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  • JANUARY FUN WINE DISCOUNTS AT ODDBINS 2014

    January Fun Wine Discounts at Oddbins 2014

    This time last year Oddbins brought you the now infamous January Love Wine Discounts 2013 for mothers, Germans, redheads and those ever popular bankers and journalists. Our theme in January 2013 was “LOVE” and we were attempting to start the year by spreading some love to people who we felt hadn’t received the love they deserved in 2012.

    The response was almost unanimously and gloriously loving, with the exception of one gentleman, let’s call him Jeff. Jeff made a formal complaint on account of not fitting into any of the groups, but also because he had a sizeable chip on his shoulder, a sense of humour failure, way too much time on his hands and an unusual desire to give birth without having the appropriate genitals, which we can only assume was the result of unresolved, possibly oedipal, parental issues. Sorry, we Freudianly digress. Where were we? Oh yes…  Well, this January our discounts are back…

    Our theme for January 2014 is “FUN”. But it is difficult to have any fun when the country seems to be bound up in the negativity of our economic situation. Some things appear to linger indefinitely, outstaying their welcome and our boredom threshold, for other examples please see Plebgate, Miley Cyrus and would it be wrong to say UKIP? Mustard in the pantry? Seriously? You know women have been able to vote since 1918 and make up, give or take, 50% of the population, right?

    So we want to put the fun back and celebrate the people who will make 2014 joyful by carrying us, and our largely ineffectual politicians, up that unforgiving slope of recovery to the pinnacle of pleasure and merriment (please note that is not a smutty euphemism). Each weekend in January we will be offering a different select group a 10% discount off full price wines (including sparkling and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop. But who is capable of rescuing our economy and restoring the exuberance? We put our top people on the case to find out…

    The results were undeniable. Back off Jeff, we said they were undeniable. And these are the people we are backing to make 2014 a vintage year of fun and frivolity…

     

    Lovers: Friday 3 – Sunday 5 January 2014

    Lovers: Friday 3 – Sunday 5 January 2014

    A recent study showed that we in the UK aren’t having as much sex as we used to. A certain baker obviously didn’t get that memo. So we want to celebrate the lovers. Not the procession of love rats reported daily in the press like the transcript of some Jeremy Kyle show. For the record, Harry -ironic surname- Styles, Simon -shouldn’t it be easier to keep it inside those high waisted trousers- Cowell and Jermain Defoe, who Alexandra Burke, sensibly in our book, replaced “with Merlot”, need not apply. No, we want to celebrate the real lovers. And this is why…

    A lil’ lovin’ is not only excellent exercise, but it also boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure and risk of heart attacks, improves sleep and eases stress. So forget an apple a day, apparently the beast with two backs could reduce pressure on the NHS, make our workforce stronger, healthier and happier and help to rebalance our ageing population. Apparently the reasons for the UK’s currently limping libido are financial problems, unemployment and too much technology. Well, unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate since early 2009 (who would have thought Gideon could affect our sex lives? *involuntary full body shudder*), so to combat the other two our answer is: sell your technology to ease your monetary worries and get back down to doing the “bad thing”. Maybe a glass of wine would help get you in the mood? Just one mind, it is January and as Shakespeare advised the drink “provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.”

    So if you head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 3 and Sunday 5 January 2014 and can convince our staff that you are a lover, without resorting to smut, nudity or depravity, you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* Not sure how to go about it? Why not bring your partner with you? Flash that photo in your wallet? Show us that late night text sent just because you missed each other? Who knows, we might even believe you if you come back in wearing the same clothes as the previous night!

    Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH PASSION.”

     

    Engineers: Friday 10 – Sunday 12, January 2014

    Engineers: Friday 10 – Sunday 12, January 2014

    OK, we know we told you to sell your technology in the previous section, but we lied, we’re fickle like that, we just wanted to demonstrate the absurdity of smartphone internet browsing as an alternative to foreplay. We love technology. Well not all of it, hence why you will never have unexpected items in your bagging area at Oddbins or have your wine delivered using a method which has had its accuracy called into question by Pakistan (do you really want your online orders to land on a neighbouring school?), but we are amazed by most of it.

    Human invention is rapidly changing the world: the Gastric-Brooding Frog will soon be resurrected from extinction to once more literally spew forth its babies on to this earth, 3D printing will revolutionise the drunken office party, buildings like The Shard pop up on our skyline almost overnight and may disappear just as quickly if South Korea’s Infinity Tower is anything to go by and who knows we may even find out what-in-the-blazes a Higg’s Boson actually is. We would love to get our puny appendages on the James Dyson Award-winning Titan Arm to allow us to carry more wine for you. We are super excited about mayoral theme park: Boris Island. Iran sent a monkey into space and it came back completely different, which added weight to the moon landing conspiracy theories, because those guys came back the same. Our imagination and inventiveness seem to know no bounds: cronuts, duffins, OK maybe that’s the end of Franken-pastries, well let’s hope it is before someone combines a Malaysian “curry puff” with the walnut and honey packed “nunt”. We jest of course, but on a serious note the future of the UK lies in development, ingenuity and creativity. Even former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, a man rumoured to have bought 38,000 menthol cigarettes just in case the EU tried to ban them and so obviously knows a thing or two about forward planning, says that Britain needs more engineers, there must be some irony it that…

    So if you are an engineer, engineering student or inventor head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 10 and Sunday 12 January 2014, prove it to our staff and you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* You can prove it by showing us your business card, your student card or text books if you are an engineering student or simply by telling us about a project that you are working on.

    Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH INNOVATION.”

     

    Teachers: Friday 17 – Sunday 19, January 2014

    Teachers: Friday 17 – Sunday 19, January 2014

    Question: How do people become superhero engineers capable of improving our economic fortunes? Answer: They need superhero teachers. In August we wrote a blog post offering to give away ten cases of wine to teachers who inspired you. The number of responses we received? Zero. But we will not be deterred in our admiration of educators…

    Apologies if we get a bit heavy for a moment, but we believe that teachers mould our lives and through them we learn to appreciate the world around us. Some of our favourite teacher moments of the year were reading about a teacher who took a student to basecamp on Everest, a teacher who confiscated a phone from a student and returned it with a selfie of himself and two colleagues, Jeremy Paxman asking Tristram Hunt the same question five times and still failing to get an answer (did you feel his pain teachers?), physics exam questions that start “Justin Bieber is thrown horizontally at 10m/s from the top of cliff 122.5m high…” and “Yo momma’s so fat that objects 5m away accelerate at 1m/s² toward her…”, the website www.thankateacher.co.uk, Channel 4’s Educating Yorkshire that on paper appeared to be a painful mockumentary but through the power of good teaching produced one of the feel good highlights of the year and The Guardian’s Secret Teacher’s suggestion of Ofsted inspections for nativity plays because “this unnecessary frivolity is having a direct and catastrophic impact on our position in international league tables.” We should be doing everything we can to prevent the steady exodus of teachers, they should not be scapegoats for politicians, prey for the tabloid press or an excuse for poor parenting. We should appreciate them because we need them, they teach us to appreciate everything else. And life is way more fun if you have the slightest Scooby Doo how any of it works!

