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  • ODDBINS BUDGET POLL

    What do you think of our Chancellor?

    In the year when Britain lost its triple-A rating, which we think means that we now have less power than quite a small battery, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is about to take the little red Budget Box for its annual outing and try and turn this country’s fortunes around.

    This also means that we in the wine industry are about to leap on to our high horses, (we were feeling left out of all the horse-related shenanigans of the past months), about the ever-increasing duty on alcohol.

    Despite the fact that it is a tradition that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is allowed to drink alcohol while delivering the Budget, something that is forbidden at all other times in the debating chamber, in recent history the speech has become a platform for a parliamentary pummelling of alcohol. Unfortunately George Osborne has followed in the footsteps of two others who also opted for water and also proved rather unpopular. The last Chancellor to partake in an alcoholic drink whilst delivering his speech was Kenneth Clarke, who enjoyed a wee dram of whisky. Interestingly, Kenneth Clarke is seen as one of our most successful Chancellors, who helped the country recover from recession and reduced taxes, unemployment, inflation and the budget deficit, and even had his policies implemented by the opposition when they took over the reins. Although we are no politicians, we think this might suggest that George Osborne should consider partaking in a proper drink whilst delivering this year’s Budget speech. Oddbins would happily provide it for him.

    What is most likely is that on Wednesday George Osborne will not mention alcohol at all, which will in turn be reported as “no changes to alcohol in this year’s Budget.” But in reality the duty escalator, set up in 2008, will sneakily push the duty up by 2% above the rate of inflation for the fifth year in a row, without many people noticing. This seems a little harsh when the government is capping everything else at 1% irrespective of inflation.

    Duty on a bottle of wine is set to rise to £2 this year and to £2.56 for sparkling wine, the second highest rates in Europe. This enormous and largely covert tax hike is usually marketed by the politicians as an attempt to curb our “unacceptable behaviour” and “binge drinking”. Funnily enough alcohol prices have been rising steadily for years and this seems to have had little discernible impact on the nation’s drinking habits. In Narcotics Anonymous’ basic text it says “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” Unfortunately not many politicians have read this text, so it’s unlikely that we will hear innovative suggestions like making alcohol less convenient by selling it through alcohol only retailers, educating consumers or campaigns to “drink less, but drink better” (as this is healthier and offers more value for money to the consumer). Just a few thoughts.

    We might be getting a bit conspiracy theorist here, but has it crossed anyone else’s worried mind that minimum alcohol pricing (which would contribute nothing to the government coffers) was only scrapped in the week before the Budget to make way for massive duty increases or worse?

    Anyway, before we get carried away, you’re probably getting bored of listening to us bash the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We got to thinking that maybe we’ve been a bit unfair on George Osborne. We want to know what you think. Maybe you rate him and think he is doing a stellar job with the mess he inherited. We hear about opinion polls all the time, but do you know anyone who has actually taken part in one? Neither do we. So we’ve decided to start a poll of our own, one that you can all join in on.

    We’ve chosen two lovely Valencian wines that reflect the opposing camps when it comes to feelings about the Chancellor and his Budget. All we’re asking you to do is put your money where your mouth is and tell us how you rate the Right Honourable MP’s chances of pulling us all out of this lingering financial fug…

    …and to sweeten the poll we are going to give you a little Budget-based discount. Before the duty escalator was introduced an £8 bottle of wine was about 17% duty, it is currently nearer 24%. For an £8.50 sparkling wine the duty has moved from 20% to nearer 29%. On this basis we are going to sell our two poll wines at a 2007 duty rate until our shops close on Budget Day. We’re calling it our dubious duty discount.

    Torre Oria Cava Reserva – Was £8.50, NOW £7.78 until Budget Day

    If you think that George Osborne is going to make it fourth time lucky and put the wind back into the UK’s sails with this year’s Budget and navigate our way out of these economic doldrums, please cast your vote by buying Torre Oria Cava Reserva (you can do this online or in any of our shops).

    This Spanish fizz has more in common with Eurosceptic George than he might care to admit. Like the Chancellor of the Exchequer this wine is full of youthful charm, exuberance and fruitiness (did you see the GQ Awards speech?) that belies the hard work that has been put into its creation behind the scenes. Cava is often unfairly overshadowed by its sparkling comrades of Champagne and Prosecco, as George has sometimes been by David Cameron, Michael Gove, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, but like the Chancellor it still maintains its aristocratic air. The IMF has described George’s policies as “essential” and the Torre Oria Cava Reserva certainly makes financial sense. It would also make the perfect way to celebrate a bit of long overdue economic good news.

    Casa Lluch Tempranillo – Was £8, NOW £7.43 until Budget Day

    If you think that Wednesday’s Budget is going to go down about as well as George’s performance at the Olympics please cast your vote by buying Casa Lluch Tempranillo (you can do this online or in any of our shops).

