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Wine News

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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...?

  • An Oddbins Peek Into Burgundy

    Following the recent revamp and launch of our new Burgundy range, on 6th July we hosted a Winemakers dinner at the impressive ICA on Pall Mall. Attended by customers, lifestyle press, wine bloggers, some lucky staff and three of the winemakers, it was a night full of gorgeous food, great company and even better wine!

    The night began with guests mingling over glasses of Pol Roger champagne, getting to know each other and becoming increasingly eager about what the night was to offer.

    Everyone then made their way through to the dining room. It looked incredible. We managed to snap a few pics before it was full of people, some of which included our wonderful trio of winemakers, Nicolas, Bernard and Stéphane. Cheeky!

    The dinner kicked off with Angela (our Events Specialist extraordinaire), welcoming everyone to the dinner designed to showcase our dazzling new Burgundy range and show people the passion behind the bottles. Next, Jenny, the buyer responsible for the new range, told everyone tales of her buying trip to the region, the adventures in her little rental and the benefits of Google Translate! Telling her story of discovering these wines and being welcomed into the homes and cellars of our honoured guests, we began to fully understand why these wines were as stand out as we were about to discover.

    Face to face with the menu packed full of wine and food pairings, the room began to get excited.

    The first batch of wines were on the table and ready to be poured, so of course we obliged. We helped ourselves to glasses of Remoissenet Puligny Montrachet 2014 and Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Pinot for starters. One word? Incredible! These exceptional fine wines complemented the first course perfectly. Black fig and taleggio terrine and brioche tuille. We're salivating just thinking about that pairing and yes, it tasted as good as it looked. See!

    A few glasses down (small glasses may we add), and everyone was ready to devour the starter. Potel-Aviron's Bourgogne Aligoté was absolutely perfect with this starter and had a beautiful citrus sweetness. We even overheard someone saying it needed to come with a "warning to be restrained" as it was truly "gluggable"! Our new favourite word for sure.

    Next up was the main event - lamb rump, shallot puree, purple potato and rosemary dauphinoise paired with six of our Burgundies designed to complement this course to perfection. Stéphane took to the stage delivering a wonderful speech and setting everyone up to enjoy the next round. The first wine enjoyed was the robust and sweet Remoissenet Vosne-Romanée. Beautiful.

    "If I was Duke of Burgundy, I would make it illegal to sell Burgundy in supermarkets!" - Bernard Repolt

    As would we Bernard.

    Dessert followed with a rich amaranth mousse with hazelnut crumbs, honey jelly and wild raspberry. It was absolutely divine, and paired with a choice of another round of five of our Burgundies, it was a treat for the taste buds. Sipping on a glass of Collection Bellenum Chambolle-Musigny, we worked our way through the dessert, listened to more fascinating tales from our winemakers and enjoyed conversation about "Oddbins quirky early years", from the legendary Stephen Spurrier. We finished the night tasting the wines we couldn't quite fit into dinner and mingling as the sun went down on the impressive ICA balconies.

    All in all, it was a night spent celebrating our amazing range of new Burgundy wines and sharing our love with everyone in the room for three things. The wonderful evening, the wine and Oddbins.

    "Oddbins is on a roll and I think the Bourgogne roll is the best roll to be on." - Stephen Spurrier

    Pop onto our Facebook page to have a peek at the rest of the photos from the night.

    The Burgundy Winemakers Dinner - Complete Wine List

    Starter Wines

    Marchand-Tawse Côte de Nuits Villages 2013 - £26.00

    Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Pint Noir V.V. 2014 - £16.00

    Remoissenet Puligny Montrachet 2014 - £45.00

    Remoissenet Chablis 'Amiral Vernon' 2014 - 19.00

    Potel-Aviron Bourgogne Aligoté V.V. 2015 - £11.00

    Main Wines

    Remoissenet Vosne-Romanée 2014 - £50.00

    Remoissenet Rully Blanc - £20.00

    Marchand-Tawse Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Perrières 2012 - £55.00

    Justin Girardin Pommard 2014 - £32.00

    Roche de Bellene Chassagne-Montrachet 2014 - £40.00

    Roche de Bellene Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru 2012 - £60.00

    Dessert Wines

    Potel-Aviron Macon-Villages V.V. 2015 - £12.50

    Remoissenet Vosne-Romanée 2014 - £50.00

    Roche de Bellene Meursault - £38.00

    Collection Bellenum Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru 2001 - £50.00

    Justin Girardin Bourgogne Blanc 2014 - £15.00

  • PIMP MY PUMPKIN

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

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

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

    Halloween Amaretto Rum

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

    Take that, demons.

  • HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?

