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Miscellaneous

  • The Acts of The Ape-ostles

    The Chapel of Saint Paraffino has a guest speaker. While preparing to regale the congregation with his annual round up of the year, and scanning his extensive notes, the priest has succumbed to a fit of the vapours. Passionate Chimp, on a visit to family members more observant than himself, has agreed to step in, his suspicion of creationism outweighed by a fundamental decency and a constant urge to show off. He does not realise that he's about to find out whence cometh his name...

    Passionate-Banner

    On one side of the pulpit sits a litany of sadness and regret, on the other an illuminated manuscript of delight and success. As he declaims them to the gathering, he feels a growing sense of absurdity, that the breathless onslaught of surprise, shock and dismay has made it difficult to tell good from bad, major from minor, shit from shoeshine. Eventually he alights upon an improbability so stunning that his composure dissolves entirely. And it's listed in both of the texts...

    L.City

    With a howl of anguish, he tears up the scripts and hurls the shreds of paper into the blinding light of the clerestory windows, a fluttering kaleidoscope of sensory disintegration. The congregation rise and fill their pockets with the fragmented memories as they descend, a pick and mix of celebration, loss and wince-worthy reminder.

    Passionate Chimp slumps over the lectern, deep in thought. He hasn't had a bad year, if he takes away the things he could do nothing about. Leicester City notwithstanding, there was plenty of good sport, a decent summer, front row seats at a concert by his hero. Who knows, maybe it's time to break out the communion wine. But dear God, not that one. Or that. And especially not...He shudders and makes a phone call, a quick prayer to Bacchus for which he imagines the Lord will forgive him.

    Chimp-Banner

    Five minutes later his fellow disciples of Dionysus arrive in an encouragingly rattling van, and within moments the 12 Chimps of Christmas are spreading the gospel of celebration. Whether rejoicing at the end of one year or psalming the possibilities of the next, all are settling into each other's company with the liberal libations of Laurent-Perrier Non-Vintage, and Prosecco Ca'Rosa, and so much more besides. And Passionate Chimp smiles benignly upon the flock, asking himself a couple of questions. What do we really have if we don't have each other? Should we not first and foremost keep an eye on one another, whatever the tidings? And the big one...

    LP

    ...How am I going to get the church to pay for all this fizz? Yikes! They'd better be having a sale in January!

    CaRosa

    A happy and healthy New Year to all of you, and be sure to watch out for each other.

  • Orang-Utangover!

    The bar has reached a Friday evening peak. Everybody is loud and excitable, Prosecco is flowing and there is love and laughter everywhere. The Headache Fairy will be busy tomorrow, but for now...

    "...So, then I said, right, I said 'And anyway, darlin, that's not a banana you're peeling!'" Mass guffaws. HAHAHAHA HA HA HA ha...ha...haaa...and fade to black. And silence.

    Crazy-Banner

    A chimpanzee is lying beneath a tree. Well, perhaps "beneath" dignifies the picture somewhat. "Underneath" might be better. And the tree is horizontal. On the floor surrounding the chimp are a number of festive baubles, and on a nearby sofa is a crumpled heap of clothes and blankets. Looping on his television screen is a video of a chimp invasion of a wine store. After a BLT he will realise how much fun last night's Christmas party was, but right now he is sulking about a lost battle with a tree.

    "Oi, Snazzy", he says to the sofa. The crumpled heap moves a little to show the head of another chimpanzee, this one topped off with an angel. "How did we get here?"

    "I think we started off with a couple of aperitifs, Crazy, Laurent-Perrier Non-Vintage, £27 a pop. Christmas has come early at that price..."

    LP

    "No, here!" I was a tree climbing aristocracy not so long ago, now I'm pinned to the floor by a Norwegian Spruce wondering how I'm going to get to work. I should be sitting in the sunshine picking fleas off my girlfriend, not working in a wine shop in Clapham!"

    "Well for a start, I warned you against putting your Christmas tree up after a night on the Brasso. You should have savoured some Bourgogne Blanc Girardin with me - elegant, pleasantly aromatic, and appealingly fruity. The wine's not bad either, boom boom!"

