sorbet’. We’re reassured to see that you’re all just as mad as we are. Anyway, if you took part this year, we hope it left you with a renewed sense of how fun and unpretentious wine tasting can be. We reckon runner-up Robert Macaloney, from Glasgow, who won £300 to spend at Oddbins (“which was promptly cashed in the very next day”), summed it up nicely when he said: “I’ve always felt my tasting abilities were very, very average but I surprised myself throughout the competition in that I actually wasn’t too bad at all.”
    OK. You know how we’ve always said how pleasant and modest our Buyer, Ana, is? Yes well she’s not – she’s evil. Ana set the wines for the sparkling wine exam at The Palate Final and included Albert Bichot Crémant de Bourgogne Réserve Privée NV, which is really, really delicious. Just cruel. With its fine bubbles, crisp acidity and inflections of manuka honey and toast, it could easily pass for Champagne and is, therefore, darn tricky to answer questions on. As we say, pure evil. If you want to see just how demonic Ana and the other judges were, just have a look at our blog, and keep an eye on our website for The Palate video. Just have a sofa to hide behind. S’alls we’re saying.

    ‘Til next time.

  • THE PALATE 2014

    The Year of Men, Festivals and Red Trousers

    As he stepped away from the lectern, grinning from ear to ear, Steve Saunders – AKA The Palate 2014 – burst out "s**t, I’ve won a trip to Australia too!" Wine tasting isn't known for being overly emotional, but the fact that Steve was so overcome by winning The Palate title that he forgot all about the holiday, was pretty moving. Practically the only reason we didn’t cry with joy is because we happened to glance at our Managing Director’s trousers, which, as you can see, are very, very red.

    1 L-R Oddbins' Managing Director Ayo and his Trousers; The Palate 2014, Steve Saunders; and The Palate MC, Dave

    Steve has fought off (not physically; he’s a nice guy) over 21,000 hopefuls to win The Palate – our five-month long, wine-stained search to find the nation’s finest amateur wine taster.

    The fact that Steve, a dad-to-be from Bristol, has won is nice for a number of reasons. We’ll number them, because we’re cool like that: 1) He has been considering a career change into the wine industry, so this means a lot to him, 2) He is a man* 3) He did soooooooo much ‘homework’ (yes that means drinking tasting as well as reading) in preparation for The Final and 4) He is really lovely.

    *We aren’t sexist/weird, promise – we’re excited that Steve is a man because The Palate has been won by women for the past two years…

    Steve in full flow at The Final, presenting his food and wine match. Steve in full flow at The Final, presenting his food and wine match

     

    But what set him apart? What swayed the judges’ decision? Well, it was "a combination of incredibly high scores in the written tests and his brilliant presentation style, which was fresh, accurate and from the heart" according to Head Judge and Oddbins Buyer, Ana Sapungiu.

    Having taken in the abundance of prizes he’s won (a luxury holiday for two to Australia, the opportunity to choose a wine for Oddbins’ shelves, a magnum of Laurent-Pérrier Champagne and an engraved decanter), Steve graciously said: “I really had no idea how I’d do – there was such a range of people at the Final – all ages, from all over the country, with different levels of interest in and knowledge of wine.”

    “The Palate has been brilliant. For me, it has really broken down barriers and put a fresh spin on wine tasting."

    To re-cap, in case you’ve missed some of the back story, The Palate kicked off three years ago. 5,000 people took part and it produced a very shocked and humble winner in Fran Evans, from Crouch End. We ramped things up in 2013, with double the number of entrants, and a sassy winner in Chloe Dickson and, now here we stand with over 21, 0000 entrants. Many of these entered in our shops, but, for the first time, thousands entered at Taste of London Festival, The Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival, Northcote Road Fête, as well as farmers markets nationwide. The thinking? To bring competitive wine tasting to you. We want more people to realise, frankly, how easy it is, and to get stuck in.

    Judges Sarah Ahmed, Peter Ricahrds MW, Susie Barrie MW and Ana Sapungiu Judges Sarah Ahmed, Peter Ricahrds MW, Susie Barrie MW and Ana Sapungiu

     

    The process of getting from 21,000 to one winner is not easy, but it went something like this: there were two rounds of blind tastings, with progressively tricky questions about the wines. Just 64 people were left standing for the Semi Final Boot Camps, with four groups of 16, each with their own mentor who would later be a judge at the Final. Newcomer Sarah Ahmed was a fantastic, dynamic mentor, getting into her stride as ‘Tiger Mum’. The mentors’ approaches varied dramatically and they did their best to build their group’s knowledge and tasting skills, before picking four to go forward to be one of the 16 Finalists. As well as wanting to help the Semi Finalists, the fiercely competitive judges each wanted someone from their team to win The Palate, so that was an added incentive to train their mentees to the best of their abilities.