    Roguish as a Bullingdon boy and clad with a paisley label that is strangely fitting for the heir to a successful wallpaper empire, Bodegas Enguera changed the name of this wine at a young age, much like Gideon did. This wine is a little bargain; you might say that this is First Class for a Standard Class price, something George would certainly approve of. Like the avian label, will George prove too much of a flouncy chicken to do anything about the silly duty escalator? Come Wednesday will we all be as “appalled” by him as the Financial Times was?

    We’re running our poll and duty escalator discount on these two wines until Budget Day. Once we’ve crunched the numbers we’ll release our findings on Thursday 21 March, right here on our blog. Then we’ll see how you feel and how accurate you guys are. Please note that we will ensure that our figures are based in fact to avoid being rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority.

    If you are unable to get to an Oddbins shop or order online before Budget Day, but still want to participate, you can take part in an online version of our poll by clicking here. [Please note voting and Budget poll web page are now closed]

    And finally, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer does the right thing in this year’s Budget by scrapping the duty escalator and not increasing the duty on alcohol, we will be so deliriously happy that we’ll give away a bottle of Torre Oria Cava Reserva and Casa Lluch Tempranillo to the first customer who heads into each of our shops on Thursday 21 March and says the magic words “George Gideon Oliver Osborne is a bally hero.” Despite the craziness of committing to give wine away for free, we still have our fingers crossed that common sense prevails on Wednesday.

  • DOGS, PENGUINS, CHARITY AND MUMS

    Today we want to talk to you about dogs, penguins, charity and your mum. And you thought we were just going to spraff on about wine didn’t you?
    The more observant among you may have seen a little video we put out before Christmas introducing you to a delightful Mexican penguin called Pepita. If you missed it amongst the festive mayhem, fret ye not, because we have managed to twist Pepita’s flipper into writing a guest post for our blog. She recommends our One Ribera del Duero and the exquisite Excellia Blanco Tequila, proving that there is more to penguins than Morgan Freeman and David Attenborough have old us. So if you’ve ever wondered what a Mexican penguin’s views on wines are (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t?), you can read Pepita’s musings by clicking here.

    Last year we released our Wine Not War Châteauneuf du Pape collaboration with War Child, which is still selling strongly; continuing to help this fantastically worthy cause with each sip of wine. We were so inspired by this that we were hungry to do more. So we’ve teamed up with Comic Relief to take part in its Wine Relief campaign this year. We’re donating 10% from the sale of eight or our favourite wines until 15 March 2013. You can check out the wines by clicking here, or by visiting any of our shops. Sorry we got a bit serious there; sometimes it’s better to leave comedy to the professionals.

    You’re a sweetheart, aren’t you? You wouldn’t forget Mother’s Day? Of course you wouldn’t…

    …but just in case, it’s on Sunday 10 March 2013 and we’ve got every angle covered from the very special Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin to the classic Ruinart Rosé Champagne: from the unctuous Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximinez Sherry to Henry Pellé’s elegant Sauvignon Blanc from Menetou-Salon. [Or if your mum is like mine, you may want to pick up all four – Ed] Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

    That’s all from us, we leave you with a question from P.G. Wodehouse to ponder:

    “Why do dachshunds wear their ears inside out?”
  • ¡HOLA!

    Para todo mal, vino, y para todo bien también

    ¡Hola! ¿Cómo está? Mi nombre es Pepita. Lo siento, I forget that I live in the UK now. I try to stick to English. Welcome to my guest blog for the Oddbins. Let me introduce myself. My name is Pepita. You might remember me from a video these nice Oddbins people make, no the one with the sexy Valentine lady, the one with the sexy Christmas penguin [see both videos below - Ed]. That was me; I’m a penguin from the city of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. Mi madre, a fat, kind penguin called Pumpkin, she moved to the state of Chihuahua because she loved the little handbag dog. Anyway mi madre, she was so sad to find that there were no Chihuahuas in Chihuahua, but she stay there and start a family all the same.

    When I was born, she call me Pepita. This is Mexican name for a pumpkin seed. But I am not like a pumpkin seed because I no like being roasted in hot, hot Mexico. Did you seeing the African penguins on that Africa programme with the nice Mister Attenborough man? Then you know what I talking about. So I save up all my pesos and jump on British Airways flight to see what this place London is being all about. They were going to make documentary of my journey, Flight of the Penguins, but Morgan Freeman – hombre estúpido – was filming The Dark Night Rises so it was not to be. Film was no good anyway because Batman has no penguins anymore. ¿Que no?