    Bourgogne

    "And as for your job, well, think about it. People want a shop with character, and they want the best of everything. The confused man with ten quid who'd never been in the place before - you gave him Coteaux du Pont du Gard - fruit, structure, intensity and complexity. And a rather saucy joke. Think how some small part of his life may have been changed by a wine of such quality. He might have had a Road to Damascus moment with a country wine from Avignon."

    Pont-du-Gard

    "...and the lady wanting a change from boring, boring Pinot Grigio? Domaine de Coudoulet Viognier - a lovely flowery nose and tropical fruit on the palate, balanced with a dash of citrus. She didn't think wine shopping could be such fun, and now she's looking at the more generic offerings with something approaching pity. You see, we send out little ripples of love and affirmation with every bottle, and though you can't see them, they cross your path with every step you take from the shop to Clapham Junction station. Every cosy looking, lamp lit window may have a Coudoulet Viognier behind it. If only you knew!"

    Snazzy-Banner

    "Cor blimey, Snazzy, you don't half talk some cobblers. And there's nothing elegant or pleasantly aromatic about you while you're piled up on my settee! Now get yourself out and get us a banana, lettuce and tomato, while I sort some coffee out."

    As the front door closes, Crazy Chimp's mind drifts to Snazzy's comments. To the tables he may have enriched in some way, to the laughter he's brought to unsuspecting shoppers, to the enrichment of his own mind and so many others with knowledge of the seemingly obscure or opaque. Clapham has become a beautiful place, and Christmas is his, for him to give to the world!

    Well, that's if he can get from under this tree now Snazzy's gone out...

  • The Chimpossible Dream

    Outspoken Chimp is sitting with friends watching himself on a video for the umpteenth time. The video concerns the seasonal takeover of a chain of wine stores by a bunch of likeable, if unruly chimps, and Outspoken has convinced himself and all around him that he is by far the star of the show. A former tabloid journalist, he has a great flair for persuading people to believe the clearly improbable. As another bottle of Girouette Sauvignon Blanc is passed around, the rather surprising finale takes him back to his journalistic heyday.

    Girouette-Sauvignon-Blanc

    'MUST WE FLING THIS FILTH AT OUR POP KIDS?' blared a headline in the Sunday People, back in the punk era, above a hysterical piece that accused the New Musical Express of covering the new music's attendant hysteria in tones verging on the hysterical. Even by tabloid standards, this was award-winning gobbledegook! Not to be outdone, Outspoken swung straight on to the bandwagon. Picking randomly on Mancunian no-hopers, Primate Scream, the Daily Spud's front page article 'PUNK ROCK DRUG HOUNDS BEAT UP VICAR' carried nothing to substantiate its headline, but seethed with enough ill-conceived outrage to drive the band's record sales through the roof. Outspoken subsequently left Grub Street behind, making the trek to Manchester to work as the band's PR. Tied up in the boot of their Austin Allegro, by his own account...

    Outspoken-Banner

    The band went from strength to strength, or at least from stunt to stunt, until their singer, Passionate Chimp, began to feel restless. The sincerity with which he dealt with the band's subject matter - creationism, species-ism, dodgy Clint Eastwood films - was beyond reproach, but he was wishing the audience would show their approval with something other than phlegm. Maybe they could leave flowers at the front of the stage, like they did for Barbra Streisand, or a bottle of deliciously elegant wine like Domaine Condamine Syrah-Mourvèdre, or even throw their...ahem, that's quite enough now...

    Syrah-Mourvedre

    On a night off in the middle of a tour, he wanders into a cabaret club in Liverpool. A listless turn has the audience tapping their toes politely while eating chicken in a basket and gazing into glasses of Vin Tres Ordinaire. During the interval, Passionate Chimp takes the stage and starts cautiously to sing 'The Way We Were', an evolutionary favourite. The bouncers move to throw him off until they notice that people are paying attention. He glides into '(They Long To Be) Close To You', an anti-creationism classic, and people are looking fondly into each other's eyes and swaying gently while they push the boat out with some Anxo Albarino.

