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  • L.L.A.M.A.

    Oddbins is delighted to announce the arrival of our newest ambassador, Guillermo. Although he is renowned as a hip hop artist, known as ‘L.L.A.M.A.’, his knowledge of wine is exceptional given his extended exposure to viticulture in his home country of Chile. We’re excited that he will be taking an active role, in stores, educating our fantastic staff on some of the new lines we have brought in for the Christmas period. While with Oddbins, Guillermo will be studying for the Llama of Wine (LW) qualification. For those of you unfamiliar with this remit of study, the Llama of Wine is the most challenging industry qualification a domesticated South American camelid can take, comprising of an all-encompassing theory exam and a gruelling 2 hour tasting exam. Guillermo has agreed to keep a diary of his experiences of this study process, we hope you’re looking forward to hearing about the trials and tribulations of his education as much as we are. Welcome to Oddbins, Guillermo and best of luck in your endeavours!

    Guillermo blog 1

    I imagine you’ve just read some Oddbins’ stuff, above right? Telling you how I’m a rap enigma and a sommelier pope. You can ignore all of that, the only person gifted enough to express the nuances of Guillermo’s story, is Guillermo. With that in mind, congratulations on reading my Llama of Wine blog; your reward is experiencing gonzo journalism the likes of which Kerouac would envy.

    For those of you not caught up; I recently escaped the vitriol of Chilean law enforcement on a trumped-up, ‘spit-by’ charge. Absolute sheeet! I mean, my hombre Carlos was totally guilty, but those elephant seals had it coming. So, I came to Oddbins; real hood high street heroes. Only a company that calls it as they see it and doesn’t isolate wine drinkers with esoteric bo****cks could secure the services of a true legend, like Guillermo. The Llama of Wine qualification; you ever heard of that Russian dog Laika, first dog in space? Well imagine that level of significance and difficulty and then times it by ten, that’s what I’m engaged in, wine immortality, that’s what I’m pursuing. It’s simple, I’ve conquered the music industry, now it’s time to conquer the wine world.

    I turned up to the Court of Llamas of Wine a little late for the first day, it ain’t a thing I just taste wine better when I’ve slept till 11. I kicked in the door - I wasn’t particularly angry I just don’t have apposable thumbs to work the knob - 10 camelids turned to face me. “Guillermo, I assume? You are quite late,” the tutor reprimanded. “The Sommelier Pope is never late, he arrives precisely when he means to,” (Gandalf reference, represent my boy in grey) I answered. Life lesson from Guillermo – Never apologise, never explain. “Yes well, please take a seat we’re currently engaging in a horizontal of 2004 Medocs.” I sat down because, well, ya boy loves west bank Bordeauxs. We tried some dope grand crus but for price point you know what stood out? Oddbins newest cru bourgeois they're stocking; Château le Meynieu Haut-Medoc. It was face-meltingly sophisticated fam. Rich blackcurrant, plum and bramble, perfectly harmonising with indicators of age like leather, cigar box and smoked game. Twas boom and at £19 even you non-rap-gods can afford it!

    Ch Meynieu blog

     

    “Good work everyone, let’s break for lunch. Can I ask you all to be back for 2:15 so we can start on Burgundy nice and promptly for the afternoon session?” The tutor announced to us. Most made a move for the door, however, I stayed seated; I was packing my own pino empanadas. I glimpsed a taupe-haired alpaca eye-balling me. I gave it right back, not blinking and spitting in the general direction of my spittoon. He changed direction to approach my desk, flanked by two lighter haired alpacas. “Good day. I am Jeremy Reese-Mongoose the 9th alpaca resident of the Earl of Lytton and you might be?” “Guillermo,” I replied bluntly, not breaking eye contact with Jeremy who was smirking at me. “I would shake hooves but I’m just about to eat and I’d rather not wash your new world slime off me. I doubt I’d be able to get the stench off before supper.” The other alpacas around him roared with laughter, spitting and stamping their hooves.