    Held at a swanky pants venue in Bloomsbury Square last Saturday, September 6, the Final was intense, to say the least. Judges Sarah Ahmed, a leading wine writer; wine power couple and MWs Susie Barrie and Peter Richards; and Oddbins Buyer Ana Sapungiu oversaw various challenges, including food and wine matching, blind tastings, oral presentations and a sparkling wine exam. Ranging from toe-curlingly nervous to quietly confident, it was great to see such a range of Finalists. They had varied experience, from beginners to wine tasting enthusiasts, came from far and wide – from Glasgow, Bristol, Brighton, London and Winchester – and ranged in age from 30 to 60.

    4 The Finalists, and Peter Richards MW, a-thinking and a-slurping

    All of which pleases us greatly, because there’s one reason why we do The Palate: to show that wine tasting is not an elite activity – it’s fun and anybody can do it. Anyway, we could wax lyrical about the whys and wherefores, but we’ll skip to the fun bits…

    Peter, who was Steve’s Boot Camp mentor, recited some original, wine-based poetry, while his wife and co-judge Susie busted out some Spice Girls songs. We ain’t kidding. In his blog, Peter attributes this to people’s "hunger to win… which pushed [us into it]" Well, we don’t know if it was the poetry what dunnit but Peter managed to produce a winner in Steve this year, which he was particularly pleased with as Susie has produced winners for the past two years. So, this year, Peter was (mentally) fist-punching the air to have a boy win. Peter said: “It felt sweet to have a boy win! No, of course it doesn’t matter really. The important thing is just giving people confidence. I would say, in that respect, women tend to be less sure than men so, jokes aside, it has been great to see women win The Palate so far and to see their confidence grow and grow.”

    Then there was the dramatic re-count during the eliminations, in which the judges decided to go back and look again at the score of Sue Bennett, who was then put through to the final part of the day. Sue, an Occupational Therapist from Balham, ended up coming second and winning a long weekend in Veneto, Italy, as well as a magnum of Amarone, courtesy of Tenuta Chiccheri.

    Runner-up Sue Bennetts, with her magnum of Amarone from Tenuta Chiccheri Runner-up Sue Bennett, with her magnum of Amarone from Tenuta Chiccheri

     

    Sue, who was under Susie’s tuneful tutelage at the Boot Camp, said: “It was such an amazing day – quite extraordinary. I tried to go in with an open mind and just enjoy the experience – I wasn’t expecting to go far at all, so to come second is incredible. I think I have grown over the course of The Palate.

    “But there isn’t really a right or a wrong with wine – it’s just about showing that you can appreciate the different elements involved, using a certain amount of rationale and creativity – and it’s good that the judging reflected that. Susie’s Boot Camp training definitely helped us to develop in that respect.”

    Sue was followed closely by Laura Martz, from Brighton, and Robert Macaloney, from Glasgow, who were each awarded £300 to spend at Oddbins for winning ‘Most Impressive Performance’. Mark Walker, from Chiswick, received the ‘Most Likely to Grow Further’ prize, winning a novice-professional training course courtesy of the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust (WSET).

    But, aside from the wine tasting, emotional ups and downs and dastardly challenges, there was one thing that really brought everyone together… and that was Ayo’s trousers. Let’s have another look:

    The Red Trousers. And Ayo. The Red Trousers. And Ayo.

    Known in the company for his ‘bold’ fashion choices, Ayo divides opinion. Some welcome the cheerful trousers and devil-may-care attitude to colour coordination, others do not. In his defence, Ayo said: “There’s nothing wrong with red trousers. Can we get back to The Palate please?! My trousers may be bold, but that’s as nothing compared to the effort put in by the Finalists this year.” Smooth segue, Ayo… Anyway, Odd Blogger has no intention of committing career suicide, so instead we’ll hand it over to you, reader, to settle the issue in the comments box below… as he can’t fire you.