    Anxo-Martin

    By 'Ape-ril In Paris', the original act has packed up and wobbled home, having drowned his mediocrity with Kavalan Concert Master Taiwanese whisky; and as Passionate brings the house down with 'Lover Come Back To Me', the man with the bucket of 'roses for the lady' has sold out completely, the whole lot piled up at the front of the stage! The audience are on their feet, grown men are in tears and the club is in uproar, and as Passionate Chimp gathers up the flowers, buried among them he sees - yes! - underwear! A Littlewoods panty girdle with a phone number written on it in lipstick. Passionate hasn't been here an hour and already he has arrived!

    Passionate-Banner

    Making notes in a dark corner stands Outspoken himself. Even he has never convinced so many people so unequivocally of his own greatness. He mooches over to a man in a sheepskin coat, his hands bedecked with sovereign rings, and starts making arrangements.

    Is this the end for Primate Scream? Will Tom Jones be dethroned by a chimpanzee? Will our hero dial the number on the Littlewoods passion killers? Tune in next week, and in the meantime keep the heat turned up with a bottle of La Multa Garnacha, a hot blooded continental with a powerful body that you won't want to share with anybody else!

    La-Multa

  • 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.

  • A CELEBRITY FOX AUCTION? WTF?

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

    Charity Blog - Fox in Window

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

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

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

    For Twitter

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

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

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

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

  • PEPITA'S CHRISTMAS REVOLUCIÓN

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

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

    Pepita Banner for Blog

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

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

    Japanese

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

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

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

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

    Bordeaux

    Best use for bears, if you ask me.

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

    Beer

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

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

    I look forward to meeting you.

  • THE PALATE, FASHION FAUX PAS & EVIL

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

    ‘Til next time.

  • THE GREEN LIGHT

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

  • BLACK SHEEP AND SHAKY STARTS

    This week is A-level results week. Whether you are a have a younger brother or sister, who’s currently prostrate on a sofa, still staring grimly/elatedly at their results papers, dusting the kebab crumbs off their shirt, or a parent, trying really very hard to be enthusiastic about your off-spring’s C in ‘Citizenship Studies’, but wondering if a quick secretarial course is still an option, Oddbins is here for you. That probably doesn’t sound well-meaning coming from a wine merchant, but we have honourable intentions, we promise. Let us elucidate… All the best people have wobbly beginnings. Before becoming a ‘national treasure’, Stephen Fry was quite the black sheep, having been expelled from two schools and sent to prison. So rest easy, folks – ‘coz ‘black sheep’, like ‘ugly ducklings’, ‘underdogs’ and other animal-related subclasses, are the best. It is in this spirit that we collar some defiantly odd wines from a country not known for experimentation and shove them into the Odd News spotlight…
    The country we speak of is that thin, vertiginously mountainous strip of land that is Chile. Chileans are masters of ready-to-go, reliable, top value wines, which is obviously great. Super. Lovely. But… sometimes it’s nice to go mental, take all your clothes off and jump into a lake. Which is what, in vinous terms, the next wine does. Called ‘Oveja Negra’, which is Spanish for ‘black sheep’, and priced £8.75, it is a whacked-out blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenère. A zingy white wine blended with a juicy red wine? Well, like our Citizenship Studies student, the choice may look unlikely, but it works. Sauvignon’s grapefruit-fresh zippiness marries exceptionally well with the plump yet herbaceous Carmenère. Oveja Negra might just be geniuses.
    So, if Oveja Negra is Chile’s black sheep, then Viña Leyda is their ‘ugly duckling’. Not that they were ever ugly as such. More like lonesome, frontier-dwelling outsiders. As we mentioned in Odd News a few weeks back, they were the first ones to set up camp in the Leyda Valley, which was previously farmed for wheat and barley, and secured its status as an official wine region in 2001. They continue to push the envelope, leaving the crowd way behind as they experiment with grapes like Sauvignon Gris (£11) – a rare, older sister of Sauvignon Blanc that is more expressive, tropical and spicy than its popular younger sister. If they were a family, they’d probably be the Kennedys; talented and celebrated, with varying levels of fame and exotic tendencies…
    Finally we turn to Chile’s underdog. We’ve waxed lyrical many a time about New World Chardonnay. It’s got a bad rep. ‘It’s big, oaky, overblown’, people say. They say ‘it’ll never satisfy me the way a nice crisp Burgundian Chardonnay does’. But we know otherwise, don’t we reader? We know that, if you go high up enough into the mountains, past the cloud line, where the temperature drops and the grapes can cool right down at night-time, you can get some mouth-wateringly lemony, nuanced, flinty charmers like De Martino Chardonnay (£11), which, one day, will go on to rule the world and people will say ‘I am soo glad I didn’t send him off to do a secretarial course’. Know what we mean?