    I move to Hackney because there are plenty mezcal bars near here and of course for los Juegos Olímpicos. Did you ever see anything so good as El Tricolor winning the gold medal? It was lucky we win the football because almost all our other medals come from the ladies. Hombres perezosos Mexicanos. Anyway, maybe you miss this because you were busy with Jessica, Mo and Wiggo. There are no jobs for penguins in Hackney so I find one in Iceland on Kentish Town Road in the North London. It is very nice because it is always cold and there is plenty frozen fish. I take the shiny overground train to Gospel Oak every day because there are too many steps at Kentish Town. Steps are no a friend of the penguin. Lo siento, maybe this is boring if you no live in London. On the way to work I read my favourite book, Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov. Mi madre, she tell me “this novel is post-Soviet literary masterpiece.” Maybe she right, but me, I just like it because there is a penguin in it. In the UK there are so many penguins on books, but not so many in books. Anyway, one day I look up from my book and see this nice-looking shop called the Oddbins, so I go to have a look.

    Inside the shop is being full of bottles, but I have big surprise and feel a little lost because none of them is mezcal. So I say “Hey hombres, where all the mezcal?” The nice men inside, Ian and Luigi, they welcome me in, they telling me that this is a wine shop and then they teaching me about the wine from many, many countries. Dios mío! There is a lot of choice but you know what? I think my favourite is the first one I ever had in that shop. You know what this wine is called? You won’t believe. It is called ‘One’. And it was my first one! OK I think you getting my little joke. Anyway, this lovely wine is from a place called the Ribero del Duero in España and, Ian say, is made from 100% Tempranillo and is 10 years old?! 10 years old and is no even gone bad?! Ian also say is even better now than it was. ¡Este vino esta bien chido wey! The taste is like so nice and rich and smooth, mi madre, I can’t tell you just how nice. You must try it my little chipotle.

    Mexicans, we say “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también”, this means that for the bad times there is mezcal and also the same for the good times. From now on though I say “para todo mal, vino, y para todo bien también.” But I no think I have many bad times now I meet Ian, Luigi and Oddbins. (PP)

    This post was written while drinking: Excellia Blanco Tequila. Now, I know I talking lots about mezcal, but Luigi, he recommend this tequila as substitute and I fall in love with it and with him. He tell me this tequila have a little sleep in sweet wine and cognac barrel and this make it so smooth. I like it most of all with chipotle shrimp. Those funny Oddbins people they have plenty dog picture in the window, I think they want me to eat the dog with the tequila, but we penguin no like eating the dog. They also say with they website that lovely tequila is just like Gael García Bernal, but I always preferring Diego Luna. What does a penguin know about such things?

    [Just in case you missed it, this was Pepita's video - Ed]

    [And this was the video with what Pepita so eloquently called "the sexy Valentine lady" - Ed]

  • GOING BARKING MAD

    We’re eager to dive into this edition of Oddnews, so join us as we tear into it with the dogged enthusiasm of a blind dog in a meat market…

    Valentine’s Day is next week. Many men will buy their other halves inappropriate underwear in the wrong size. Many men will destroy the romance by complaining that Valentine’s Day is just a ploy to make us consume. Many men will forget to book a table. Many men will just forget. And many women will start to share Charles de Gaulle’s sentiment. Our message is simple; sparkling wine is always a winner. Our cherry blossom and raspberry ice cream scented Antoine Remy Rosé is a stunningly simple way to avoid the dog house. And before we are accused of sexism, ladies please remember that a bottle of the gloriously smooth Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old might be enough to teach an old dog a new trick.

    Watching the BBC’s brilliantly resurrected Food & Drink programme on Monday, we were so filled with joy to see our Quinta dos Roques featured, we would have wagged our tail clean off, if we had one. We’ve been chuffing on about this “elegant and fruity” Portuguese red for a while now, so it is good to see it receive the praise it deserves. Much like Brian May of Queen, winemaker Luis Lourenço gave up a promising career teaching maths to throw himself into his passion. And just like Queen, Luis’ wine will Roques you. Sorry, that was just painfully awful punning. Getting back on track, the point is that on a cold February night, the herby Quinta dos Roques is top dog.

    Have you been wondering what on earth is with all this pooch-related chat? Well thanks for bearing with us. Rather than launch into the full shaggy dog story here, head on over to Blogbins to find out more. Trust us, it's a good read.

    The 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, said “You want a friend in this city? Get a dog!” We say “You want two friends in this city? Get a dog and take it to Oddbins!” And that’s all from us.

  • WINE'S BEST FRIEND

    Oddbins go barking mad…

    Welcome Blogbins reader, you most pedigree of chums. If you’ve taken the dog for a walk past an Oddbins this week, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’ve rebranded as a pet shop, with our pooch-based posters dangling nonchalantly in our windows. But fear not, we haven’t and there is method behind our apparently barking madness…

    We chop each financial year into four segments and assign them themes to explore. Last year we navigated this obstacle course with the dexterity of a Crufts Best in Show champion, beginning on food and wine matching with our theme “TASTE”, before moving on to music and wine matching in “SOUND”. Next up, “WORDS” saw us wrestle an Olympian and inadvertently promote cannibalism on our posters. And we have just spent the last three months putting the “LOVE” back into wine.