    So if you are a teacher or lecturer head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 17 and Sunday 19 January 2014, prove it to our staff and you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* You could prove it by showing your union membership if you are a member, you elbow patches if you are a geography teacher or we'll happily probe you on some subjects that we remember from school.

     Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH APPRECIATION.”

     

    Brewers: Friday 24 – Sunday 26, January 2014

    Brewers: Friday 24 – Sunday 26, January 2014

    The first rule of Oddbins Fun Club is: if you don’t like wine, there’s beer and it is also awesome. Drinking anything that wasn’t lager used to put you in the beards, cardigans and boring brigade. Well recently beards, cardigans and boring (read geeky) became hip, and with it so did drinking good beer, with a little help from the most unexpected of places: America. We can argue the toss over what a craft beer is, but we can all agree that the revolution, like it or not, started in the more forward thinking areas of the US. Did you know that studies have shown a positive correlation between the concentration of microbreweries and the likelihood of that area voting for Barack Obama? Need more celebrity endorsement? Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzenegger declared: “When you grow up you have to drink beer.” And supermodel Christy “Fatso” Turlington admitted: “I have a beer belly.” Looking down at our own paunch, we think our own love of beer may be growing more rapidly than Ms Turlington’s…

    The number of breweries in the UK topped 1,000 in 2012 and another 187 were added to that total in 2013 (roughly 30 more than the previous year). Although craft beer only represents 0.5% of the total beer sales it is one of the rare areas showing growth in this country. And it doesn’t stop there, it has long been thought that agriculture and therefore modern civilisation started because of bread. Although we do love a slice of hot buttered rye bread toast with our rillettes, we were pleased to hear that a rogue group of presumably ale-loving scientists now believe that it was actually beer that kicked the whole thing off. We have accepted this hypothesis as fact and are proud to announce that all that is good about Britain was built on beer. And so shall it return if we continue to back craft brewers across this great nation.

    So if you are a brewer head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 24 and Sunday 26 January 2014 and you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* But because we realise that this is a relatively small group, anyone who comes in on this weekend can have 10% off the full price of any beer in our “local craft beer” range (ask staff for details).

    Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH FERMENTATION.”

     

    And finally, if anybody manages to pick up the discount every weekend and can prove it by way of receipts, then we have some bonus fun for them.

    *The above discounts are only applicable to full price wines. No further discount will be applied to items already on special offer.

  • TERRY'S TALES Part Five: Waking Up

    Welcome to Part Five of Terry's Tales. If you've missed any episodes, you can catch up with Part One herePart Two here, Part Three here or Part Four here.

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part Five: Waking Up

    Waking up, Terry thought something was different. He could see that the landscape before him had changed, quite considerably. He also noted that he was swinging back and forth in what, he was beginning to deduce, was a glass jar.

    His deductions, having taken some time to occur, had brought him up to speed with Gwinny, who was, he also now noted, standing in front of him, shouting her head off.

    “Wake up, you stupid ant, WAKE UP!”

    “Er,” Terry managed. They were indeed in a glass jar, accompanied by a panic-struck stick insect, a bay leaf and some cotton wool. He tuned back into the monologue streaming from Gwinny’s mouth: “… why did you go to sleep? Now this sodding human’s packed us in a sodding jar with a sodding stick insect and a sodding bay leaf and there’s sod all we can do about it!” The honeymoon period’s over then, thought Terry, before beginning a long, confused apology.

    The apology was still continuing when the swinging motion stopped and they were transferred, very carefully, by some enormous pink fingers, into a tank in a warm, dimly lit room that appeared, for some reason, to have a colourfully lit fir tree in the corner.

    By now immune to further changes in circumstance, Terry and Gwinny set about exploring their new habitat, as did the still panic-stricken stick insect. “I’m sorry, Gwinny, I didn’t know I was so tired.” “Oh that’s alright, I’m equally to blame,” she relented. “Anyway, we’re here now – why don’t we have a look around?” So they did. Curiously wondering over piles of cotton wool, partially soaked in milk, further bay leaves and artfully arranged pieces of bark, they stumbled on a very surprising sight indeed. There, on a large leaf, lay the Queen and her children.

    “What the…” exclaimed Terry, as the Queen looked away, whistling, and did her best to pretend she hadn’t seen them. “Wait, Terry, let’s not start a war. There’s only one tank, and we all have to share it. Let’s be the bigger ants,” said Gwinny, though the irony of who was literally the bigger ant wasn’t lost on her and she giggled despite herself. She picked up a piece of the milky cotton wool and carried it over to the Queen.

    “I thought your kids, I mean, their Highnesses, might like this,” she said gently.

    Not knowing how to arrange her face, the Queen said she was thankful and accepted Gwinny’s offer. Looking and feeling very contrite, she wasn’t sure what to say, but thought she’d attempt some conversation, saying “I think this human is something of a collector,” to which they all grimly nodded. Terry wasn’t quite as ready to bury the past, thought, and asked the Queen why she persecuted Talkers.

    Leaning forward, fiddling with her forelimbs, she said “I understand. You need answers.” And she proceeded to explain that, generations ago, there was a brother and a sister who could talk. This ability led them to fall out: the brother thought they should try to find a way to teach the colony to talk, but the sister thought that they were the Chosen ants, and the power should stay with them. She assumed power and banished her brother to prison, but didn’t realise that he had had children, who could also talk. When she discovered he had family, she undertook to eliminate them all, but didn’t succeed. “And, generations later, I have done my best to continue her work”, then, hanging her head, she added “but I may have been gravely mistaken.”

    “OK, I’ve got it. I don’t want to dwell on the past anymore ,” said Terry, “I want to think about the future, because the reality is that we are family, and I think we have a lot of mending to do. And the first step is to teach that colony to Talk.”

    Gwinny thrust her head between them, dusted her shoulder theatrically, and reminded Terry that they were, more specifically, a royal family.

    “So that’s what I intend on doing, as soon as I can find a way out of here” continued Terry. Looking at Gwinny, he feistily asked, “are you with me?” to which she nodded vigorously.