    So, as your loved one studies those letters on that bit of paper, you can all be safe in the knowledge that it is a long road and this isn’t the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning… and Oddbins is just down the road (or on the computer) when you need us.

    Ciao.

  • FOOTBALL LOVE, FOOTBALL HATE, FOOT WHAT?

    20 June, 2014

    Major sporting tournaments tend to polarise sporty types and non-sporty types into two squarely opposing camps. The sporty types gather together to discuss tactics, glancing dubiously at the non-sporty types, while the non-sporty types wonder what the fuss is about, becoming increasingly incredulous towards their Lycra-clad opposites. But the World Camp introduces a third type: the ignorant enthusiast (Oddbins falls into this category). So, this week, whether you’re a lover, a hater or an intrigued novice swept up in the excitement of it all, we’ve something for you this World Cup…

    Mari

    Firstly, for the haters. We know that, when you haven’t got your head in the sand and your fingers in your ears avoiding football, you’re a really nice bunch. You like a good laugh and you like rooting out curious libations – that’s why you subscribe to Odd News, right? So, to appease your football-weary souls, may we introduce a lama. “What???” you may splutter. But don’t worry, we’re not talking about the fluffy South American camel, we’re talking about Mari – Join the Lama (275ml, 5.9%, £3.95): a medium-sweet fusion of Mosel Riesling, fermented Yerba Maté (tea leaves) from Argentina and Austrian elderflower. It sounds mental but it tastes out of this world. Also from Austria and also rather leftfield, we have a sparkling Grüner Veltliner made by wine wunderkind Markus Huber. With all the sensual orchard fruit and bold spice of still Grüner Veltliner, wrapped up in an enticing, soft fizz, it’s a total delight. Supplies are limited, so get stuck in whilst you can.

    FOX

    Secondly, for the ‘intrigued novice swept up in the excitement of it all’, we have a cunning plan that involves watching the World Cup and winning a £50 gift card, without knowing a crumb about football. Here’s how it works:

    1. Purchase a pair of wines that are up against each other (wine matching explanations here; wine and fixtures here)
    2. Taste the wines at home. (This is easier with four friends or relatives).
    3. Score the wines thus: each taster decides if they prefer one wine over the other or if it’s a draw. Each person preferring a wine scores a goal for the corresponding team.  So if three tasters prefer wine A, one prefers wine B and one has no preference, your score is 3-1 to Wine A. If all 5 tasters don’t have a preference between the wines, your score is 0-0
    4. Post your score (whether it’s 3:2 or 0:0), with a picture of both wines together, on Twitter or Facebook, using @OddbinsWine. To state the bleedin’ obvious, Tweets must be posted before the match.*
    5. All correct predictions will win a £50 gift card**
    6. We do not accept bribes. Unlike certain members of a Geneva-based ‘not-for-profit organisation’ reportedly.

    *ReTweets do not count as entries
    **One prediction is allowed per person, per match

    DES OLLIEUXThirdly, for people who actually know about football. Regardless of whether England cling on to life tonight (Forza Italia!), you can win wine this World Cup. If you correctly predict any score, using your knowledge of the game, we’ll give you both teams’ representative wines. For example, if you predict that Germany will beat Ghana 3-1 tomorrow, you win Château Ollieux La Volière (representing France) and Oveja-Negra Sauvignon Blanc/Carmenère (representing Ghana). For all the team’s wines, click here. To repeat, we’re inviting you to call any match to win wine. Just reply to this email, or Tweet us @Oddbins, using #WorldCup, before the match.*

    *Again, one prediction is allowed per person, per match. ReTweets do not count as entries.

    Yea, though our football knowledge be sparse and our passion sporadic, we will find a way to involve wine in the World Cup in any way we can.

    Go football!

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