    On a safer note, we’ll leave you with a final word from returning Finalist Charlotte Cobb, who wrote to us after the Final, saying: “I learnt so much – last year I wouldn't have been able to name a single grape variety, but this year I felt far more confident. I'm not stopping – I'm going to keep learning, keep going to tastings and do everything to better myself!”

    The mum-of-three, who suffered from a migraine on the day but battled through it anyway, said: “Without The Palate I would never have had the spark to try my hand at this; I would have felt far too dumb and, not being a working woman, I would have felt very out of my depth with all the fantastic contestants you get on The Palate.”

    Well, Charlotte, everybody is capable, you were great and you can do it – go for it!

    This post was written while drinking: Bichot Crémant de Bourgogne Reserve Privée NV. This was a naughty one to put in the sparkling wine exam. Why? It practically passes for Champagne and even our Palate winner, Steve, was gobsmacked to discover that it's from the neighbouring region, Burgundy, and is a lowly £17.50. With a copper and gold-inflected hue, it is unctuous and toasty, with an underpinning crisp acidity.

    The Year of Men, Festivals and Red Trousers

    As he stepped away from the lectern, grinning from ear to ear, Steve Saunders – AKA The Palate 2014 – burst out "s**t, I’ve won a trip to Australia too!" Wine tasting isn't known for being overly emotional, but the fact that Steve was so overcome by winning The Palate title that he forgot all about the holiday, was pretty moving. Practically the only reason we didn’t cry with joy is because we happened to glance at our Managing Director’s trousers, which, as you can see, are very, very red.

    1 L-R Oddbins' Managing Director Ayo and his Trousers; The Palate 2014, Steve Saunders; and The Palate MC, Dave

    Steve has fought off (not physically; he’s a nice guy) over 21,000 hopefuls to win The Palate – our five-month long, wine-stained search to find the nation’s finest amateur wine taster.

    The fact that Steve, a dad-to-be from Bristol, has won is nice for a number of reasons. We’ll number them, because we’re cool like that: 1) He has been considering a career change into the wine industry, so this means a lot to him, 2) He is a man* 3) He did soooooooo much ‘homework’ (yes that means drinking tasting as well as reading) in preparation for The Final and 4) He is really lovely.

    *We aren’t sexist/weird, promise – we’re excited that Steve is a man because The Palate has been won by women for the past two years…

    Steve in full flow at The Final, presenting his food and wine match. Steve in full flow at The Final, presenting his food and wine match

     

    But what set him apart? What swayed the judges’ decision? Well, it was "a combination of incredibly high scores in the written tests and his brilliant presentation style, which was fresh, accurate and from the heart" according to Head Judge and Oddbins Buyer, Ana Sapungiu.

    Having taken in the abundance of prizes he’s won (a luxury holiday for two to Australia, the opportunity to choose a wine for Oddbins’ shelves, a magnum of Laurent-Pérrier Champagne and an engraved decanter), Steve graciously said: “I really had no idea how I’d do – there was such a range of people at the Final – all ages, from all over the country, with different levels of interest in and knowledge of wine.”

    “The Palate has been brilliant. For me, it has really broken down barriers and put a fresh spin on wine tasting."

    To re-cap, in case you’ve missed some of the back story, The Palate kicked off three years ago. 5,000 people took part and it produced a very shocked and humble winner in Fran Evans, from Crouch End. We ramped things up in 2013, with double the number of entrants, and a sassy winner in Chloe Dickson and, now here we stand with over 21, 0000 entrants. Many of these entered in our shops, but, for the first time, thousands entered at Taste of London Festival, The Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival, Northcote Road Fête, as well as farmers markets nationwide. The thinking? To bring competitive wine tasting to you. We want more people to realise, frankly, how easy it is, and to get stuck in.

    Judges Sarah Ahmed, Peter Ricahrds MW, Susie Barrie MW and Ana Sapungiu Judges Sarah Ahmed, Peter Ricahrds MW, Susie Barrie MW and Ana Sapungiu

     

    The process of getting from 21,000 to one winner is not easy, but it went something like this: there were two rounds of blind tastings, with progressively tricky questions about the wines. Just 64 people were left standing for the Semi Final Boot Camps, with four groups of 16, each with their own mentor who would later be a judge at the Final. Newcomer Sarah Ahmed was a fantastic, dynamic mentor, getting into her stride as ‘Tiger Mum’. The mentors’ approaches varied dramatically and they did their best to build their group’s knowledge and tasting skills, before picking four to go forward to be one of the 16 Finalists. As well as wanting to help the Semi Finalists, the fiercely competitive judges each wanted someone from their team to win The Palate, so that was an added incentive to train their mentees to the best of their abilities.