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

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

    chubby_checker-limbo_party-front

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • DISCOVER THE WORLD

    Q3b 2015 - Discover the World Ansel Adams

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

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

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

    Q3b 2015 - Discover the World Ansel France

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

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

    Q3b 2015 - Discover the World

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

  • THE COMEBACK KIDS

    With the exception, perhaps, of Tom Jones, who has covered up the chest rug and put the medallion away in favour of a rootsy, silver fox vibe that we defy man, woman or beast not to find attractive, comebacks are rubbish. When Blue resurfaced, despite their best efforts to look boyish and carefree, their concerns about mortgage repayments were written all over their faces. However, when it comes to wine, it’s never too late for a comeback and, like Muhammad Ali bouncing back off the rope in the Rumble in the Jungle, Romania, Hungary and Austria are about to wipe the floor with the competition..

    Vine in Flames

    Now, whatever your views about baggy gold trousers, you have to admit that MC Hammer really made his mark. Plus, anyone who comes up with lines like ‘This is it, for a winner / dance to this and you’re gonna get thinner’ has our profound respect. Like Hammer – real name Stanley Kirk Burrell – Romanian wine was massive in the 1980s and its soft, juicy Pinots are remembered fondly by many. Also like SKB, who filed for bankruptcy after getting hugely into debt, Romania suffered financial woes that all but crippled its wine industry (unlike SKB this was not down to its frivolous ways). But wineries like Budureasca are putting it firmly back on the map. Its exquisite, quince-powered Vine in Flames honours the 2,000-year-old myth that the area’s vineyards were burned to deter invaders… talk about Phoenixes and ashes. We’d elaborate, but we can’t Stop – (it’s) Hungary time.

    Titi and Dry by Tokaj

    Hungarian wine's reputation has always been dominated by two characters; Bull’s Blood and Tokaj. Bull’s Blood is a red wine that veers between brilliant and terrible and is steeped in bloody myth, while Tokaj is mesmeric and golden and owes its sweetness to the mould that grows on the grapes. “Variable quality? Messy history? Inset rot? That must make them the Fleetwood Mac of the wine world!” you cry… And how right you are. Like The Mac, who have sorted their act out and are currently skipping bare-foot through their comeback tour, we have some fresh takes on these two wines. Titi is an enchanting expression of Bull's Blood, all black cherries and star anise and Dry by Tokaj is a dry version of the famous dessert wine (no points for guessing that). When made traditionally, sans mould, the grapes can create joyful, orchard-fruited, orange blossom-scented stars like this. Anyway, we don’t want to break The Chain, so here’s our last comeback kid…

    Nussdorfer

    Not to get sinister on y’all, but this is a shadowy, Third Man kind of comeback. A vinous scandal in the 1980s knocked Austria’s wine industry for six, but it has now resumed its place as the pint-sized powerhouse of wine. It is apt, then, that the Austrian-set film noir classic, The Third Man, has just been rereleased on DVD and Blu Ray, along with other vintage classics including Aces High and The Cruel Sea. If you want to recreate some of the mystique of The Third Man, you could wear a trilby, pulled down low, and hang around in a sewer. Alternatively, you could sip on Markus Huber’s Nussdorfer Riesling, from Traisental, Austria, which we are giving away here along with SW4 Gin to mark the release of these iconic British films. With its citrus overtones and cool charm, Nussdorfer is quite the Harry Lime – but the only crime here is not loving it, baby.

    ‘Til next time.

  • THE PALATE 2014: THE AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE

    For this edition of Odd Blog, we hand over the reins to Steve Saunders, the affable Bristolian and new Dad who blew us all away at The Palate 2014 and sipped, slurped and gargled his way to wine tasting victory. Over to you, Steve...

    So here we were, just over five months after the whirlwind of vinous pleasure that was The Palate 2014, and I was off to Australia - the headline-grabbing prize that I was amazed to have won last September, courtesy of Longview Wines and Berton Vineyards. I was even allowed to take the other half with me. Lovely.

    Having chatted via email with Longview’s winemaker and all-round great bloke Peter Saturno, I had my tickets ready and a pretty sensational itinerary. The relaxed sage of the Eden Valley, Bob Berton (of Berton Vineyards fame), then dropped me a line with the plan for the first couple of days at his place. He gave me an interesting choice of either food and wine matching with some old friends of his, or shark diving. As I have not yet had my arm bitten off by a glass of Shiraz I chose the former. Maybe next time Jaws.

    Sydney

    As Australia is quite a trek, Peter and those excellent folks at Oddbins moved my flights about so I could stay in Oz for the best part of two weeks. I spent the first week with my cousin Andrew and his girlfriend Pen in Sydney and, between reptile parks, 360 degree dining and a few beers in ‘Crowy’ (a suburb in Sydney) we also found time to hit some wineries, before commencing the rest of the trip. I was so excited I could crush a grape – which I did, but more of that later….

    After a quick flight to Adelaide we were met by Peter Saturno and, after somehow managing to keep pace with him in our Hyndai i20 hire car, we arrived at the beautiful Longview Vineyards. We were housed in one of the new eco lodges at the vineyard, which was fantastic and housed an array of great wines. Not only that but it was also overlooking a block of Pinot Noir vines… appetite suitably whetted we met Peter and his brother and partner in crime, Mark, in the dining room for dinner. We chatted like old friends around a roaring fire and enjoyed an array of delicious dishes including rare beef, salads and roasted vegetables.