    Turning back to the Queen, he quizzically asked, “are you with me?” at which she raised, possibly for the first time in her life, a little smile. Which turned into a big smile and, looking at her children, proudly said, “we’re with you.”

    “That’s settled then! But there’s one thing I don’t get: how did your great grandmother put her brother in jail after he’d copulated? Copulation Means Extermination – we all know that.”

    “Of course, you don’t know,” said the Queen, looking like she had some very good news indeed. Terry sat there rigid, eyes bulging in anticipation.

    “Talkers don’t die.”

    “We don’t die?”

    “That’s right.”

    “We... Gwinny and I… can live?”

    “That’s right.”

    The thought struck him not with joy, strangely, but with a slight anguish. “But all this time! I thought it was hopeless and I accepted that it would never happen. And I was prepared to die in order to do it. And now…” Terry didn’t know what to feel. The same doubt and fearful confusion that he’d felt when he met Gwinny came flooding back even stronger. “But I can’t…”, now weeping.

    “Yes you can. And you will… and, frankly my dear, it will blow your mind. But,” noticing Terry’s face turning crimson, “enough of that now…”

    Then quite a different doubt entered his mind: “But, my father didn’t survive – he died after copulation.”

    “Ah, I heard about that – natural causes, Terence. He died of a heart attack.”

    “It’s Terry,” he muttered, abstractedly, as he looked at the fire place, and then at Gwinny, bathed in the amber glow of the flames and heard the humans shout something that sounded like Happy Christmas, before bursting into a rather pretty song about some merry gentlemen. He felt merry indeed, now, actually, very merry indeed…

    The End

     

    Images artfully crafted by Catalin Ardeleanu.

  • CHRISTMAS NUMBER ONE

    We are proud to introduce Oddbins Nº1...

    In November 1952, Italian crooner extraordinaire and future star of The Godfather, Al Martino, topped the first ever UK Singles Chart with the enormously forgettable Here In My Heart. It stagnated there on the top spot for nine whole weeks, thus becoming the first ever Christmas Number One.

    Al Martino

    The list of its successors over the past 50 years makes for fairly tortuous reading and even more painful listening. Mr Blobby, Bob the Builder, the Spice Girls three times, Cliff Richard the same, Paul McCartney eight times, Jimmy Osmond’s Long Haired Lover From Liverpool, Slade (perpetrators of the first cynical Christmas Number One-abe), Michael Jackson’s Earth Song described by San Jose Mercury News as “flat” and “whiny” and an almost never-ending procession of The X Factor protégés, who would go on to inevitably drop off the face of the earth after successfully ruining Christmas for everyone else.

    But this year Oddbins has released a potential Christmas Number One for the people. Before you worry that we have recorded Wine Aid by The Oddbinites, let us assure you that there is no singing involved; we are talking about a beer, a very special beer indeed…

    Over the last few years we have been quietly building up an extensive range of glorious beers from areas local to our shops. We are now working with over 50 breweries and cider makers from up and down the UK, including Rocky Head, Tempest, Bristol Beer Factory, Moncada, Redwillow, Pressure Drop, Beavertown, Old Dairy, Celt Experience, Fyne Ales, By The Horns, Cromarty and Kernel, to name just a tasty handful.

    One of our favourites is the East London Brewing Company, a husband and wife team who run a 10-barrel microbrewery in Leyton. While many of the new wave of brewers have gone down the route of making beers that spank and slap your taste buds around like they’ve taken the submissive role in Fifty Shades of Ale, ELB make beer with integrity, beer for drinking, beer for grown-ups. Their honest style has made them firm favourites amongst our customers and staff, and therefore the perfect choice for our inaugural craft beer collaboration. So we rounded up a posse (Oddbinites Sarah, Kaleigh, Cat and Dave) and headed down there to bash some spices, manhandle some hops and help make something beautiful…

    Oddbins Nº1 is a limited edition amber winter ale infused with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, orange peel, nutmeg and vanilla. For the beer geeks amongst you, it’s brewed with oats, Styrian Bobek hops from Slovenia and Pale, Maris Otter, Cara, Wheat and Crystal 150 malts. The result is an intensely aromatic brew that tastes like bottled Christmas: tangy orange and ginger marmalade, mulling spices, vanillary oak, lebkuchen, pfeffernüsse, stollen and a gentle hoppiness. For those who prefer beer to wine, it is the perfect partner for turkey and all the trimmings, farmhouse cheddar and mince pies or just for getting into that festive spirit. Available exclusively at Oddbins in selected shops (London and Scotland for the moment) for £2.95 a bottle or by the case in the beer section of Oddbins.com.

    Call it a hunch, but we don’t think that Nigella Lawson is going to release this Christmas’ bestselling cookbook and surely Jamie Oliver has his fingers in so many pies there isn’t a spare one to pen a recipe. So we’re going to take over the reins by releasing our first culinary experiment too, inspired by Oddbins Nº1. It’s very much our kind of recipe; three ingredients, one of which you are allowed to drink some of…

    Festive Spiced Beer Chocolate Mousse

    Makes 4 servings

    Ingredients

    • 200g Dark Chocolate
    • 125ml Oddbins Nº1
    • 300ml Double Cream

    Recipe

    1. Gently melt the chocolate in the beer.
    2. Whip cream until stiff.
    3. Gently fold chocolate mixture and cream together.
    4. Pour into 4 ramekins or glasses and chill.
    5. Drink the remaining beer immediately.

    To conclude, our advice is don’t waste your money on bad songs this Christmas. Make Oddbins your Christmas Number One, specifically Oddbins Nº1. And keep your eye out in the New Year for the next episode in our craft beer series. To be continued…

    This blog was written while drinking: Oddbins Nº1, Quadrant, Pale Ale and Nightwatchman from the delectable ELB Mixed Case. Grab one before we drink 'em all.

  • TERRY’S TALES Part Four: Thumbs Down

    Welcome to Part Four of Terry's Tales. If you've missed any episodes, you can catch up with Part One herePart Two here and Part Three here.

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part Four: Thumbs Down

    There they were: the Queen slumped and agog; Terry and Gwinny sparkly eyed and irreverently happy.

    After a word with her Lord Lieutenant (they had appointed themselves military titles after finding an old army register in the woods), the Queen regained her composure and a cool, surmising look spread across her face. Her previously concerned offspring, who lay, lazily, all around her, relaxed a little as their Mother regained her composure.