    Held at a swanky pants venue in Bloomsbury Square last Saturday, September 6, the Final was intense, to say the least. Judges Sarah Ahmed, a leading wine writer; wine power couple and MWs Susie Barrie and Peter Richards; and Oddbins Buyer Ana Sapungiu oversaw various challenges, including food and wine matching, blind tastings, oral presentations and a sparkling wine exam. Ranging from toe-curlingly nervous to quietly confident, it was great to see such a range of Finalists. They had varied experience, from beginners to wine tasting enthusiasts, came from far and wide – from Glasgow, Bristol, Brighton, London and Winchester – and ranged in age from 30 to 60.

    4 The Finalists, and Peter Richards MW, a-thinking and a-slurping

    All of which pleases us greatly, because there’s one reason why we do The Palate: to show that wine tasting is not an elite activity – it’s fun and anybody can do it. Anyway, we could wax lyrical about the whys and wherefores, but we’ll skip to the fun bits…

    Peter, who was Steve’s Boot Camp mentor, recited some original, wine-based poetry, while his wife and co-judge Susie busted out some Spice Girls songs. We ain’t kidding. In his blog, Peter attributes this to people’s "hunger to win… which pushed [us into it]" Well, we don’t know if it was the poetry what dunnit but Peter managed to produce a winner in Steve this year, which he was particularly pleased with as Susie has produced winners for the past two years. So, this year, Peter was (mentally) fist-punching the air to have a boy win. Peter said: “It felt sweet to have a boy win! No, of course it doesn’t matter really. The important thing is just giving people confidence. I would say, in that respect, women tend to be less sure than men so, jokes aside, it has been great to see women win The Palate so far and to see their confidence grow and grow.”

    Then there was the dramatic re-count during the eliminations, in which the judges decided to go back and look again at the score of Sue Bennett, who was then put through to the final part of the day. Sue, an Occupational Therapist from Balham, ended up coming second and winning a long weekend in Veneto, Italy, as well as a magnum of Amarone, courtesy of Tenuta Chiccheri.

    Runner-up Sue Bennetts, with her magnum of Amarone from Tenuta Chiccheri Runner-up Sue Bennett, with her magnum of Amarone from Tenuta Chiccheri

     

    Sue, who was under Susie’s tuneful tutelage at the Boot Camp, said: “It was such an amazing day – quite extraordinary. I tried to go in with an open mind and just enjoy the experience – I wasn’t expecting to go far at all, so to come second is incredible. I think I have grown over the course of The Palate.

    “But there isn’t really a right or a wrong with wine – it’s just about showing that you can appreciate the different elements involved, using a certain amount of rationale and creativity – and it’s good that the judging reflected that. Susie’s Boot Camp training definitely helped us to develop in that respect.”

    Sue was followed closely by Laura Martz, from Brighton, and Robert Macaloney, from Glasgow, who were each awarded £300 to spend at Oddbins for winning ‘Most Impressive Performance’. Mark Walker, from Chiswick, received the ‘Most Likely to Grow Further’ prize, winning a novice-professional training course courtesy of the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust (WSET).

    But, aside from the wine tasting, emotional ups and downs and dastardly challenges, there was one thing that really brought everyone together… and that was Ayo’s trousers. Let’s have another look:

    The Red Trousers. And Ayo. The Red Trousers. And Ayo.

    Known in the company for his ‘bold’ fashion choices, Ayo divides opinion. Some welcome the cheerful trousers and devil-may-care attitude to colour coordination, others do not. In his defence, Ayo said: “There’s nothing wrong with red trousers. Can we get back to The Palate please?! My trousers may be bold, but that’s as nothing compared to the effort put in by the Finalists this year.” Smooth segue, Ayo… Anyway, Odd Blogger has no intention of committing career suicide, so instead we’ll hand it over to you, reader, to settle the issue in the comments box below… as he can’t fire you.

    On a safer note, we’ll leave you with a final word from returning Finalist Charlotte Cobb, who wrote to us after the Final, saying: “I learnt so much – last year I wouldn't have been able to name a single grape variety, but this year I felt far more confident. I'm not stopping – I'm going to keep learning, keep going to tastings and do everything to better myself!”