    Jeremy alpaca blog

    Every llama in Santiago used to come to me to pay respect, Godfather style, and now this short-ass domesticated piece of Hertfordshire is stepping to me, nah Che! This guy is 'más loco que una cabra con pollitos!'. l I stood up to impose my height advantage, “you think you know wine just because you’re wearing a monocle? What couldn’t afford two and make yourself a pair of glasses?” Their laughter stalled as Jeremy sized me up, “and I suppose you know more about wine do you, what did you call yourself? The sommelier Pope?” He drawled while fits of laughter re-erupted around him. “Prove it, beat me in a blind taste off,” Jeremy challenged. I stepped in real close and whispered, “O it’s on Jezza!”

     

    We stood facing one another, 2 glasses between us. Wine was poured from a labelless bottle. “And taste!” I got a big whiff, dark fruit, sweet spice, coffee. Same on the palate, it was super full-bodied with an amazing structure. “2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape,” I bellowed.

    CNDP Remy Ferbras blog

    I saw Jeremy’s face and I knew I’d fragged this one, “2013 Cote-Rotie” he announced, smugly. “Correct!” The invigilator stated, while holding up the label to prove it. Even Jesus had off days but I wasn’t gonna take this lying down; like a common cow predicting rain. Sure, he’d bested me this time but believe it or not, we have other ways of settling conflict, than wine tasting, in the favelas. I kicked over the table and started swinging my neck, spraying spit everywhere, getting ready to show this posh poncho wanna-be how we throw down in Chile, neck-wrestle style. As I approached a female voice yelped “No!” I turned and was stunned to see the most beautiful llama I had ever seen, a prominent muzzle with perky ears and a round white face like a giant hamster. I started spitting for a different reason… “Wind your neck in, he’s trying to provoke you.” She said bundling me out of the door. Jeremy waved, calling after us “see you later Mo, don’t let the door hit you in your vestigial hump on the way out.”

    It took me a while to calm down but eventually managed to mutter a thank you, “no drama llama,” she replied. “What do I call you?” I enquired. “Lilyanna, Lily the Llama if you like” she responded, seeming a little coy “and you are?” “The rap enigma, that is Guillermo!” She chuckled, obviously digging my vibe. “You’re not like the other llamas I’ve met in the wine industry, who are you representing?” “Oddbins, the greatest wine merchants in the world, the only company worthy of Guillermo ambassadoring them!” She clucked again, “do you want to go share a bottle of Veuve Clicquot NV, they’re on offer at Oddbins at the moment?” “That sounds lovely,” she replied.

    Veuve NV blog

    Relax hombres, nothing happened, we just chilled, drank some dope Champagne and talked about wine yeah … You know what happens when I make my move, updates on my life, same time same place, peace!

  • Chimpanzees and Christmas Giveaways

    Is there anything better than a good giveaway? Suppose it depends on what’s being given away really, if someone’s trying to gift you a pair of used sports socks you’d probably make a polite excuse and carry on with your existence, prize free. Thank goodness, we at Oddbins feel we’ve got customer giveaways right, in fact, we’re getting rather renowned for them. With Christmas fast approaching *gulp* this week we have officially launched our earth-shattering winter promotion… drum roll, please…

    This year we’ve teamed up with Karma Group to send one Oddbins customer and 9 of their friends to the luxury resort Karma Kandara in Bali, for a week! This includes return travel to the resort in Bali and Luxury pool villa accommodation for 10. While in Bali the winner and their 9 guests will enjoy an exclusive wine tasting experience in Bali’s best panoramic wine cellar, with an amazing selection of wines matched with canapés. The winner and their friends will be able to indulge in local delicacies in the comfort of their own villa, hosted by an Executive Chef, who will curate a tailored menu to the guests. Finally, the prize recipients will enjoy exclusive access to a VIP table for an amazing sunset beach party, Ibiza style session, featuring an incredible soundtrack, Tapas and a magnum of Rosé.
    To enter, simply make any purchase with Oddbins in stores or online, there is no limit on the number of entries that can be made but must be in by midnight of the 17th January 2018.

    However, we thought before we look forward, let’s have a peak backwards. Last year, throughout the Christmas period, Oddbins customers had a chance to win a fantastic 2-week trip to Malaysia and Borneo. In September that lucky winner jetted off and fortunately for us, she agreed to write us a blog, to document her amazing experience. Thanks Katy!