    “We are amused at one’s earnest outpouring,” she drooled, enjoying what she considered highly sardonic emphasis, “but we must arrive at the admittedly unfortunate occasion of your… extermination” the last word delivered with such bile even her litter shuddered.

    Looking from the rotund Queen, lolling in her lair, to the sycophantically approving Generals, to the terminally absent-minded colony beyond, Terry and Gwinny felt like the fun might be finally over. Barely hearing as the Queen gave the order for their removal, and the hideously sober reality hit home.

    Offering their heads up for the collars placed before them, they started and hunched suddenly to the ground as an almighty noise, rocked the entire chamber: a high-pitched, gurgling giggle, that made way for delighted tones, that sounded like “Daddy, I found a big ant hill,” as the roof began pitching in in great clods above them.

    The ensuing pandemonium saw the guards jumping in terror before pelting headlong to the nearest exits. Terry, now in full super hero mode, grabbed Gwinny’s arm and swept her with him towards a smallish side tunnel. “Quick!” he cried, grabbing her arm, and they hurried towards it.

    The roof was now pouring in on the Chamber and the bright sky opened up above them. Having reached the tunnel entrance, Terry and Gwinny turned back to watch it all collapse, only to see the intruder, grinning from ear to ear, greedily scoop up Her Royal Highness, hissing and helpless, for a thorough examination.

    Bursting out of the tunnel, they were greeted with a white landscape, the like of which they’d never seen before. Darting across the wintry scene, which was interrupted only by the snow-covered fir trees and a lark, rising up into the sky above them, they made for the shelter of some nearby gorse. Here they allowed themselves to pause for breath, and did so, with considerable relief.

    Evening was falling and the forest air was cool and refreshing after the hot chaos of the inner chamber. Leant up against the trunk of the bush, Terry allowed himself to reflect. As far as days go, it had been pretty eventful. That morning he had awoken in turmoil, believing it unwise to confuse his steady life with women and now here he was, the colony prodded and poked to oblivion, with Gwinny by his side. All his life, he’d lived in placid acquiescence. Why? But it didn’t bother him now as he gazed out over the snow, watching the hill continue to fall in on itself; he was simply amazed at his own complacency. Deep in these thoughts, he nodded off, into an instant slumber.

    Read Part Five by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Catalin Ardeleanu.

  • TERRY'S TALES Part Three: Trouble at the Hill

    Welcome to Part Three of Terry's Tales. If you've missed any episodes, you can catch up with Part One here and Part Two here.

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part Three: Trouble at the Hill

    Full of life and love and the promise of excitement, he charged out of his tunnel only to find her entertaining a few off-duty workers with a coy dance routine outside on the path. But when she saw Terry, deranged and wide-eyed, still clutching his tea, she went weak and collapsed in laughter for a second time. This wasn’t what he’d wanted, but he didn’t care anymore. “Mrs, er, Miss.. er, we should copulate!” Again, not what he’d wanted to say, but not to worry. Laughter petering out, she told him that sounded like a lovely proposition, but maybe they ought to have some tea first. So they walked off, femur in femur. “Gwinny,” she said. “Terry,” he replied. “How’d you do?”

    No sooner had they got in the door of Terry’s nest, talking animatedly now – Terry, loosening up in a way that was a marvel to him – than they heard something odd. It started off low, like an underground humming, but it grew louder and more discernible, until they recognised it for what it was: the inexorable thud, thud, thud of a thousand footsteps.

    Quaking, as the noise reached fever pitch and then stopped outside their door, they knew they must have come for them. They’d been careless and Terry was grief-stricken with the thought that it was going to happen again; that his clumsiness was going to result in the death of another woman whom he loved.

    Illustration by Catalin Ardeleanu

    They looked at each other as the General kicked down the door: Terry, amazingly, still holding his tea, and Gwinny, unrecognisably vulnerable. But, however frightened he might have been, the sight of Gwinny, cowering like that made Terry swell with indignation and blind anger. What came next was a surprise to them both, but he reared up on his hind tarsi and roared,

    “You pathetic, miserable cowards!,” gesticulating wildly, “look what you’ve done to Gwinny!”

    Well, even as they came marching towards them, Gwinny felt exhilarated and thought her chest would just burst with pride. “Isn’t he wonderful?” She gleefully said to the soldier escorting her out by the femur, “I think I rather like him!”

    On hearing this, Terry suddenly became flushed with the knowledge that he didn’t care if he lived or died, as long as he experienced love, and so he waltzed merrily along, as the grim-faced guards thudded on. Catching Gwinny’s eye, and seeing she was equally jubilant, he couldn’t have been happier.

    Illustration by Catalin Ardeleanu

    All of which meant that, when they arrived at the Queen’s Chambers, much to Her Majesty’s displeasure, they were grinning from ear to ear like a couple of naughty school children. Not convinced that the gravity of the situation had quite struck them, the Queen shifted in her nest, white rage flashing across her eyes.

    “Do you mock me?” She eventually bellowed.

    “You, Ma’am? No, Ma’am!” offered Terry, amiably.

    “Then what do you mean by this?”

    “Well Ma’am, I just don’t care anymore! This whole colony is ridiculous! And I’ve got this beautiful ant by my side, who makes me very happy. And the fact is, we can Talk, which is a joy. We can chew the cud or float off on whimsical flights of fancy and, in doing so, we connect, you see! It’s just wonderful, isn’t it? We’re not revolutionaries – we rather like the established order – we just want to be able to lose our selves in conversation if we feel like it.”

    Boggle-eyed and with a mood perched somewhere between rage and incredulity, the Queen sat, slumped, for quite some time.

    Read Part Four by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Catalin Ardeleanu.

  • TERRY'S TALES Part Two: The Lady Killers

    Welcome to Part Two of Terry's Tales. If you missed Part One, you can catch up here.

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part Two: The Lady Killers

    If he was honest with himself, Terry knew that there was a bigger reason, lurking below the surface, for his outburst. It was the profound anxiety suffered by every male in the colony, that none of them could talk about (in fairness, Terry thought, they can’t talk): that to copulate was to die. Copulation Means Extermination, as his dear old Ma used to chirp.

    Making the tea back in his tunnel the next morning, the rain beat down outside and he put an old record on and stood, inert, as the steam billowed from the kettle.

    “Oh to be an ant!” He thought, pitifully. What other creatures must choose between having sex and dying, and never Doing the Deed? Birds do it. Bees do it. Even bloody humans do it. A cruel joke, that one.