    The mum-of-three, who suffered from a migraine on the day but battled through it anyway, said: “Without The Palate I would never have had the spark to try my hand at this; I would have felt far too dumb and, not being a working woman, I would have felt very out of my depth with all the fantastic contestants you get on The Palate.”

    Well, Charlotte, everybody is capable, you were great and you can do it – go for it!

    This post was written while drinking: Bichot Crémant de Bourgogne Reserve Privée NV. This was a naughty one to put in the sparkling wine exam. Why? It practically passes for Champagne and even our Palate winner, Steve, was gobsmacked to discover that it's from the neighbouring region, Burgundy, and is a lowly £17.50. With a copper and gold-inflected hue, it is unctuous and toasty, with an underpinning crisp acidity.

  • THE GREEN LIGHT

    This week we’re putting on our worst clothes, picking up the secateurs and tackling nature head-on (OK we swept the patio but it felt gooood). Casting an eye around the five metre square patch of land that we aspiringly call ‘the garden’, our thoughts turned to the environment and its conspicuous absence from discussion in parliament and in the press. According to Nasa, 97% of scientists agree that global warming is caused by human activity and something needs to be done about it fast. However, our government seems about as concerned as an Andy Murray on a strong anaesthetic. Wakey wakey, smell the bakey! Anyway, long story short, this week we are inviting you to join as we go green… by drinking cider?
    Jawohl, you hear right. The chain reaction goes thus: 1) You pick up our new Planet Bee Cider (£2.50) 2) 25% of the profits go to Friends of the Honey Bee, which funds research and educational programs helping to preserve and restore the bee populations so vital to our country’s ecosystem and 3) You save the world! So, if any po-faced eejit questions your cider consumption, just tell them you’re saving the world. You may, at this stage, also want to know what it tastes like. Fair enough. It’s essentially a bottled autumnal apple orchard, rich and pure-fruited, with brilliant intensity and depth. Serve it with a mature Cheddar and a fruity chutney and whack on The Wurzels for West Country heaven.
    You may have heard the news on the BBC that ‘greenhouse gases from food production will go up by 80% if meat and dairy consumption continues to rise at its current rate’. You may now, therefore, be wondering around your local wholefood shop in pursuit of lentils. So, as you turn to nut roasts and beans on toast (joking, joking, we know there are many delicious and nutritious vegan meals out there), why not celebrate your new, dairy-free ways with a bottle of the vegan dream that is Semeli Feast Red (£8.50). Hailing from modern-day Sparta, it is a cherry, berry and cedar-flavoured wine, made with the Agiorgitiko grape (which translates as St George), by Leonidas Nassiakos, who is one of the leading vintners in the Peloponnese. And you thought the Spartans were a blood-thirsty bunch…
    Oddbins’ Head of Operations, Paul, does not like the colour green. Whilst we cannot agree with him on this irrational hue-aversion, we can empathise, as the mere fact of being vegetarian, vegan, organic or biodynamic does not necessarily have any effect on the flavour of the wine. They may, coincidentally, be delicious, like the bright, fruit-driven – and totally organic – Canard-Duchêne Green Champagne. Now, we turn to the topic of sulphites, which is an unpleasant quagmire, over which we lay the following bridge: sulphites are naturally occurring in all wines. What we can say, is that the amount of sulphur used has decreased and it is in the producer’s best interests to use only enough sulphites as is needed to protect the wine. Finally, if you are new to animal-free living, then you may not be aware that wine can be non-vegetarian/vegan at all and may, eek, still be buying wine made with animal products. Egg whites, fish bladders and, historically, even ox blood can be used to clarify wines, but vegetarian clarifying agents such as bentonite are increasingly common these days – and these wines are often (but not necessarily) marked up with a green ‘V’ on the label. So you may want to look at our vegetarian and vegan selections on Oddbins.com and in our shops – just ask our staff.

    Now, dismounting our soapbox, picking up a glass of Canard-Duchêne Green Champagne and relaxing under the wisteria (we wish), we bid you adieu and many happy, green times.

