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Wine Tasting Events

  • 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

  • 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.

  • PUT YOUR PALATE TO THE TEST

    Like a pretentiousness-seeking missile that annihilates wine snobbery whenever it is deployed, The Palate has shown thousands of people over the past four years that wine tasting is easy and it is for everybody.

    The Palate 2015

    Like wine but are sure that your friend with the Master of Wine qualification/impressive wine cellar/bragging arrogance is much better qualified to talk about it? Yeah, that’s not true. Come to The Palate at any of our shops this weekend (27/28) and we’ll show you that anyone with a tongue in their mouth can use it to taste wine – and to talk about it, too.

    Did we mention that, as well as the chance to win the title of The Palate 2015, you can win: a wine holiday to South Africa; a long weekend in Italy; a day course at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School; wine prizes totalling £3,000; much free wine; and the chance to pick a wine for us to list nationwide? Now that’s something to brag about.

  • THE ALTERNATIVE POLLS WINNERS - IT COULD BE YOOUU

    We may sometimes come across as (wine-loving) misanthropic nihilists but right now, in the words of our Glorious Leader Dave, we feel bloody lively. *Rolls sleeves up, strides on to the stage and grabs the mic*. Because, though the polling stations may be smelly sports halls, guarded by kind yet stern citizens who may actually kill you if you transgress electoral rules, the majority of this country will be heading out to vote today. Save a bit of light vote rigging, there is nothing more that politicians can do to sway the outcome of the election. However, before you go on your merry way, we at Oddbins would like to announce (da da daaaa) the winner of our recent Alternative Polls, in which we put five Rhône Valley reds on tasting and secretly assigned the wines to a political party. Using the lesser-known Single Tasty Vote (STV) system, we have crunched the numbers and the winner is…

    Arnesque CNDP

    … no-one! OK we should explain that. In true political style, we may have misled you last week, as not all five wines represented a political party (as Lucy Powell MP quite rightly says, just because we carved our pledges in stone, it doesn't mean we might not break them). Domaine de l’Arnesque Châteauneuf-du-Pape (£24) was our bluff card – and it is also our winner, with 35% of the vote. But if it doesn’t stand for a political party, what does it stand for? Well, it stands for everything that we think a political leader should be. It is a solid wine with charisma and substance that shines out like a beacon for the people – and wouldn’t be seen near a bacon sandwich. Like the cross-key emblem of this famous southern Rhône wine, our dream PM is identifiable and assertive and has all the bottle that you could hope for. YES.

    Parties

    That’s the dream. But what of the other four wines? Well, blow us down with a feather if we haven’t got a result that would seem to match pollsters' predictions (which is no surprise, as our methods were empirical and perfect). We have got four wines with a similar proportion of the vote, whose characters may not have the voting magnetism of Châteauneuf du Pape, but have legions of loyal fans nonetheless. Without further ado, the results for the UK (well, anywhere near an Oddbins) are:

    Labour – 19%
    Conservative – 17%
    Liberal Democrats – 14%
    SNP – 14%
    Spoilt ballots – 1% (some people struggle aiming in the spittoon)

    NB whilst they are serious contenders, we have not included UKIP in these results. This is because Oddbins does not have any shops in UKIP strongholds (quelle surprise… sorry Nigel, we mean ‘what a surprise’), so it would be unfair to include them with such a handicap.

    Rick Blaine

    The eagle-eyed among you will have noted that we haven’t yet told you which wines represent which parties – and that’s because we’re a bit like Bisto: we save the best ‘til last (yeah, we just said that). We are leaving it to you to link the following wines, with their cunningly subtle allusions to Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and the SNP, to these parties:

    Reserve de Fleur Côtes du Rhône (£8.50) – this wine Unites people in admiration of it – you could say it’s the rose of the Rhône.
    Domaine de l’Arnesque Côtes du Rhône (£9.50) – fruity and mellow, this wine can lend support to a surprising range of main dishes.
    Vidal-Fleury Ventoux (£9) – Ventoux may be an unassuming appellation - you could say it's the ‘quiet man’ of the Rhône - but it is supported by some rich, rich, rich flavours.
    Colombo Le Vent Rouge Côtes du Rhône (£10) – this is a slick wine with deep reserves of flavour. Although it doesn’t work with salmon…do try it with sturgeon.

    But we find that voting is such thirsty work, so the first five people to email alternative.polls@oddbins.com with each wine’s affiliated party will win a mixed case of Alternative Polls wines. Now that’s what we call a result.