    Longview

    We kicked things off with a tour of the Longview winery, which involved some grape picking, squashing and tasting, checking out the various blocks of vines and watching two Grey Kangaroos hop away after a free sip of the Nebbiolo. Throughout our stay, we got our laughing gear around the other Longview wines, including the Red Bucket Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, which took this classic white Bordeaux blend to new heights with its fresh citrus flavours and zippy acidity. The Whippet Sauvignon Blanc , which had fresh lemon with elderflower and herby notes, with a lovely restraint and elegance but that burst of up-front deliciousness the Aussies do so well. The smooth berry flavours of Red Bucket Shiraz-Cabernet/Sauvignon followed by the minted blackcurrant and spice of Devil’s Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon and then the decadent raspberry and pepper of Yakka Shiraz. Yum. Our final day in the Adelaide Hills had come too soon, so it was with regret that we bade goodbye to our wonderful hosts (although we cheered up when we were given a bottle of the juicy megalith that is The Piece Shiraz [available in selected Oddbins] to take with us (yesssss)!

    Steve

    Our trip to Eden Valley saw us acquainted with the laid back and wonderfully affable Bob and Cherie Berton of Berton Vineyards. After a quick beer and a chat we made our way over to the restaurant at Peter Seppelt Wines. We had a pretty racy and citrusy Riesling to kick things off then shared a wonderful array of wood-fired pizzas, washed down with a drop or two of Shiraz before we headed back to Berton.

    After a critically important lie in Bob, Cherie, my wife Steph and I drove to the Murray River where we enjoyed a rather lovely Berton Vermentino with fish and chips before going back for a wonderful slow roast lamb dinner with more excellent Shiraz and Cherie helped Steph dispose of a white tail spider which had joined us via our suitcase.. We then repaired to the lounge where Bob attempted to tutor me in the ways of Australian Rules football. To no avail. A great day though and a nice relaxing final day before we had to prepare for our flight back home.

    As Bob had to get back across Australia to take a flight to the UK, Steph and I used the time to make sure no more errant spiders had made their way into our cases. We then hit the road and had an excellent lunch at Lou Miranda Estate of light, crispy calamari and some excellent Pinot Grigio. Sadly it was then time to head back to the UK but with a head and heart full of wonderful memories of great food and wine and incredible people. And about half a stone to lose.

    Thanks to everyone for such a fabulous trip but especially to Peter and Mark Saturno and Bob and Cherie Berton – and of course Oddbins – for making this dream journey a reality.

    Cheers!

    ***You can find Oddbins’ range of Longview Wines in-store and here and our range of Berton Vineyards wines in-store or here***

  • ODDBINS' ALTERNATIVE POLLS

    What we are about to say does not come naturally for us, so you’ll have to imagine us mumbling it petulantly through gritted teeth, but… we think UK politics has never been so exciting. They’re clearly still a bunch of obsequious scoundrels, but boy is it nice to have some more options on the table. We’re not saying we want an Italian-style system, with eight major parties with names like Left Ecology Freedom, but anything that challenges the two party monopoly is surely a good thing.

    Swingometer Alternative Polls

    How things will play out on May 7 is now the question on everyone’s lips. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could put that question, quite literally, on your lips? Well, like a vinous version of Cilla Black’s Surprise Surprise, we are going to make your wish come true. This weekend (April 25/26) we will be turning our shops into make-shift polling stations for a pre-election election. We will be putting five reds from the Rhône Valley on blind tasting, with each wine representing one of the five main political parties. What you – the voter – have to do is sip the wines, cogitate and put a cross on the ballot paper against your preferred wine. We will then reveal the wines’ affiliated parties and declare the winner of Oddbins’ Alternative Polls. If we call it right, then Peter Snow officially has to give us his Swingometer.

    Alternative Polls Ballot Paper

    But why the Rhône Valley? Well, a number of reasons. Like our newly diverse political landscape, this thin strip of a wine region has a surprising amount of choice. That’s because as well as being thin, it spans a considerable distance, giving it a range of climates and, consequently, wine styles. Modern winemaking techniques and a move away from heavily oaked and over-extracted styles means that the varying characters are expressed very eloquently. OK maybe that’s where they differ from the party candidates. Also, although it is famed for the big names like Côte Rôtie and Châteauneuf du Pape – the Labour and Conservatives of the Rhône – you can get excellent value for money from Rhône’s smaller ‘parties’, such as Lirac, Vacqueyras and the broader appellations of Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages.

    Our alternative candidates include a big showstopper name in there – but with no spin doctors in sight to gild and coif the candidates, how will it fare against other Rhônes? We’ve put a cork in our candidates’ mouths – now it’s time to see who has the bottle.

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