    So what meaty morsels will you find in the dog bowl of this new financial year? Well, our new themes are based on what we consider to be the Oddbins ethos. They will be: “TRUST”, “EXPLORE”, “INSPIRE” and “FUN”, in that order.

    February therefore sees a subject move from “LOVE” to “TRUST”. So we thought about going all Shakespearian after stumbling across this quote: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” But that is from All’s Well That Ends Well and we are just starting out on this New Year. So instead we contemplated sticking it to the man and basing our “TRUST” theme around the Newt Gingrich quote: “You can’t trust anybody with power.” But again, we spent January bashing the politicians under the thin disguise of “LOVE” and let’s be honest saying that you can’t trust politicians is about as insightful us as us telling you “wine is good”. So we started thinking what is trustworthy? What is dependable? Who can you always rely on?

    And the answer was of course: DOGS. Dogs are man’s best friend. Oddbins is wine’s best friend. It seemed beautifully fitting. We promise it wasn’t just an excuse to put cute dogs on our posters, oh no, we feel a deep affinity for the mutt…

    Dogs are hunting animals, as are we, always on prowl, working as a team, seeking out great new wines. Recently our buyers Emma and Ana have uncovered a couple of incredibly successful dog-related wine treats. We’ve already told you about the success of Longview’s Whippet Sauvignon Blanc that wine critic Matthew Jukes described as a “phenomenal creation” that “manages to cram in enormous swathes of minerality and laser-driven lime pith notes.”

    Next to be collared was Tribal Wines’ Virat, hailing from Mallorca and made mainly from indigenous grape varieties Manto Negro and Callet (a small parcel, only available in our shops). Rather like the striped Mallorcan sheepdog featured on the label, this wine is rare, robust and reliable, but also has a warm, cuddly and loveable side.

    Cats are also warm, cuddly and loveable, but for some reason they don’t seem quite as trustworthy. They roam around ‘til all hours and look down their doggone noses at you. Our shop on Allerton Road in Liverpool was frequently frequented by a feline fella. Called Oddcat by some and Trevor by others, this furball had built up quite the Facebook following. Then one day he upped sticks and moved away without so much as a goodbye, leaving our guys, Andrew, Mike and Ste, forlorn and friendless (they weren’t really, but we got carried away with the alliteration). Dogs wouldn’t do that, they’re pack animals that forge strong emotional bonds. Unlike cats they’re friendly and respond to names, as do we. If you need proof just pop into one of our shops in Edinburgh and you can have a chat with Caitlin, Mike or Graeme, you can meet Dave, Simon, Gosia, Woodrow and Kate in London, Glasgow is home to Jamie, Lorna and Ross or why not head to Bristol to shoot the breeze with Owen or Oxford to chew the fat with Tom? Our banter is free, the quality may vary.

    Our canine-like trustworthiness, however, never varies and it extends to our dogged pursuit of honest pricing. We are often asked why we don’t offer as many discounts as we used to in days gone by. These questions and this article from Fiona Beckett in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago have prompted us to explain our reason for this. In large chunks of the retail industry, discounts are used to dictate what consumers buy. For example supermarkets know that you will buy toilet roll, they just use special offers to direct you to the one they want you to buy that week. Sir Terry Leahy, the son of a greyhound trainer and former boss of Tesco, described this as “part of progress” on Desert Island Discs. He went on to choose largely clichéd songs from The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Pachelbel, while we were humming songs like “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)” by Bobby Bland and “How Much Of That Doggie’s In My Burger” by Patti Page. We don’t want to be like that guy. We don’t want to force you into buying something that isn’t your first choice or that isn’t perfect for you. How could you trust us if we did? We would prefer to give you advice and find the ideal wine for you at a price point that suits you. This is what we call progress, we have the bottle to stand by our beliefs and you won’t find us bribing our kids to spy on Mummy in case she shops with another retailer. All that said, it doesn’t mean we won’t have special offers from time to time, but what it means is that when we do, you know it is a bone-a fide good deal.