    We hope you all enjoy reading about Katy and Brenda’s trip as much as we did and be sure to get your entries in for this year’s giveaway, this time next year we could be telling your winning story!

    Katy Gwilliam – Oddbins customer for many Years.
    "I usually pop into store for wine or Prosecco. My favourite bottle is
    Follador Prosecco Superiore."

    Katy winning

    I couldn’t believe it when I received the phone call from Oddbins to tell me I was the winner of an incredible prize – a two-week holiday in Malaysia and Borneo. Things like this never happen to me! I’m still pinching myself!

    After months of anticipation, the adventure finally began when Brenda (the lucky friend who got to come with me) and I arrived at Heathrow airport on 1 September. We went straight to the Premier Lounge for a glass of champagne before boarding the plane for our 12-hour flight.

    Upon arriving in Kuala Lumpur, we were greeted by our friendly driver who took us to the Traders Hotel. Our room overlooked the Petronas Towers and we had spectacular views of some of the city’s most famous landmarks.

    KatyKL

    We were desperate to sample the local cuisine, so travelled to KL’s famous Jalan Alor street to check out the food markets. The entire street was lined with hawker stall after hawker stall: dumplings, seafood, noodles, barbecued meats, curries, durian – pretty much anything you could imagine. The dishes were not only delicious, but also ridiculously inexpensive, so inexpensive, in fact, that we considered having two dinners! But that would be greedy…

    The next day we ventured to Batu Caves where an enormous statue of the Hindu god of war, Murugan, stood tall at the foot of a steep staircase. We climbed the 272 steps leading into the caves, making sure to keep a tight hold of our bags and phones so they couldn’t be snatched by the monkeys. Once inside, I got the opportunity to feed these cheeky creatures. They made no attempt to put on airs and graces, but they were very cute!

    KatyBC

    The next morning, we flew to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo. Having checked the weather religiously for the past two weeks, I was convinced our entire holiday was going to be rain and storms. Lo and behold, when we touched down at KK airport it was chucking it down! “Oh well – at least we’re in paradise!”, I laughed to Brenda. Almost as quickly as it had started though, the rain stopped and in its wake formed the most breath-taking sunset I’d ever seen. As it turned out, this was to be the weather pattern for the rest of our holiday: blazing hot sunshine in the morning, a quick shower in the afternoon, and stunning sunsets in the evenings. The perfect tropical paradise.

    KatySuns

    We were driven to the amazing hotel that was to be our home for the next three nights: the 5* Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort. This place was heavenly! The people were so friendly and nothing seemed like too much trouble. The food was exquisite and every morning we were presented with the biggest buffet you can imagine – cuisine from all corners of the globe. I didn’t let a day pass without having both a prawn cracker and a chocolate-covered marshmallow, simply because I could!

    Our stay at the Rasa Ria was the perfect time to relax and make the most of the sea, sand and sun. The hotel had its own private beach, which offered a host of water sports and activities. One day we decided to try out the parasailing, which was brilliant fun as we floated 100ft above the boat, taking in the view of Mount Kinabalu in the distance.

    KatyPara

    During our stay, we managed to clock up five massages between us, all of which were divine! We sampled the food at all five of the resort’s fantastic restaurants, even experiencing a fire-eating show at the Malaysian banquet on one night.

    After a few days of chilling, it was time to visit the jungle. We flew from Kota Kinabalu airport to Sandakan, where we were transported to the MY Nature Resort – an eco-friendly resort located in one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world.

    Here we watched flying squirrels jump from tree to tree as it grew dark and enjoyed some of the local delicacies before bed. The next morning, bright and early, we set off for the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. We arrived just in time to see the babies being fed, which was highly entertaining. It was easy to identify the bully of the group – he swung audaciously from pillar to post, grabbing fruit from the other orangutans who dared to get in his way! They were so funny to watch as they play fought and hung upside down from the monkey bars.