  • 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.

  • THE PALATE 2014

    The Year of Men, Festivals and Red Trousers

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • EXPLORING SPACE AND WINE

    Inspired by the news this week of Britain’s first official astronaut (although we're not sure what Helen Sharman thinks about this title), for this edition of Oddnews we’ve recruited some spacemen and spacewomen to aid our continuing exploration…

    Major Tim Peake filled in an online application form and soon he’ll be jetting off into space. Well, we have a story almost as crazy…

    Come and take part in a free wine tasting at Oddbins and you could end up jetting off for a 10 day luxury wine holiday for two to Australia and New Zealand, winning wine, attending a wine tasting boot camp and even choosing your own wine for Oddbins' shelves. It can only mean one thing… The Palate 2013, Oddbins’ search for the finest amateur wine taster, is back. To find out more watch our new video here. The first round will take place in all our shops on the weekends of 1-2 and 8-9 June. Wine tasting is fun, easy and anyone can do it. The Palate 2013 could be yours, all you have to do is reach for it.

    We’re pretty jealous of astronauts. How cool would it be to control the robotic arm of a spaceship? Another person that we’re pretty jealous of is Robert Oatley. He pioneered Australian wines around the world turning Rosemount Estate into one of Australia’s most famous wineries, he’s won countless yacht races and been honoured by the Queen for his contribution to the British Empire. He also owns the paradise of Hamilton Island, which the winner of The Palate 2013 will be lucky enough to visit. Just look at the pictures and you’ll want to enter the competition immediately. And as if that wasn’t enough Bob also makes an incredible range of wines. Plucking the best grapes from his vineyards dotted around Australia to make a stunning Shiraz from southern McLaren Vale, a perfect Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula and a charming Chardonnay from Margaret River. These bold, balanced and beautiful wines embody everything we love about Australian winemaking. When Oddbins eventually gets its own spaceship, we’re going to invite Robert Oatley to control the robotic arm and bring some wine for the journey.

    We would have thought that drinking before space travel would’ve been illegal, but who are we to argue with NASA and Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to venture into space. What do you think astronauts have for Dutch courage before blast off? If Major Tim needs a suggestion, we’d recommend a classic Campbeltown single malt. With Springbank’s signature complexity, you could spend five months in space with just one bottle and never get bored of it. So many aromas and flavours, each dram is an adventure. For those not familiar with our website, each of our spirits has an alter ego. We currently have the Superman Springbank 10 year old, the Hugh Laurie Springbank 18 year old and the Bob Flowerdew Springbank 12 year old Calvados Wood. If you were looking for a companion to take into space, we imagine Superman would probably get a bit restless being stuck in a spaceship on a long journey, he’s been there and done that. There are no gardens in space and Bob Flowerdew’s ponytail would cause havoc in zero gravity. So taking into account Major Tim’s musical tendencies, we’d plump for the Hugh Laurie Springbank 18 year old. [Disclaimer: Oddbins does not condone drinking whisky before piloting a spacecraft]

    That’s all from us, until next time keep exploring, because as Frank Borman, the first man to fly around the moon, said…

    “Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.”

  • SECRETS, LOVE AND BARDS

    Happy Burns Night one and all. In the words of Rabbie: “Go fetch to me a pint o wine, an fill it in a silver tassie.” or at least a bottle of malt whisky from Oddbins. But before you do, have a read of this…
    Well, that was well over 400 years ago. These days it’s unlikely that Golden Globe winning actor and redheaded heartthrob Damian Lewis is going to be burnt alive at the hands of a pitchfork-wielding, baying mob. However, reports earlier this month of a young gentleman who received a shattered jaw for his birthday, courtesy of a thug in Birmingham, simply due to his hair colour, are proof that redheads still sometimes get unfairly picked on. Here at Oddbins, we love red hair and we would like to celebrate it. So if you have two copies of a recessive gene on chromosome 16, which have caused a mutation in the MC1R protein, resulting in a reddish hue to your hair, head down to an Oddbins from Friday 25 to Sunday 27 January and receive some love from us. As Frank Sinatra said “orange is the happiest colour.” Let's keep it that way. To find out more have a gander at our blog: Blogbins.