    It had never bothered him before – he’d taken it as life’s lot, as he had done with being a Talker – but it seemed to bother him rather a lot now. Why? “May the Queen have Mercy, I like her.” Admitting it was a relief. “I like her, but I don’t want to die… I like her but I don’t want to die,” he glumly mused. Settling into his chair and stretching out, he thought of his Ma again.  She’d never regretted sex, even though the old man had quickly snuffed it.

    “It’s part of life, son,” she had soothingly told him, never one to make a fuss unduly. Terry had always admired her stoicism and twinkle of naughty humour, however bad things were  – she wore life lightly and he tried to do the same. But thinking of her now, of how her short time in the colony was ended so brutally and mercilessly, he could not muster the same lightness and he could not escape the stifling sense of guilt.

    It had happened on Terry’s first week birthday, when he was officially presented to the colony at the weekly Initiation Ceremony for new arrivals, attended by the Queen. Wearing her best attire, antennae bristling with pride, Terry’s Ma took her young son along to the Inner Sanctum, adjacent to the Queen’s chambers. But, on the lap of honour with the other arrivals, Terry, still lacking in co-ordination, tripped up and plunged face-first into the neatly-raked soil. Having been sternly warned by his Ma that morning not to speak in front of anyone, least of all the Queen, Terry held back the cry of mild expletives running through his head, but it was his Ma who made the fatal mistake. “Terry!” she’d cried as he fell. The march stopped, a thousand ant heads swivelled in unison in her direction. She made no move and no further sounds but, as the Queen shrieked instructions for her to be taken off to the gallows, she looked at Terry and winked. Though now blinded by tears, he winked back, and smiled. And then she was gone.

    And it was then that Terry realised that it was the Queen and the Generals, and they alone, who were supposed to talk. His Ma had always warned him that they hated speaking, though she didn’t know why, and now the depressing consequences were crystal clear to this young orphan.

    Shell-shocked and trembling, Terry saw that the room’s attention had now turned to him and, before he could think, a severe-looking General was standing before him, watching him with scientific scrutiny. “What’s your name, ant?” Terry looked as blank as he could. “Your name!!” Summoning as much dullness in his eyes as he could, Terry looked blankly up and continued his silence. Cogs churning, the General, not quite as intelligent as he imagined himself, was satisfied that Terry was not a talker. So it was that he escaped death and began his lonely path in colony life.

    Presently, Terry noticed that the rain had stopped and the temperature had picked up a little. He put down his now cold tea and walked to the window. His Pa had sacrificed it all for love and neither he nor his Ma had thought twice about it. The romance of it softened Terry’s mood and he made up his mind in a flash. “They’re right. They are so right! Living just isn’t living without loving!” And, with that, he grabbed his coat, headed out into the rain and resolved on finding this mystery ant, wherever she was.

    Read Part Three by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Cat Ardeleanu.

  • TERRY'S TALES Part One: Down The Rabbit Hole

    Prologue by Mother Christmas

    Hello there. I’m Mother Christmas, not sure if we’ve been formally introduced? Obviously I already know everything about you, especially vis-à-vis your levels of naughty/niceness, but that’s beside the point. Some of you may be aware that my husband was involved in an awful antler-based accident and has been rendered incapacitated for the festive period. Rather than calling the whole thing off, I have taken hold of the reins (I was doing the majority of the heavy lifting anyway) and have teamed up with Oddbins to deliver the best Christmas ever. I’ve also taken over their Twitter feed, which is far more fun than mucking out the reindeer. Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yes, I remember…

    The other day the elves and I were chilling (sorry that was just a bit of North Pole-based humour). We’d just sweated out the troubles of the working day via the medium of Bikram Yoga, and the conversation was doing its usual progression from ways to economise on wrapping paper to ribbon curling techniques and on to bubble wrap versus those polystyrene things that we don’t really know the name of. Then we got on to what we would do if we weren’t in the festive fulfilment industry…

    Eerikki (head elf of the Wooden Toy Department) said he’d like to audition for Willow The Musical. Lyyti (Gift Tags Department), bored with children’s toys, coveted a career in the adult toy market. We moved swiftly on from that bombshell. Honestly, I almost choked on my sea buckthorn herbal infusion. Mikko (Dolls and Figurines) has been distilling his own moonshine during the quiet months and yearned to start exporting. Tarja (Elf and Safety) inspired by Tariq Knight aspired to become a magician. And finally, one of our Gift Coverage Analysts, who wished to remain anonymous, so let’s call her J.K. Wrapping, wanted to be a writer. A little elf with big dreams.

    Well, as I’m sure you’re aware, Mother Christmas loves to make dreams come true. So right here on the Oddbins Blog I am publishing J.K. Wrapping's work. So have a read for yourself, this is the first of an epic five parter…

     

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part One: Down the Rabbit Hole

    “Now there’s a thing,” thought Terry. “There is certainly a thing.” Terry was looking up at the blossomy, billowing clouds, way, way above the pine tops, way above the rich, sweetly earthy ant hill and certainly way above his rather perplexed head.

    Rather uncharacteristically, Terry was ambling. He’d always been a sturdy sort of ant – happy to throw himself into whatever work the colony threw at him, thriving on the community spirit and the wholesomeness of it all. The fact that he was different to the rest of the colony – and the fact that he knew there was no way he could or should share this with them – didn’t deter him. He was a stoic, sanguine, albeit occasionally weary, ant.

    But he had just been thrown a considerable curveball and was ambling, not marching, on his way back to the colony. He was deep in reverie and had only just enough sense of mind to hold onto the bark with which he’d laboured all day.

    The catalyst for Terry’s abstracted state? He’d met someone like himself. Another… another Talker. In a flash, his muddlement changed to delight, an enormous grin spread across his face and he developed a decided spring in his step. For the first time in years he was actually happy! He was thrilled! All of a sudden the world took on a keener, more tangible quality and the events of the day began to race through his brain.

    She had walked past him just after lunch, given him a wink and said, cheekily, under her breath, “Afternoon”. It took Terry a while to realise what had happened and he busily carried on gnawing on the bark that was proving tough.

    Then, mid-bite, the thought hit him like a dumbbell: she had spoken. She had bloody well said “Afternoon”! How sweet, how tantalising it sounded, after not having heard words uttered since his dear old Ma had passed over (Ant on High, rest her soul). But his joy was interrupted by panic as he wondered if any other ants had noticed? He knew they couldn’t understand Words, but they sure hated it when they thought they were being used. Breaking rank with the dozy column of workers, Terry went to have a sit down.

    He wiped the cold sweat from his brow and was beginning to calm down when he spotted her walking sassily towards him.For Pete’s sake,” Terry murmured nervously.