    KatyAnimals

    As we moved through the centre, we were also lucky enough to see pygmy elephants – baby-faced elephants that are far smaller than their fully-grown counterparts, with oversized ears and plump bellies. The sun bears also came out to play. These cute creatures are the smallest bears in the world at around 120cm in height and are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

    Later that day, we caught a boat to our next destination: Abai Jungle Lodge. Here our brilliant guide, Abbas, took us on a river boat trip to explore the local wildlife. The highlight of this trip was seeing a mummy and baby orangutan in the wild – a really rare sight, considering they are highly endangered and there are only around 50,000 left in the world. The Proboscis monkeys were also a great spot. They are famous for their big noses – the bigger the nose, the more attractive the male! After a brilliant couple of days in the jungle, we travelled back to the Shangri-La for the final leg of our trip. Arriving at the resort was like coming home! We made the most of our chill-out time here, with massages, sun-bathing and tons of food and we even managed a night out on the waterfront in Kota Kinabalu, which ended with a dance-off against the locals in the town’s famous 999 club!

    KatyRiver

    Before we knew it, the time had come to fly home. After a teary farewell and goodbye photo, we jumped in the taxi back to KK airport and prepared ourselves for the 18-hour journey back to London.

    All in all, it was a truly fantastic trip with so many special memories and amazing experiences. I cannot recommend Borneo enough and have been waxing lyrical about my brilliant holiday to anyone who will listen! Thank you so much to Oddbins for making this happen. I couldn’t have asked for a better prize :)

  • The Long Arms of The Law

    Hilarious Chimp is listening to records. At the moment it is the turn of Pithecanthropus Erectus by Charles Mingus, a long-standing family favourite. The music is terrifically exciting, with five men seeming to make the noise of eleven, and Hilarious is playing it at an appreciable volume while whirling around the room on a unicycle and whooping and a-hollering with the band! Unfortunately, his neighbours are rather less appreciative. They've seen the video Hilarious made recently with all of his other Oddbins cohorts, and they didn't find quite the same joy in its assorted muckslinging or the Mingus-maybe melodies that have sent the chimp back to his record collection. And now this racket! Tired of his primate pranks, they have summoned the long arm of the law...

    Hilarious-Banner

    In the conference room of a swish hotel, Sassy Chimp is delivering a seminar entitled 'Writing On The Wall: When To Flog Your Business, and Where You Won't Be Found'. It consists, in large part, of the murky tales surrounding his sale of 'Monkey Vegas', a huge empire founded on teaching circus skills and party tricks to primates. By what he described as an 'uncanny coincidence', Sassy sold the business at an eye-watering profit exactly one month before animal acts were banned from circuses. "I didn't so much avoid the country after that, it was more a case of simply being somewhere else...". He has come back to help his friends and family with the cheerful invasion of Oddbins, whence he has graced his event with ample supplies of Terra Noble Reserva Terroir Syrah, a deep and deliciously savoury red from the Maule Valley in Chile, together with a Chardonnay from the same winery, a warmly approachable white that partners delightfully with the hors d'oeuvres he's provided. While he's pointing to a Venn diagram on a Bo-Nobo board, he is discreetly called out of the room and taken into a police station.

    Terra-Noble-Syrah

    Terra-Noble-Chardonnay

    "...and he says you're the only person he knows who can pay for his bail. Well, you and..." consulting a notebook, "...Billy Expletive Smart. Funny bloke considering he doesn't even crack a smile!"

    "Funny?"

    "Yeah. He's cracked everybody up round here, playing table tennis with the boys. 10p, 50p, whatever, absolutely thrashed all of them. Funny thing was, he was riding a unicycle throughout. Even when we brought him in he pedalled out to the panda. Then he made the handcuffs disappear and we found them in the glove box."

    "How much is his bail exactly?"

    Sassy-Banner

    "Well, he's clearly a chimp of good character. In fact, we considered dropping all charges when we told him we don't usually have much to do with hominoids, and he said that's because you can get cream for them nowadays. If we can find a caring home for him we'll forget the whole thing - you seem to have done better than he has out of circus regulations, maybe you owe it to him to see he doesn't spend another Christmas in the park? Meanwhile, we'll set him up in Oddbins and the staff will take him under their loving wing! Now,  back in the car and you can pick up your records while we bring your neighbours in for crime against hilarity. A couple of days in the cooler listening to Kenny G should teach them what side their bread's buttered!"