    Donna Tartt’s book The Secret History is a macabre tale of what happens when clandestine Bacchanalian festivities go bad. It’s a good read, but dark. Although we love a little secretive revelry, we prefer ours on the lighter side. At £11 a pop the Secret de Viu Manent wines are a better reflection of how we roll. These are three wines, one made from Carménère, one from Malbec and one from Viognier. The twist is that each one contains a proportion of mystery. Now don’t be scared, it isn’t horsemeat. We wouldn’t do that to you. 15% of each wine is made from an undisclosed blend. Now we love a secret, so our lips are firmly locked on what those blends are. But do your Columbo-like taste buds have the skills to unravel the enigma and identify the puzzling grape mixes? You'll just have to pick up a delicious bottle at one of our shops to find out...

    Over the last three months we’ve been exploring the theme of love. But unfortunately our love is dwindling. It’s not you, it’s us, we’ve changed and we’ve got to move on. We’re joking of course, we’ll never stop loving you, we just have a new theme starting in February. But what this means is that our “Love Now On!” January special offers on Fine Wines will be coming to an end on 31 January, so make sure you get yourself to an Oddbins shop before then. Who knows you might find the perfect Valentine’s Day present well ahead of time. For example, we have money off one of South Africa’s finest Pinot Noirs, the great value second wine of the illustrious Château Pichon-LonguevilleBillecart-Salmon’s Champagne made in oak and many more in our shops. And if you are wondering what our next theme will be, well you’ll just have to trust us…

    That’s all from us, go forth and do wrong to none.

  • ALICE COOPER, DEBBIE HARRY, JANUARY JONES AND A PENGUIN

    Christmas is almost upon us. We hope you are all stocked up. If not, don’t panic, there is still time. However, don’t leave it too late; we’d hate for you to miss out. Please allow Alice Cooper, Debbie Harry, January Jones and a very important penguin to lovingly take you by the hand and guide you through the next few weeks. Just be warned they each have some unusual dining habits…
    …any guesses what Alice Cooper’s second most joyous time of the year is? Answers on a postcard. To be honest, we wouldn’t have pegged the original golfing shock rocker as the festive type. Not least because everybody knows he prefers raw chicken heads over roast turkey breast. The fact that the whole domesticated foul nibbling incident was just an unappetising urban myth is irrelevant, as it brings us neatly round to the issue of “the bird”. What delights are you planning for the Christmas menu, and have you sorted your wine matches yet? We’re going for the Breakfast of Champions: scrambled egg-topped muffins (feel free to add smoked salmon or gruyere and chives as you please) accompanied by the stylish Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut Champagne. We are planning on going off-piste with the roast by serving the elegant South African Lothian Pinot Noir and La Closerie des Lys Chardonnay, the latter being the wine selected for our range by Fran Evans, winner of The Palate 2012 (have you read the blog and seen the video?). Our Christmas pudding will be complemented by the rich Château Pajzos Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos, the cheeseboard will be introduced to the smoothest Port on the market: Sandeman LBV 2007, and if we’re lucky enough that Santa has furnished us with a bottle, we’ll loosen our belts a notch and wash down a mince pie with a wee dram of Glengoyne 21 Year Old. If you'd like to share your own menus with us, we’d love to hear from you; let us know on Facebook or Twitter. However, if you need any more advice, get yourself down to one of our shops pronto, there aren’t many unopened doors on that advent calendar. If you go dressed as Alice Cooper we promise that, after the initial shock, our staff will offer a level of service beyond even their usual excellence.
    We wish we were a little more punk. Wouldn’t it be cool to be Debbie Harry? Now we don’t want to come across all “humbuggish”, but we bet that Blondie’s front lady hasn’t spent many New Year’s Eves freezing her extremities off in Baltic conditions, queuing six deep at overpriced bars, stuck on adverse-weather-conditions-public transport or standing in line for the toilets when the countdown commences, as we have. We love New Year’s Eve, but find that the reality rarely lives up to the hype. So for the 2012/2013 transition, instead of going out for New Year’s Eve, we’re going to be celebrating New Year’s In. Maybe we are getting old. Imagine all the comfort and warmth of home, invite friends round and open something nice. If you’re hosting quite a few people, we challenge you to find a bubbly with a higher quality to price ratio than the Torre Oria Cava Reserva. Or why not finish off the year with something legendary like the Château Gloria Saint-Julien? £38 might seem like a lot, but remember it doesn’t cost £30 for a ticket to get into your house and it will taste much better than a warm pint of Carling in a plastic cup. So what is Debbie’s weird eating habit we hear you ask? Well she likes to eat to the beat obviously, which must mean that jazz makes for quite an uncomfortable dining experience Chez Harry.
    January is coming people. And we’re not talking about actress January Jones, with her car crashing antics and her unusual après-birth diet (the latter we will leave to your own imagination, all we’ll say is that her argument that “we’re the only mammals that don’t do it”, simply doesn’t cut the mustard with us). Oh no, we’re talking about the twice as icy month of January. Before you use your New Year’s resolution to cast wine aside with the cold heartedness of Betty from Mad Men, you might want to wait and see what we have planned for next year. Our “love” theme is going to take an unexpected twist and we are definitely going to be showing off. We wouldn’t want you to miss out, so keep a loving eye on us.