    This time she sidled up beside Terry, stretched her front tibia out seductively and said “Words: they’re sexy aren’t they?” They really are, thought Terry, now in quite a state.

    But the thing about Terry was that he had lived in quiet isolation, thinking he was the only ant in the colony who could talk, for the best part of his adult life. His excitement began to drain away and he began to feel terribly discombobulated. Who was this ant – this woman? What right did she have to interrupt his day talking about the sexiness of words? He found himself, much to his surprise, angrily shouting these questions at her.

    To Terry’s dismay, however, his enquiries were not met with answers, but with an ant almost catatonic with laughter. She was heaving and weeping with amusement that was exacerbated every time she saw Terry’s agitated face. She eventually staggered off, leaving Terry to swim in a soup of consternation and disbelief.

    It was late evening by the time Terry re-joined the homeward-bound column. Earnestly but unsuccessfully trying to make sense of the surreal chain of events, he distinctly felt like he wasn’t heading back to the ant hill but down the rabbit hole…

    Read Part Two by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Cat Ardeleanu.

  • ASTER LA VISTA, BABY

    Guest Blogger Dave Groves (Manager of Oddbins Crouch End) visits Rioja in July 2013

    The first of our guest bloggers, Dave Groves, the Manager of Oddbins Crouch End, re-lives the thrills and spills of a trip to Rioja, where he tried some unforgettable wines and met some unforgettable creatures…

     

    At home, in north London, around midday, a report on the radio of delays to flights across southern England, due to a computer failure at Air Traffic Control, cast an ominous shadow over proceedings. Ours was supposed to be a short, sharp, slurp, sip and spit (maybe), in-and-out type of trip. Any major delays in getting there just wouldn’t work with our schedule...

    At 4pm, I headed off to Heathrow to meet the rest of the gang as planned, hoping that the ATC issues would be resolved. They were – excellent news. However, one member of the gang was at the wrong airport, Gatwick – not so excellent news. One high speed, inter-airport dash in a taxi later and the five of us: Thom from Oddbins Crouch End, Lucy, Lewis from Oddbins West Hampstead and me, were ready for action. We were joined by our guide, Andrew, who was to accompany us around La Rioja Alta, whose wineries make our Aster Ribera del Duero (£11.75), Lat 42 Rioja (£11.75), La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 (£35), Viña Alberdi Reserva Rioja (£15.75) Viña Ardanza Rioja and One Ribera del Duera.

    After a short flight, we emerged from baggage reclaim to find ourselves snuggled up close in a nice air-conditioned Mercedes – albeit without the requested Sat Nav.  Thom, the tallest of our gang, was in the hot seat up-front and, thenceforth, assumed the title Tom-Tom. Aiming us south of Bilbao at near warp speed, our very own Tom-Tom soon set us on our way. In Andrews’s hands, our Merc gave the Millennium Falcon a run for its money down the Kessel Run [that’s Star Wars speak for a really fast spaceship – Ed].

    Approaching Rioja, we stopped in a layby to get some directions. Lewis had wondered off to stretch his legs when he suddenly shouted ‘snake!!’ He’d very nearly trodden on a (possibly) deadly serpent. We all rapidly fumbled for our cameras and other gadgets, whilst in pursuit of this (probably) deadly snake, trying to get a snap…

    The (possibly) deadly snake

    After we’d had some smelling salts and fanned ourselves a little, Francisco, our wonderful, gracious host, came out to meet us in front of the La Rioja Alta winery. He then took us in to what would be our digs for the next two nights, at the magnificent Torre de Oña estate, the home of the Lat 42 Rioja, which is exclusive to Oddbins. There was a sumptuous spread laid out on our arrival of jamon (ham), tortilla, smoked peppers, white asparagus (my favourite). There was also quite a lot of cerveza (beer – Heineken, strangely), Champagne and of course lots of Torre de Oña and the delicious Lagar de Cerveramade Albariño by the company over in Rías Baixas. That is to say nothing of the fantastically refreshing Orujo, an Eau de Vie distilled with herbs and aged in oak. Served chilled, this slips down dangerously easily.

    Having survived our first close shave with nature (the (almost certainly) deadly serpent), we were to have another terrifying encounter – and nothing could have prepared us for this next beast. It was an alien-esque praying mantis no less, as big as your hand, basking in the moonlight and feasting on flies. This was Lucy’s quarry and again we were all queuing up to be snapped with this ferocious predator.

    Preying Mantis photo shoot

    The next morning, I rose promptly at 9.47am for a 9.30am start. Oops. This was not a huge problem, though, as our first appointment of the day was a tour around Torre de Oña, where we were staying, so, to steal a phrase from The Beatles, I “woke up, fell out of bed and dragged a comb across my head” and went to find the tour. At either 57 hectares (my notes) or 65 hectares (the information provided by the winery), this is a small but perfectly formed estate.

    The gang

    Not for the last time over the next couple of days, I was about to be blown away by the level of care and attention that La Rioja Alta pay to every stage of production. Spotlessly clean from top-to-bottom with barely a machine in sight, this is handcrafted wine in the truest sense.

    Here we tried the Lat 42 Rioja. To say it’s good value is an understatement.  It is a blinding wine; complex, with highly concentrated aromas, an intense nose of ripe forest fruits, blackberries and wild strawberries. It has plenty of depth, great balance and structure, fine gentle tannins and a lovely smooth finish with lingering red fruit and creamy oak notes. It has had 21 months in oak barrels, mainly French with some American and Caucasian too. Caucasian you say? Indeed – 20% of their barrels are made of Russian oak! I had not come across this but was edified to discover that it allows winemakers to obtain more fresh and mineral qualities in their wine.

    With that startling revelation out of the way, it was onwards to the star attraction – the main winery at La Rioja Alta. This is where the incredible Viña Ardanza Gran Reserva 904 and the legendary Gran Reserva 890 are fashioned, along with the slightly more modest Viña Alberdi. Down the years, I have visited many wineries throughout the world, but have never seen anything to compare with this magnificent facility. The scale was phenomenal, with 30,000 barrels, all made on site by their own coopers (barrel-makers). The wines slowly mature in the peaceful serenity of the cellar, with barely a machine in sight. Oxymoronic I know, but I can only describe this place as a boutique winery on an epic scale.

    The La Rioja Alta barrel room

    There followed a tasting of eight wines: Lat 42, Alberdi, Arana, Ardanza (904 and 890), Finca son Martin and Torre de Oña. The quality ranged from very good, through to great and excellent, with a splash of sublime thrown in for good measure. The flagship wine, Viña Ardanza 904, seemed to be at the top of its game: a powerful yet gentle, classic Tempranillo with a touch of uplifting Grenache. Lunch comprised of super tender lamb chops, barbequed over wood cuttings.