    In the back of the car, Hilarious and Sassy are making up. "So, Hilarious, 50p a game, you say? I'm sure I could fix you up with plenty more games, and at a pound a pop! How about we seal the deal with a bottle of this Tarlant Champagne..."

    Tarlant

  • Existence, Nothingness and a bottle of Oddbins No.8, please!

    A chimp walks into a bar and asks for a pint of lager. "That'll be £8 please, sir. I must say, we don't get many chimps in here.", "I'm not surprised at £8 a pint. Anyway, am I in the right store here? I'm supposed to be talking about Oddbins No.8, and you seem only to have a selection of every day beers, most of them as predictable as that joke."

    No.8

    "Oh, right," said the barman, polishing a glass. "You should be in that wine shop just across the street. Dunno what's going on with those places, they're full of monk - er, apes, at the moment." In the snug, an orangutan looks up from the crossword in the Daily Spud and nods, sagely.

    Abandoning his beer, he knuckles his way to Oddbins' Chiswick store where his cousin, Curious, is reading a book entitled '5,000 Things You Should Know About Stuff'. "Did you know," says Curious instead of hello, "that the venom fangs of a Montpelier snake point backwards?"

    "Which makes them a sight less poisonous than what they serve behind the bar down the Hammersmith Gorilla," remarked Thoughtful. "But might you not want to swot up on craft ales, given that Oddbins' new collaboration beer will be here today?"

    Thoughtful-Banner

    "I have given it some thought, actually," mused Curious looking up from his book and rubbing his eyes through the empty frames of his pretend glasses. "It sounds like a fairly recent development, but the Campaign for Real Ale has been knocking about since 1971 to protect traditional ales and pubs from the tide of long hair and psychedelic depravity. Nowadays it seems some of the craft breweries have gone so far out that what would recently have been considered real ale might now seem like..."

    "Yeah, whatever. What gets me is, what is the opposite of craft beer? I mean, what is an un-crafted beer? If it hasn't been crafted, it doesn't exist, right? So, what I had earlier, which was patently untouched by human hand, was in fact not there. It was in an existential quandary, that's where it was, and it should have stayed there!" He rubs his tummy and emits a rumbling burp. "Pardon me! Better an empty house than a bad tenant, as they say!"

    Curious-Banner

    "Tsk, really, Thoughtful! Look, here's the delivery, let's open a bottle of Oddbins No.8 and make our own minds up." From beneath the counter Curious brings a well-thumbed volume entitled 'Everything You Need To Know About Things That Haven't Happened Yet!'. Opening it at a post-it note bookmark he advises: "A blonde style, brewed with a proportion of smoked wheat, using a yeast called bastogne, as used in the Orval Trappist brewery. A collaboration with Anspach & Hobday of Bermondsey, who started with what was little more than a home brew kit in a tiny railway arch". He raises his eyes and fondly inspects his beer. "I told you things were getting far out!"

    "Mmm, thicker texture than you'd expect from a blonde," enthused Thoughtful. "Bit of smoke to it as well. Still a fairly light body, nice fruit and a lovely sort of brioche feel on the finish. Absolutely delicious, possibly their best one yet! D'you reckon we could get the Hammersmith Gorilla to take some of this, as it was obviously crafted, therefore it is a concrete entity and they won't have to do refunds on sales made in an existential abyss."

    "We could just tell them it's gorgeous, you know..."

  • Mission Chimpossible!

    A couple of leathery digits poke around in a box. They remove a corkscrew and deftly prepare it for its noble purpose. A few more leathery digits introduce a bottle of wine, and as the cork is removed, the customers in the Maida Vale branch of Oddbins heartily applaud Loveable the chimp. Loveable has just opened the day's tasting wine with nothing but his feet and a winning smile. It's clear that his boyish demeanor has charmed the socks off some of those present, who will happily take him home and mother him. Job done! Now he must go on a mission. He grabs a handful of shiny, colourful cards from the counter, hops on his bike and wobbles off to another Oddbins store, to meet his brother Crafty. Crafty is deep in conversation with a group of American tourists.