    This week we’re putting on our worst clothes, picking up the secateurs and tackling nature head-on (OK we swept the patio but it felt gooood). Casting an eye around the five metre square patch of land that we aspiringly call ‘the garden’, our thoughts turned to the environment and its conspicuous absence from discussion in parliament and in the press. According to Nasa, 97% of scientists agree that global warming is caused by human activity and something needs to be done about it fast. However, our government seems about as concerned as an Andy Murray on a strong anaesthetic. Wakey wakey, smell the bakey! Anyway, long story short, this week we are inviting you to join as we go green… by drinking cider?
    Jawohl, you hear right. The chain reaction goes thus: 1) You pick up our new Planet Bee Cider (£2.50) 2) 25% of the profits go to Friends of the Honey Bee, which funds research and educational programs helping to preserve and restore the bee populations so vital to our country’s ecosystem and 3) You save the world! So, if any po-faced eejit questions your cider consumption, just tell them you’re saving the world. You may, at this stage, also want to know what it tastes like. Fair enough. It’s essentially a bottled autumnal apple orchard, rich and pure-fruited, with brilliant intensity and depth. Serve it with a mature Cheddar and a fruity chutney and whack on The Wurzels for West Country heaven.
    You may have heard the news on the BBC that ‘greenhouse gases from food production will go up by 80% if meat and dairy consumption continues to rise at its current rate’. You may now, therefore, be wondering around your local wholefood shop in pursuit of lentils. So, as you turn to nut roasts and beans on toast (joking, joking, we know there are many delicious and nutritious vegan meals out there), why not celebrate your new, dairy-free ways with a bottle of the vegan dream that is Semeli Feast Red (£8.50). Hailing from modern-day Sparta, it is a cherry, berry and cedar-flavoured wine, made with the Agiorgitiko grape (which translates as St George), by Leonidas Nassiakos, who is one of the leading vintners in the Peloponnese. And you thought the Spartans were a blood-thirsty bunch…
    Oddbins’ Head of Operations, Paul, does not like the colour green. Whilst we cannot agree with him on this irrational hue-aversion, we can empathise, as the mere fact of being vegetarian, vegan, organic or biodynamic does not necessarily have any effect on the flavour of the wine. They may, coincidentally, be delicious, like the bright, fruit-driven – and totally organic – Canard-Duchêne Green Champagne. Now, we turn to the topic of sulphites, which is an unpleasant quagmire, over which we lay the following bridge: sulphites are naturally occurring in all wines. What we can say, is that the amount of sulphur used has decreased and it is in the producer’s best interests to use only enough sulphites as is needed to protect the wine. Finally, if you are new to animal-free living, then you may not be aware that wine can be non-vegetarian/vegan at all and may, eek, still be buying wine made with animal products. Egg whites, fish bladders and, historically, even ox blood can be used to clarify wines, but vegetarian clarifying agents such as bentonite are increasingly common these days – and these wines are often (but not necessarily) marked up with a green ‘V’ on the label. So you may want to look at our vegetarian and vegan selections on Oddbins.com and in our shops – just ask our staff.

    Now, dismounting our soapbox, picking up a glass of Canard-Duchêne Green Champagne and relaxing under the wisteria (we wish), we bid you adieu and many happy, green times.

  • BLACK SHEEP AND SHAKY STARTS

    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.

    Ciao.

    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.

    Ciao.

  • ART, USAIN BOLT AND THE FICKLENESS OF VALUE

    1 August, 2014

    Value 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.

    1 August, 2014

    Value 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.

  • WE ARE ALL ARTISTS

    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.

    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.
  • THE FUTURE

    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 [1].

    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[2] 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[3]. 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.

    Tschühüüs.

    ____________________________________________________

    1. Willkommen in der zukunft = welcome to the future
    2. Geld = money
    3. Kraftwerk = nutty electronic music pioneers

    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 [1].

    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[2] 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[3]. 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.

    Tschühüüs.

    ____________________________________________________

    1. Willkommen in der zukunft = welcome to the future
    2. Geld = money
    3. Kraftwerk = nutty electronic music pioneers
  • FOOTBALL LOVE, FOOTBALL HATE, FOOT WHAT?

    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…

    Mari

    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.

    FOX

    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:

    1. Purchase a pair of wines that are up against each other (wine matching explanations here; wine and fixtures here)
    2. Taste the wines at home. (This is easier with four friends or relatives).
    3. 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
    4. 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.*
    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

    DES OLLIEUXThirdly, 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.

    Go football!

    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…

    Mari

    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.

    FOX

    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:

    1. Purchase a pair of wines that are up against each other (wine matching explanations here; wine and fixtures here)
    2. Taste the wines at home. (This is easier with four friends or relatives).
    3. 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
    4. 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.*
    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

    DES OLLIEUXThirdly, 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.

    Go football!

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