    This was not ‘fine-dining’, but rather the finest, freshest ingredients, cooked simply and allowed to shine. In combination with the wine, we were in gastronomic heaven.

    The view at Labastida

    Anyway, we headed back to the base for a post-prandial snooze – I believe it’s called a siesta over there – before heading off into the night. On the first stop on our nocturnal adventure we took in an amazing view of the region from the picturesque walled town Labastida.

    A swift libation in a subterranean bar followed, where we were joined by a Catalan acquaintance of our host who, unsurprisingly proud of his heritage and language, admonished us for waving ‘Adios’, as in Catalan, goodbye is ‘Agur’. Goddit?

    Partaking of the libations

    Our next port of call was Logroña and, in particular, a street called Calle Laurel, which is tapas central. We were treated to a whistle-stop-tour of some of the best tapas joints and had a glass of wine and a dish at each. This was enjoyed either in the street, or standing at the bar. We had various exotic dishes, including pig’s cheek and ink (with some squid in it). If we were in gastronomic heaven at lunchtime we had ascended further now, to some kind of Catalan foodie Nirvana.

    Reveille was 8.30am the next morning, to leave time for the 3 ½ hour journey down to Aster, where we arrived in good time for lunch. Stepping out of the air-conditioned luxury of the Merc into the searing 38 ̊C heat was something of a shock to say the least. I grumble, but if it weren’t for the furnace-hot summer days, the thick-skinned Tempranillo grape wouldn’t reveal  the deep flavours and richness that make Rioja wine what it is.

    A quick tour of Aster’s smaller, but nevertheless state-of-the-art winery, and a butchers at the vineyard later and we were back inside. Aster Crianza is one of my all-time favourite wines and I’d been looking forward to this part of the trip with zealotical fervour.

    It was served with slow-roasted lamb, cooked simply in water, lemon juice, salt and pepper for about four hours at 140 ̊C and some super-crisp salad, drizzled with beautiful olive oil and salt. ‘Delicious’ does not do this dish justice. For the wine, we had the Aster Finca el Otero, for which they use Tinta del Pais rather than Tempranillo, and use it to great effect. Elegant and well-structured, with superb dense, dark, ripe fruits, this was truly wonderful. Our incredibly generous host Francisco sent us away with a bottle of the Finca el Otero to enjoy at home. I have since recreated the lamb dish at home and can tell you, if you are having lamb, have Aster! It’s total perfection.

    We made the onward journey to the airport and home without further ado, in a fantastically sated and soporific state. I would like to thank our hosts La Rioja Alta for a truly magnificent introduction to their region and estate, and especially to Francisco for his time and efforts. Gràcies i agur.

     

    If you’d like to try the wines Dave enjoyed on the trip, without having to encounter (probably harmless) snakes, or (rather cute) praying mantes, click on any of the above links or peruse our Spanish wines in-store or on our website.

  • COME AND HAVE A GOVE IF YOU THINK A-LEVELS ARE HARD ENOUGH

    Predictions for the upcoming A-Level results…

    On Thursday 15 August hundreds of thousands of young adults will receive their A-Level exam results (sorry Scotland, we know you’ve already had yours, but keep reading as this still includes you). This is a stressful day for students across the land. Although we wish all these students the best of luck, for they are the future, it is the teachers that our thoughts go out to, because after the hard slog, anguish, nail-biting and hair-rending, there are only really three possible outcomes and all three seem to have an inevitably similar result…

    A-Level Result Day

    Outcome 1: the students do well. The beautiful ones with 4A*s, perfect shiny teeth, glossy hair and flawless complexions will be plastered across the front pages of our newspapers, leaping for joy, results in hand. Those who aren’t blonde and nubile will probably be ignored by the press, irrespective of their grades. Come to think of it, has anyone pointed out what impact this might have on teenage image anxiety?

    Sorry, we digress. Beneath the pictures of the perfect students will be articles saying that exams have never been so easy and berating teachers for, heaven forbid, teaching the students what they need to know to pass their exams. These articles not only belittle the efforts of the students, but also those of the teachers who have supported and inspired them. Reading on, the articles will continue to kick the education system and the high achieving students who chose to continue their studies, by saying that university teaching is woefully inadequate and that there are no prospects for graduates at the end of it all anyway. Who knows, maybe Ofqual will even tell us that the exams were “graded generously”. Happy days.

    Outcome 2: the students do OK. Ofsted will announce that OK isn’t good enough, schools “require improvement” and promptly move the goal posts again. It is still the teachers’ fault. Smiley face.

    Outcome 3: the students don’t do so well. Run for the trees dear teachers before the wrath of Michael Gove and the press comes showering down upon you in something akin to the start of Flash Gordon. And before we’re accused of being mean to Michael Gove, we aren’t, he just happens to be the incumbent and is therefore highly likely to continue in the same vain as his predecessors (Balls, Johnson, Kelly, Clarke, Morris, Blunkett…). #Yay

    A-Levels Guys Trimmed

    Oddbins thinks that it's rubbish that teachers always take the flak, whatever the outcome. To all those who say that exams are so much easier than they were in their day, we say: horses**t. If that rationale were true, it would mean that those who have been running this country for the past 15 years (please note this includes all the major political parties) took harder exams and therefore following this lopsided logic are better educated. So why have these “clever clogs” made such a mess of the Economy, NHS, Banking, International Relations, their expenses, etc.? Exams have changed because the world has changed.

    What hasn’t changed is that teachers are still inspiring students and those inspired students are going on to achieve things that we could never dream of. Teachers are a critical part of our society, they are the buttress that holds us up, even though they seem to have become more of a scapegoat-shaped piñata for politicians of every hue. We may not have liked all our teachers, but we haven’t forgotten how they inspired us and moulded our lives. So Oddbins would like to say THANK YOU TEACHERS…

    We have ten cases of wine to give away to ten inspirational teachers. If you are 18 or over and you’ve had or have an inspirational teacher, then pop their name, the name of the school or university they teach at, when you attended that school or university and a brief explanation of why you found them so inspirational in an email to us at inspire@oddbins.com. We will publish the best right here on our blog and send a case of wine directly to each of the teachers that we deem to be the most inspiring.