    Loveable-Banner

    "...and it turns out the blighter had made off with my bally wallet! Anyway, yes, that claret is a big favourite of mine, tell you what, buy two and I'll take one home with me and we can compare notes tomorrow. Oh I say, here's my young brother, adorable chap. Looks young but he's actually in his twenties...". He places another bottle on the counter, next to what is now two Bordeaux wines. "...so you won't come unstuck adding his favourite Chilean red to your basket. Quite the star in his youth, whole string of TV adverts, got me a part as a confidence trickster in Carry On Cajoling. Who'd have thought?". 

    Loveable pushes the shiny cards upon him, with an imploring look. "What's that, old fruit? Malaysia? Your shop in Maida Vale is offering a free trip to Malaysia? Oh no, I can't go back there, not after the hoo-hah with the bridesmaids, dreadful kerfuffle, heh, heh, heh...Oh, the customers? Free entry with every purchase? And all the shops are doing it are they, even this one? What-ho!"
    Crafty-Banner

    From the no-chimps-land beneath the counter he conjures open a bottle of Burgundy and a handful of wine glasses, and starts pouring. The Americans are looking nervous. "You heard that, gentlemen? Once you've paid for this little beauty you get chance to win a holiday. Worth eighteen pounds of anybody's money if you ask me! Anyway, I was telling you about this chap, absolute blackguard he was..."

    With a forlorn expression, Loveable slips out of the shop and disappears into London, his rear wheel squeaking a little. From Notting Hill Tube to Portobello Road and on to every store in the capital, he is compelled to tell every single customer about this fabulous trip to a simian heartland, the very mention of which chimes a lost ancestral chord, a misty memory of Home. Instead he finds to his delight that the entire Oddbins estate has been taken over by chimpanzees, every one of them totally in command of this remarkable customer initiative, and driven entirely by thoughts of numerous festive get-togethers, for chimp and customer alike! The look on his face changes from desolate to blissful as he realises that the once lonely city is now teeming with his extended family, all wanting to take him to their bosom. Even the thought of exactly what might happen to a branch under Crafty's management doesn't rain on his parade!

    Now to find that accommodating couple from Maida Vale who were keen to put him up for the night. They might want to share the bottle of Château Peyrabon Haut-Médoc in his pannier, that his brother inveigled from a bloke wanting a bag of crisps. Will Crafty notice it's been acquisitioned? Will Loveable be expected to open the wine with his feet? Will the couple have plenty of 'nanas in after all this cycling...?

    Chateau-Peyrabon

    And off he squeaks along Elgin Avenue, back towards Maida Vale, wondering how the shops outside London are dealing with having chimps all over the place. Aren't we all...?

  • The Chimpmas Season is Upon Us!

    Glasgow, a city of contrasts; of culture of confusion, poetry and folklore, melody and melancholy, comedy and grit. All of human life is there, every incandescence of its beautiful cosmic infinity!

    And so it would seem, is the odd chimpanzee...

    In a dusty and forgotten room above a branch of Oddbins in Glasgow city centre, a chimp is reading a book about wine. He is a chimp with a thirst for knowledge, and is entranced by the section about the wines of Bordeaux. The differences between the two sides of the River Gironde, the great classification of 1855, the way the region can produce such accessible everyday wines while also being a byword for quality, luxury, history and so much more.

    Smart-Banner

    Just as every facet of humanity can be found in Glasgow, he muses, so can every aspect of wine culture be found in this one region. He checks the time. "It's getting dark early", he says to a now-closed book. "Soon be Christmas! Time to go downstairs...". He types out a message on his smartphone, amused that the technology bears his own name, Smart. Pressing send, he sneaks down a staircase and out onto the shop floor.

    In a stock room in another branch of Oddbins, in London's Crouch End, another chimpanzee is opening boxes of wine. Many of the bottles hold little interest for him, but hold on, this looks more like it. Let's see, Matetic Coralillo Winemaker's Blend, with a lovely picture of a, what's that, a cow?! No, it's Chilean, it'll be a llama.