    Although our prices are honest, we would like to apologise on behalf of the politicians who are hell bent on pushing them up. Shortly the government, in all their wisdom, are going to increase the duty on alcohol again, and are also looking to pass a minimum price on alcohol. The politicians are trying to reduce irresponsible drinking, however both of these measures are no more likely to achieve this goal than a dog is likely to catch and devour his own tail. They are, unfortunately, far more likely to increase the price of wine for responsible drinkers, such as yourself.  As you know we are not shy in making our views heard, we bark a bit if we are angry and we wag our tail when we are excited. So we’ve tried to explain the error of their ways (and been backed up by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, who joined the fight launching a campaign against minimum pricing). Unfortunately it has become apparent to us is that either politicians do not like wine, they do not read blogs or simply that it's true you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

    All this trustworthiness aside, dogs are also mischievous. From time to time they’ll chew your mobile, run away with a string of sausages or leave a little present on the lawn. We also have a mischievous side; every so often we’ll invite stormtroopers into our shops, have nudity on our posters or wade into a political debate. But we’re not just a scrappy little Terrier, causing mischief and picking fights with dogs that are much bigger and scarier than us. No no no. If we were a cross-breed, we’d have a bit of Lassie-esque Collie in us too: we’re team players and we happily go the distance when Timmy falls down the well (did you know that interestingly Timmy never actually once fell down a well?). For example, we have em-barked (geddit?) on a relationship with two brilliant charities, Comic Relief and War Child. Until 15 March 2013, we will be donating 10% from the takings of eight lovely wines to the former, which fights poverty at home and abroad; and we'll continue to give £1 from each sale of the cracking Wine Not War Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the latter, which supports children caught in war zones.

    Ok, time for us to bound off like a St Bernard and rescue some poor cold individuals with our little barrel or warming spirit. If you share our fondness of dogs, please show us by way of photos on Facebook. We've already had these... (TO)

    This post was written while drinking: Château Ksara Reserve du Couvent: a Lebanese mashup of Rhône-style Syrah and Bordeaux-style Cabernet, all for £9.75. Chowing down on roast lamb and this, we wholeheartedly agree with the Wine Gang’s enormous score of 87/100. Unfortunately this has proved so popular it sold out on the web, but is available in most of our shops, and more is due in shortly. Interestingly and tenuously, if you walk north east along the Bekaa Valley from Château Ksara’s vineyards and take a left over the snow-capped Lebanon Mountains, you’ll find yourself following the Nahr al-Kalb or “Dog River” down to the Mediterranean. Probably a bit far to walk the dog though.

  • IF AUSTEN COULD SEE US NOW...

    Pride, Prejudice and Wine

    January 28 sees the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s magnum opus, Pride and Prejudice. Written with a lightness of touch and poignant humour, it is a touching love story but, more than that, a damning account of the inescapable, harmful class bigotry of her day.

    Right, book club is over. The point of all that? Well, until relatively recently, the last sentence of the above paragraph could have applied to certain aspects of the wine trade. Strict appellation rules, inaccessible language, indecipherable labels, dogmatic experts and general snootiness beleaguered the industry, making it seem inaccessible.

    But we at Oddbins think that the wine industry has turned a corner and has liberated itself from the shackles of yore (you must forgive us if we indulge in some Regency-era parlance, but it does please us so). Screw caps have been sighted in Bordeaux, there has been a proliferation of knowledgeable wine bloggers on the web and an ever-increasing number of producers are abandoning appellations in favour of less restrictive classifications like France’s Vin de Pays (VDP) and Italy’s Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT). By doing so, they can experiment freely with grapes and processes and create new, interesting and, frequently, stunning wines.

    A particularly interesting manifestation of this new-found freedom is the labelling of wine. Now. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, nor a person by their appearance, but we all do it. In Jane Austen’s day they did it a lot. The supermarkets have cottoned onto our penchant for big names and snazzy labels and they stock wines that fit the bill. We at Oddbins like to think of the supermarkets as protagonist Lizzie Bennet’s shameless, socially ambitious mother, Mrs Bennet. But we believe there is more to wine than this and would like to introduce you to six wines that do their own thing, regardless.

    The first three wines are our pride. These are cracking wines that have radical, modern labels that don’t scream about their posh provenance – because they don’t care. Hooray! We think Miss Austen would approve. Let’s meet the wines:

    Parcela No. 5 Luis Alegre Rioja 2007

    What do you think of when you hear the word “Rioja”? An old-fashioned bottle, with italic script, possibly in a wire mesh? Us too. Well this here is the opposite: it is a bad-boy, renegade prodigy of Rioja and we love it. With cherry, thyme and mineral notes, it is a vibrant, expressive, ‘modern’ style of Rioja (unlike the oaky, vanilla-laden traditional styles). Aged in oak for 14 months and in the bottle for two years, this wine could call itself a Reserva, but chooses not to, in a bid to differentiate itself from Rioja of old. The funky label is actually an aerial shot of the Single Vineyard (Parcela 5) with a heat-sensitive camera and, again, is purposefully modern in style. The wine was also a Silver medal winner at the 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards.