    So without further ado, it just leaves us to wish everybody involved with A-Level results day the very best of luck. We have our fingers crossed for you. And teachers: Oddbins is on your side. (TO)

    Quinta dos Roques

    This post was written while drinking: Quinta dos Roques. This hefty red was made by a former maths teacher. We wouldn’t like to speculate with regards to what inspired him to quit teaching, but if this is what a  disillusioned teacher can do with a handful of grapes, imagine what could be achieved if we all offer them our support. We give it an A*.

  • POETIC OFF-LICENCE

    A few inspiring verses...

    Maybe we’ve spent too many Sunday evenings listening to Radio 4’s Poetry Please, or maybe it’s hanging out at the monthly spoken word poetry evening at Oddbins Crouch End, Friggers of Speech, but we’ve been developing quite a poetry fixation here at Oddbins. Like most art, poems put life through a prism, revealing the myriad colours that we can’t ordinarily see. So, whilst sitting up in bed, sipping on some of Stanton & Killeen’s raisin-rich Rutherglen Muscat (don’t worry Mum, not a nightly occurrence), listening to Roger Gough’s soothing tones, we got a bit deep and thought how great it would be if our wine could be expressed through poetry and, indeed, of the parallels that exist between poetry and wine. They are both, we mused, crafted by passionate people who, on the whole, want to distil the essence – whether it be of place, a feeling, history or something else – into a concentrated and memorable final product.

    Friggers of Speech at Oddbins Crouch End

    Furthermore, poetry, like wine, also sometimes suffers from a misconception that it is complicated or elitist. Regular readers of our blog will know that we don’t hold this opinion when it comes to wine. But nor do we hold this view when it comes to poetry, which runs the gamut from song lyrics, limericks and nursery rhymes all the way to haiku and the works of Wilfred Owen, Carol Ann Duffy and Saul Williams. As with wine, we believe that when it comes to poetry, there is something for everyone.

    Inspired to pursue this thinking, we found some uncanny resemblances between vintners and poets. Take the Domaine Le Roc, who make our stonking, aromatic and weighty yet floral red from AOC Fronton, La Folle Noir d’Ambat. It is made from the Négrette grape, which is Fronton’s speciality, is like nothing else around, and has an incredibly daft label. The Négrette grape, so the story goes, used to be considered unworthy in France so was pretty much banished to the hot southerly region of Fronton, where it positively thrives and makes for acclaimed wines (see critic Jamie Goode’s review).

    La Folle Noire d'Ambat

    So who would Domaine Le Roc’s literary counterpart be? We reckon the roots poet and Brixton bad boy, Linton Kwesi Johnson...

    Linton Kwesi Johnson

    Linton’s raw energy and triple-distilled lines have earned him his place in history – he is the second living poet, and the only black poet, to be published in the Penguin Modern Classics series – but he didn’t earn this place with iambic pentameter (a five beat rhythm commonly used in traditional poetry), oh no. We think his free, expressive lyrics are a real match to the individuality of Domaine Le Roc:

    If I woz a tap-natch poet
    Like Chris Okigbo
    Derek Walcot
    Ar T.S.Eliot

    Ah woodah write a poem
    Soh dam deep
    Dat it bittah-sweet
    Like a precious
    Memory
    Whe mek yu weep
    Whe mek yu feel incomplete

    On the other end of the spectrum, you have history-soaked, established winemakers like Olivier Sumeire, who inherited a 700-year-old family-run winery in Provence (check out the family below). Instead of doing something radically different, Olivier does exactly what you’d expect from the region: feather-light rosés, but he executes them with distinction and incredible panache (have a try of our Cabaret Rosé or Château Coussin Rosé to see what we mean).

    Sumeire Family

    His poetic counterpart? Well there are a few to choose from, but we’ll settle with the Undisputed Daddy of English Literature, William Shakespeare.

    William Shakespeare

    Like Olivier, it’s the subtle masterstrokes and expert balance of elements that make his work so incredibly rewarding… especially on a summer’s day…

    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

    “Yes, we agree, there are some chin-scratchingly interesting comparisons to be made between poets and winemakers, but aren’t you going off on one here?” we hear you say. And we say nein. Bah non! Nope… we’ve been gearing up to this for a while…

    This year, we have been using themes to help us delve deeper into the world of wine (if you want to know more about this you can catch up by reading our blog post: Wine's Best Friend) – we kicked off with Trust up to March, enjoyed Explore from May up to the beginning of August and now we’re entering the heady Inspire phase, it’s time to interpret our wines through the ‘prism’ of poetry. We’re not the first ones to be inspired to turn to poetry by wine – ever since man first stored grapes underground and discovered the joys of the resultant, fermented juice, people have been writing about it. Here’s a frivolous one by the 19th century poet Walter Parke, aka The London Hermit, called Cork Pops:

    There was an old waiter at Wapping,
    Drew corks for a week without stopping;

    Cried he, “It’s too bad!”
    The practice I’ve had!
    Yet cannot prevent them from popping!

    Well we popped a few corks ourselves with customers from Oddbins Crouch End’s aforementioned poetry group, Friggers of Speech, and asked three of them write poem-cum-wine reviews for our posters. You can see these in our stores up and down the country but we’ve included them here, for your viewing pleasure…

    Inspire Posters

    And that’s not all: our staff have taken up quill and ink and are busily scribing tasting notes in poetic form, and quoting poems that aptly sum up how they feel about our wines. But it is you, dear customer, who we really want to hear wax lyrical… so we cordially invite you to tell us, in the comments section below, about who or what inspires you, whether it’s a or a poem you’ve written about one of our wines, or just a poem you like, or something else that inspired you, like a piece of coastline or a type of telescope (you never know). If your answers, er, ‘inspire’ us, we might be moved to award prizes… Also, if you’ve ever written your own poetry about wine, we’d love to hear it. Again, just jot it down in the comments section below and, if we like it and it’s not utterly post-watershed, we’ll publish it here on our website… and there’s a prize up for grabs for our favourite Wine Rhyme of All Time. (LT)

    Stanton & Killeen Rutherglen Muscat

    This blog was written while drinking: Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Muscat. “But Oddblogger, a syrupy, delicious dessert wine in midsummer,” you may enquire? Ooh yes. On ice-cream! Drizzle this raisin-y, nutty, orange blossom and lavender-flavoured amber nectar on a good vanilla ice-cream and if you aren’t inspired to grab the nearest pen and write some lofty words, we’ll eat our hat – and we’re wearing a sombrero, so that’s a lot of hat. Speaking of sombreros, has anybody seen our Mexican friend Pepita? Judging by David Greene's photograph posted on Twitter, she’s a bit lost and, being a penguin, isn’t great with public transport. Hopefully she’ll turn up safe ‘n’ sound…

    Lost Mexican Penguin

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