    Matetic-Coralillo

    Notorious, as the chimp was baptised, knows and loves Chilean wine. He's been over there quite a few times while things cooled down on his manor. A quick look at the label tells him the wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah, and he gauges, quite accurately, that he's looking at a brambly red fruit compote held up by toasty oak and vanilla notes. His wine acumen is an unsung part of his character.

    Notorious-Banner

    He's about to slip a bottle into his pocket when his phone pings, and as he reads the message, the bottle falls by the wayside. It's from Smart. It's time to get out on to the shop floor and sing the unsung.

    And in that moment, every branch of Oddbins unleashes its inner chimp, and the #12ChimpsofChristmas take over the estate. Loveable, Crafty, Thoughtful, Passionate, Snazzy - no, not the staff, those are the names of the chimps. And so are Curious, Hilarious, Outspoken, Sassy and Crazy; like daemons of folklore, each branch has a chimp that embodies its character.

    The #12ChimpsofChristmas will be quietly taking control of all of our stores as you read this. Visit your local branch to discover their inner chimpanzee, and stay tuned to see what they'll be getting up to as Christmas approaches.

    Twelve Chimps Of Christmas

  • A FOX IS FOR LIFE

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

    Jim Morrison

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

    Lady Gaga

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

    Liam Gallagher

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

  • THE PALATE HEROES

    Steve Saunders

    Oddbins customers have been swirling, staring at, sniffing, slurping, spitting, swallowing and smiling at wines in the name of The Palate for four years, in a bid to be crowned the nation’s finest amateur wine taster. But who are the people who have made it all the way to the top – to wine tasting glory? Where do they come from and what makes them tick? Well, as we approach Round Two this weekend (July 25/26), we thought now would be a good time to look at these wine tasting demi gods and the wines they chose for Oddbins upon being crowned ‘The Palate’.

    Fran Evans

    The woman, nay, the legend, who first fought her way to Palate glory is Fran Evans. So, what do you need to know about Fran? Well, Fran is lovely to a fault, unassuming and – hitherto – highly doubtful of her ability to taste wine. The sustainability officer from north London had no wine education and thought, therefore, that she wouldn’t be much cop in The Palate. However, as judge Peter Richards, of Saturday Kitchen fame, said on Fran’s win, “It was important that it wasn't about having an encyclopaedic knowledge, but about raw talent. That's why Fran was such a worthy winner." Hear hear! A curious and marvellous twist in Fran’s tale is that, as part of the spoils of her win, she was asked to choose a wine (blind) for us to stock on our shelves. The wine that she chose was a La Closerie des Lys Chardonnay – a grape variety that Fran professed to not really liking before the competition – which is testament to the power of The Palate over preconceptions…

    Chloe Dickson

    Our next winner, Chloe Dickson, could not be more different to Fran. Where Fran is diffident, Chloe is assured. Where Fran is untrained, Chloe has attended courses. But Chloe’s win was by no means a fait accompli. She was up against stiff competition and it was the creativity that she brought to her descriptions that really set her apart from the other Finalists. In her food and wine matching presentation, Chloe’s said that the wine’s ‘acidic qualities really cut through the oiliness of the fish – it was just like they were holding hands walking down the street. My mouth was like ‘yeah, bring it on’.” Woop woop! Down with starched collars and orthodox wine blathering! Up with flavours holding hands and walking down the street! We like. The former music executive said The Palate has changed her life – and indeed she has gone on to become a retail sommelier. Go Chloe! The wine she chose was, to our eternal delight, Portuguese, and a belter at that. Discover Manz Platónico, an unctuous red from Cheleiros, here.

    Steve Saunders

    So far, so female. That was until 2014, when Bristolian Steve Saunders sauntered into the equation. Peter Richards was just beginning to get worried that a man would never win the title of The Palate, but Steve changed all that. If ever there was a more smiley man, we’ve yet to meet him. Steve loves wine and, like Chloe, had some experience but was looking to ‘go professional’ and make a living out of it. Given that the number of entrants rose from 5,000 in 2012 to a staggering 21,000 in 2014, Steve’s achievement is seriously impressive. For the judges – Peter and his wife Suzie, Sarah Ahmed and Oddbins Buyer Ana Sapungiu – their reason for choosing Steve was his clear as a bell communication. Steve is to wine speak what Brian Cox is to physics. He just makes it sound so easy! And Steve’s wine? As with Chloe’s Platónico, Steve’s choice comes from a country that we are increasingly excited about; Romania. Get to know Prince Stirbey Negru de Dragasani here.