    Falanghina “Biblos” 2010

    The Italians are known to have panache-a-plenty but, sadly, when it comes to labeling their wine, they often seem to run out of steam. So we were chuffed to find this little number from Molise, southeast Italy. Producer Di Majo Norante is owl-like in its ability to look both backwards and forwards. Backwards because it is trying to save ancient grape varieties on the brink of extinction in that region and forwards, because they don’t think they need a fusty old label to prove they have class. In fact, this pineapple-y, waxy, verdant, herby goliath of a white has a banging label that we would happily hang on the wall here at Oddbins Towers.

    Henry Fessy Fleurie 2009

    Mr Fessy has been making waves at Oddbins for a while now, both with his winemaking genius – this is one of the most engaging and deep (and surprisingly full-bodied) Fleuries we’ve seen for a while – and with the bonkers, moustachioed square-faced bloke on the label. This distinctive logo was introduced in 1988 to mark the winery’s centenary and was inspired by the facial hair preferences of the founder’s grandchildren, Serges and Henry Fessy, who also happen to have a sense of humour. Once again – hooray!

    Now: the flip side. The next three wines are also scrumdiddlyumptious but their labels are not exactly radical. You might say they are boring. These wines sometimes experience prejudice as a result. But, if the supermarkets are Mrs Bennet, then these wines have to be her feisty, headstrong daughter, Lizzie. She might not have the razzle-dazzle of the aristocracy, but she is a remarkable character. Let’s meet our Lizzies:

    Henry Pellé “Les Bornés” Menetou-Salon 2011

    From the producer who almost single-handedly put Menetou-Salon on the map as a serious competitor to its big-name neighbours, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, this wine is really a delight, though the label isn’t going to win a Turner prize any time soon. Crisp and cleansing, with brilliantly pure lemon fruit, this is what the Loire is all about and, between you and us, the prices haven’t caught up yet, so now’s a good time to get in there.

    Ségla Margaux 2009

    Get yourselves a glass of water, folks, it’s a Bordeaux under screwcap. A flipping Second Growth Bordeaux under screwcap! Wonders never cease. The people behind this daring move? Chanel’s owners, the Wertheimer family. Yes, Château Rauzan-Ségla is run by the family that runs the innovative fashion powerhouse. Not only have they broken ranks with cork-lovers, but they have overseen a spectacular renaissance and its wines are garnering rave reviews across the board. The Château’s Second Wine, Ségla, is made with grapes from the very same vines that produce its Grand Vin and the result is just blinding. It is clean, modern and chunky, with real integrity. Having expended all that effort on the wine and the screwcap, they clearly needed a Kit Kat by the time they got to the label, but ne’er mind, eh?

    Luis Alegré Rioja Crianza 2009

    Déja-vu? Yes – you have seen this name before – Luis Alegré make the aforementioned Parcela No. 5 with the cool label. So what happened, you ask? Did they lose their creative marbles? Well, we don’t really know what went on with the label, but this Rioja Crianza is packed with such a rich tapestry of blackberry, blueberry and liquorice flavours that we’d happily forgive them anything.

    And this last wine wraps up our little foray into wines and their labels nicely: here we have a brilliant producer, who has given one wine an excellent label, and another a bog-standard label. This demonstrates how totally arbitrary wine labelling can be. But if these wines represent Lizzie, who represents her sexy, shy and smouldering suitor, Mr Darcy? Well we think that is you, dear reader. OK we don’t know if you are sexy, smouldering or shy, but you are the ones who save Lizzie (amazing wine) from the influence of her mother (supermarkets) and from the tawdry pursuit of class (labels) at all costs. So, to steal a phrase from this book, you must allow us to tell you how ardently we admire and love you. (LT)

    This blog was written while drinking: Besserat de Bellefon’s Rosé Champagne. You didn’t think we were going to let this anniversary slide by us without some bubbles now did you? A masterclass in elegance and charm, to quote Austen one final time, we have fallen "violently in love" with this Champagne. Its plain Jane label and relatively unknown name testify, once again, that you really can’t judge a book by its cover…

  • 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.

  • REASONS TO LOVE JANUARY AND OWLS

    For a change we are going to keep this relatively short and sweet. So let's get down to business. Oh yeah, it's business time...