    That’s all from us, but before we go, have you met Pepita the Penguin yet? She loves a krill burrito…

  • THE ART OF CHRISTMAS SHOPPING

    We’ve held off just about as long as we could, but the number of sleeps ‘til Christmas is ticking away rapidly and we want to shout about our festive joy. As is traditional in these situations, we are going to call on the whole Hungarian nation, the father of modern astronomy and an ancient Chinese philosopher to help us…

     

    CHRISTMAS GIFTS

    Sun Tzu was misunderstood; he was a lover, not a fighter. His first work, The Art of Christmas Shopping, was vastly overshadowed by the popularity of his later treatise; the Art of War. What many don’t realise is that the former was the inspiration for the latter. In The Art of War he said “The way of war is a way of deception. When deploying troops, appear not to be.” However, the original wording stemmed from his love of covert gift buying, as described in his first publication: “The way of Christmas Shopping is a way of deception. When shopping, do so online so as to appear not to be.” Both pieces of writing state that “Excessive rewards are a sign of desperation”, i.e. you must be cunning with your shopping, spend wisely. We’re pretty sure that, if we hadn’t made all this up, Sun Tzu would have loved shopping at Oddbins. We have followed his teaching and carefully planned our strategy: loads of giftslittle gifts, big gifts, all kinds of gift packaging, corporate gifts that can be sent to lots of different destinations, personal gift messages and a simply fantastic range of wines, spirits and fizz. As Sun Tzu famously never said: “know when to shop and when not to shop”, now is the time to shop friends.

     

    ARDBEG

    Not sure we’ve accredited that quote correctly, but we’ve already tried to claim that a Chinese military general who lived around 500 BC liked Christmas shopping, so in for a penny, in for a pound. What do you get if you fill an Oddbins warehouse with a deep, dark loch, a tumultuous whirlpool, a ferocious reptile, a dead Italian physicist and a whole load of really potent ten year olds? A health and safety nightmare? Sordid tabloid allegations? The gentle knock of a Police battering ram? Well, the answer would probably be “all of the above”, if we weren’t talking specifically about Ardbeg whiskies. We love the Uigeadail (that’s the mysterious loch), Corryvreckan (that’s the whirlpool) and classic Ardbeg 10 Year Old (that’s the… oh you get it) so much, we’ve added two newbies to the range: the Alligator and the Galileo. These are extremely limited releases, most retailers sold out long ago, but we’ve managed to secure a few just for you. If you want to find out more about our new reptilian and astronomical friends, or just crack on and buy one of these Islay delights before they all gone, just follow the links to our website or browse all our whiskies here.

     

    TOKAJI

    That’s “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” in Hungarian. To be honest, there are so many accents and unusual vowel/consonant combos; it looks like the sentence above has tumbled into the one you are endeavouring to read. If you fancy a real challenge, try saying it, you have less than a month to nail it. If you fancy something Hungarian that’s a little easier on the tongue, try some glorious sweet Tokaji. There are few wines made with so much love. It’s so good a member of the French royalty described it as “the king of wines and the wine of kings”, it was the first wine to be protected by law, it features in the Hungarian national anthem (please note: God Save the Queen does not bestow the virtues of Carling) and the Hungarians drink it at celebrations instead of Champagne. The Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos from Château Pajzos (pronounced “pie-zosh”) tastes like the festive period should: gloriously rich and syrupy with raisins, dried apricots, toffee, spices, marmalade and honey flavours. It’s the perfect partner to your Christmas pudding, mince pies or cheeseboard, or go crazy and drink it in celebration like the mighty Magyar: “Egészségedre!” (that’s "cheers" BTW).

    That’s all from us, but before we go, just remember that we love you (and we mean it properly, not in the gyrating-hips "Prince" kind of way).

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