  • GINDUSTRIAL TASTING THIS WEEKEND

    In the same way that dogs don’t arrive in the world being able to skip backwards around an assault course at Krufts, grain, peat and botanicals don’t just turn into delicious libations all by themselves: they need time, skill and love invested in them. They need nurturing by people who know what they’re doing. It’s abundantly clear when a drink has been made by a ham-fisted eejit and when it has been made with skill and passion. Be it ageing in soleras in the highlands of Guatemala (Ron Zacapa Rum), or infusing with bog myrtle and dandelion (Caorunn Gin), the ‘nurturing’ process involves is a mind-boggling array of decisions and the results are infinitely diverse and fascinating. So, this weekend we will be putting two curiously crafted gins on free tasting , so you can take notes on the effect their ‘upbringing’ has had on them…

    G'Vine Floraison

    First up is G’Vine Nouaison (£39.50). G’Vine is the only gin in the world to use the vine flower as a botanical and these ‘ginspired’ gins beautifully harness the different stages of the vine’s life. Whilst G’Vine Floraison is made with the fleeting magic of the budding flower, G’Vine Nouaison is heady, spicy and aromatic, as it is made with the mature flower as it transitions into a berry. Basically, if you are really undecided between buying a wine and a gin, this is your man.

    Aviation.jpg

    Let’s say you’re less of a vine-loving Francophile, and more of an Aviator-wearing All-America. Well, there’s a gin for you, too. The botanicals chosen for Aviation Gin aim to conjure up the ‘lushness, spice, creativity, and freshness of the Pacific Northwest’. They do this using the rich, floral and savoury notes of lavender, cardamom, and sarsaparilla and the result is a leather-clad, sexy beast of a gin that will make you think you’re top gun.

    If scientists want a decisive answer on the nature vs nurture debate, they should really come along. White coats not necessary.

  • BEER TASTINGS AHOY

    When it comes to beer, as with many things in life, it’s nice to explore different styles in detail, but then it can also be fascinating to gather up different styles and see how they all compare. So, that is what we have served up in our shops this weekend (May 16/17) – a buffet of beery goodness, featuring: two different styles of lager from a bigger producer; two similar styles in a Pale Ale and IPA (both local to your local shop); and a cider for good measure.

    Celia Lager

    Celia Lager (4.5%, £2.65) – T‘int right, t’int fair, t‘int fit, t’int proper that people who love beer should have to suffer from fatigue and other unpleasant complaints after enjoying a brew. Enter stage left Celia, a tasty, crisp, gently malty (and organic) lager that delivers flavour without the bother – a timely tipple for Coeliac Awareness week. Brewed with local Saaz hops and Moldavian Malt, it is the only pilsner in the world made with the benefit of being gluten-free with all natural carbonation.

    Celia Dark Lager (5.7%, £2.65) – ‘Tis a bit of a rare thing, dark lager, and its colour comes from the dark malts used in the brewing process. This one (which is also gluten-free and organic) is a beguiling mahogany colour and combines the rich, mellow flavours of the malt with the crisp, refreshing Žatec hops to produce a balanced end result.

    Local beer

    Two ‘mystery’ local brews – your local Oddbins will also be putting on a Pale Ale and an IPA of their choice. Although Pale Ales tend to be gentler and lighter in style and IPAs err on the hoppier, higher alcohol side, the possibilities, as someone once said, are endless. It’s time to see how local brews fare against the big boys.

    Angry Orchard Cider (5%, £2.25) – but you might be more of a straw-chewing, cider-lover, so we’ve included this new, friendly chappy of a cider (despite the name, it is not a red-faced Phil Mitchell-type). No, this young American is crisply refreshing, with a slightly sweet, ripe apple flavour that is hard to resist. As we say, nothing like Phil Mitchell.

    But don’t take our word for it – come on down, get familiar with them and make your own minds up.

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