    Here at Oddbins, we think “SALE” is a dirty word. It suggests that a shop has dug out all those items that nobody wants, piled them up and slashed the prices of them. But as you know, we are not like most retailers. That is why we are calling our January special "LOVE" instead of "SALE". We are offering up to 25% off our finest of fine wines. We have tasty offers on almost 200 lines, including unusual limited parcels, fine wine classics and stunning Champagnes that are so swoonsome they’ll have you reaching for the smelling salts. So pop into your local Oddbins shop to peruse delights like Niepoort’s Doda (£6 off), Château Gloria Saint-Julien (£7.25 off), Verget’s Pouilly-Fuissé (£8.25 off) or even Louis Roederer’s Cristal (£23.50 off). Remember, fine wine is not just for Christmas…
    With the exception of sterling performances from our sportsmen and women, 2012 was a bit of a damp squib and will probably not go down as a vintage year for most. With this in mind, Oddbins would like to kick off 2013 by spreading some love. So on every weekend in January we’ll be offering some intriguing discounts for different groups of people who perhaps didn’t receive the love that they deserved last year. And we’ll be kicking things off with Mothers - for whom, let it be said, we have a lot thank! To find out who the rest of the groups are, and why we love them, head on over to our blog: Blogbins.
    Aren’t owls brilliant? Owls invented reggae and Caesar salad. They frequently win prizes for being the first to complete The Times’ cryptic crossword. Actor Jon Hamm based his Mad Men character Don Draper on an owl called Wilbur, who he met in the queue at El Super Taco taqueria on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. Zadie Smith is an owl with a very convincing human pseudonym. OK, none of that is true, although it would be amazing if it was. What is completely true, however, is that the Gufo Bianco and Rosso are amazing value, extremely food friendly Italian wines, perfect for a frugal January at just £6.25 each. Why all the owl nonsense you ask? Well they have owls on the label, you see. And they are so good they might make you swivel your head all the way round.That’s all from us, keep spreading that love…

  • JANUARY LOVE WINE DISCOUNTS AT ODDBINS 2013

    For the last two months we’ve been spreading love almost willy-nilly. As Edgar Allan Poe put it “We loved with a love that was more than love.” But now we have decided to give our love focus. So during this, the first month of 2013, we are going to turn our attention to four groups of people who, in 2012, did not always receive the love that they probably deserved. Each weekend in January we will be offering a different select group a 10% discount off full price wines (including sparkling and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop. The first weekend will put Mums in the spotlight, followed by the journalists and bankers in the second, the much maligned Germans in the third and, bringing up the rear for that final weekend in January, those flame-haired marvels: the gingers. If anybody manages to pick up the discount every weekend and can prove it by way of receipts, they may be in line for some bonus extra loving…

    MOTHERS: Friday 4 – Sunday 6 January 2013

    Before you get angry, we’re not talking about Yo Momma, we’re talking about all Mommas. Mums generally have it rough. We aren’t saying that Dads don’t pull their weight, but we think it’s fair to say that Mums shoulder an uneven proportion of the burden during the year and particularly over the festive period. They’ve been run ragged by the family; shopping, cooking, wrapping, cleaning, transporting and planning. Now the sales have started (how quickly those presents have been forgotten) and the kids aren’t back to school yet; things haven’t let up in the slightest.

    As if being underappreciated by the family isn’t enough, the government is putting the boot in too. The “cap” on maternity and paternity pay is just an innovative use of a three letter word beginning with “c”, which sounds different but still means “cut”. With inflation almost tripling the capped figure, the net result is that Mums and their families will be even worse off in 2013. On top of which, on Monday the government will be removing or reducing child benefit for approximately 15% of families. Now we aren’t going to get into a debate on whether this is fair or unfair; the simple fact is that nobody wants to have £1,000s taken away from them and be labelled a “scrounger” by out of touch politicians as it happens. Why can’t our politicians provide a childcare system that doesn’t strong-arm a hugely important part of the country's workforce into making a choice between their career and children? And don’t get us started on increasing university tuition fees, which are preventing many Mums being able to afford to offer their kids the same opportunities they were given, or the nappy shortage scare…

    Here at Oddbins, we would like to stand up for Mums across this great nation and give something back. We’d like to say thank you, Mums: without you none of us would be here. So, from Friday 4 – Sunday 6 January, Mums can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop.*

     

    How you choose to prove that you are a Mother, we will leave up to you: toys in the handbag, baby sick on your shoulder, a bag of new school uniforms, a post on Mumsnet, a grumpy teenager in the back of the car or a menacing letter from the government. We hope this year the country appreciates you more, because we love you, Mums.

    BANKERS & JOURNALISTS: Friday 11 – Sunday 13 January 2013

    2012 ignited a fire beneath bankers and journalists, fuelled by crises, allegations and scandals, which looked set to engulf both groups. The embers are still glowing voraciously as 2013 opens for business. We don’t want to rake over the coals of Libor rate-rigging, phone hacking, money laundering, inaccurate reporting, enormous payoffs, etc. Oops! We just did. We promise we didn’t mean to go all Vince Cable on you. What we would like to do is draw a line under all this. Some bankers and journalists have misbehaved, but the majority should not be blamed for the actions of a minority. This country needs these guys.

    Finance became the UK’s most important sector after successive governments decimated the industrial base of our country. We rely on it every day and our economy is literally “banking” on all those who work in it not upping sticks and moving to Switzerland. A “banker” is an individual who is engaged in the business of banking. Last year the word has become a derogatory term used to refer to only a select group of rogue investment bankers. However, every time we chastise “bankers” for the financial crisis, how must this make tellers, analysts, loan officers et al feel? They have done nothing to deserve this derision, but it must affect the morale of the whole group. And why do we revel in bad news and ignore good things that banks do, like HSBC’s ground-breaking programme to educate primary schools students on personal finance, RBS offering charity donation services through their ATMs, Barclays’ Community Sports Awards, Mr Banks of Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank’s U-turn on votes for women in Mary Poppins, etc.

    Similarly, not all journalists are listening in on our telephone conversations or stalking the celebrities that sell their newspapers. Should we actually be looking more closely at ourselves? Why do we care what Sienna Miller and Hugh Grant are up to? And do we really want our politicians to control the only people who are able to hold them to account? What will be next in line to face regulation? Twitter? Blogs? Democracy? Besides, wasn’t it the free press that eventually dragged the phone hacking scandal into the light, where politicians and the law had failed to? On that note can we please leave Auntie alone? Yes the BBC has made some mistakes; most organisations of their magnitude probably have, but they are still a great institution, a credit to our nation, and no other broadcaster holds a candle to them. When politicians make mistakes, heads at the top rarely roll as they have at the Beeb; it is more often than not a civil servant further down the line that catches the brunt of the flak. How many ministers resigned over the West Coast Mainline franchise debacle?

    Here at Oddbins we’re calling for a little clemency. Maybe the more love the UK gives the press and bankers, the more they will give back. So, from Friday 11 – Sunday 13 January, journalists and bankers can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop.*

     

    Simply come down and show us your press card, office pass or business card and we’ll take care of the rest. Let’s leave 2012 behind us and give bankers and journalists the support they deserve.

    GERMANS: Friday 18 – Sunday 20 January 2013

    Germans. Why is everyone so mean to them? Studiously keeping their flat-pack-homed, forest-clad, industrious country immaculately clean, with their finances neatly in order, in accordance with the Micawber principle, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery." And what do they get for all this careful, cautious behaviour, which has seen their economy blossom into Europe’s largest? They have to dole out money to other countries left, right and centre and they still somehow come out looking like the bad guys, for insisting that indebted countries adopt more prudent behaviour.

    The Germans’ work ethic and technological superiority are legendary. They produce some of the world’s most underrated wines and yet, as a nation, we still prefer to source wines from halfway around the world. The Germans are the second largest consumer of beer per capita in the world, and yet their youth don’t run amok at weekends causing mayhem. They have taken what is thought to have been a Greek invention, the humble sausage, and promoted it to an art form. The French are lauded as Europe’s culinary kings, but they can’t make a cake like the Germans. They pre-empted the recession and reined things in while their neighbours, us included, were busy spending wantonly and as a result they haven’t been hit as hard. But it seems that, no matter what the Germans do, the rest of us just love to cast them as the panto villains. And we’re sorry to go all Basil Fawlty on you and mention the war, but isn't it time to put that behind us? Does China bring up opium whenever David Cameron visits?

    Here at Oddbins, we say "No more should Germany be cast as the panto villain" (“Oh no you don’t”, you gasp. “Oh yes we do” we cry!). That’s right; we think it’s time Europe stopped giving Germany the finger and instead show some neighbourly love and extend a nice firm, efficient handshake instead. So, from Friday 18 – Sunday 20 January, Germans can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop.*

     

    If you are German pop on down to an Oddbins near you and prove it by way of a passport or German Identity Card. Alternatively if you aren’t carrying those around with you, you may be asked to answer a few questions to prove your Teutonic descent.

    GINGERS: Friday 25 – Sunday 27 January 2013

    Gender. Race. Religion. Sexuality. Weight. OK, we’re not perfect in this county when it comes to persecution, but things are improving slowly. All except the final taboo: ginger hair. Last year was shaping up to be a good year for redheads, with sterling performances from Greg Rutherford, Damien Lewis, Christina Hendricks and Prince Harry. Tesco didn’t print an anti-ginger Christmas card. The University of California reported that ginger felines are preferred over their white, black and tabby counterparts because they are stereotypically more "friendly and loveable". However, all the good work was cancelled out by Lindsay Lohan’s downward spiral, customer Laura Payton’s abuse from a Halifax employee, Dundee man Max MacAskill being jailed for having red hair and Rebekah Brooks, who continued the work she started in 2011: Operation Convince the World Gingers are Not to be Trusted, which culminated in her £10.8m payoff. Oh yeah, and South Park-inspired Kick a Ginger Day enjoyed yet another outing.

    Here at Oddbins, we say enough is enough. Variety is the spice of life. Vive la difference. So, from Friday 25 – Sunday 27 January, redheads can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop.*

     

    We love your hair and think 2013 should be the year we all put this nonsense behind us. (TO)

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

  • 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…

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