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Oddbins Wine Merchants

  • International Whisk(e)y Day

    Now, if you’ve ever been near a social media site, two things will likely have happened. Firstly, your internet soul was probably harvested by some pompous Etonian and a child with pink hair. Once they had it, they set some Ukrainian girls round your house who convinced you never to rule a small village in Sri Lanka. We know, you would’ve been like a young Chandrika Kumaratunga, those posh gits! Secondly, you probably noticed there’s quite a lot of days in celebration of stuff on social media. Most are stupid; like ‘World Brazil Nut Day’; it’s not even a real nut, nor is it exclusively from Brazil, we should just call it ‘South American Devious Seed Day!’ Yet, there is one day, that is more powerfully festive than Christmas, Easter and ‘South American Devious Seed Day’ combined; we are of course talking about ‘International Whisky Day’. This morning people up and down the country leant out of their respective windows to ask of their respective paper boys, “what’s today my fine fellow?” To which they received the reply, “Today? Why, it’s International Whisky Day!” In honour of this most auspicious occasion we thought we’d play the role of the ghost of International Whisky Past, Present & Future…


    What is Single Malt Scotch Whisky?

    It’s pretty straight forward actually; it must be made from 100% malted barley and come from a single distillery. That way, you get a whisky that’s truly expressive of that distillery and the place it hails from. This applies to whisky produced across Scotland, be it off the coast like Talisker or right down south like Glenkinchie. They’ll tell you a story those single malts… you just need a word or two of Gaelic.


    What is Bourbon?

    (Don’t say chocolate biscuit, don’t say chocolate biscuit.) It’s a brown custard cream (Damn it!) The esteemed scion of Bourbon County, Kentucky - now made across the whole of the USA - is a grain whiskey that must consist of at least 51% corn. Bourbon’s flavour is defined by the maturation of the spirit; it must be aged in charred new oak barrels for a minimum of two years, imparting body, vanilla sweetness and whatever other qualities are sought by the distiller, be they the spice-and-honey complexity of Evan Williams, or the voluptuously spicy yet sweetness of Maker’s Mark Bourbon.Japan

    What are Japanese Whiskies Like?

    Whisky production in Japan began around 1870, but the first commercial production was in 1924 upon the opening of the country's first distillery, Yamazaki Perhaps the most renowned name in Japanese Whisky is Masataka Taketsuru. Taketsuru married a Scottish woman and while in Scotland, Taketsuru underwent a five-day crash course in distillation at Longmorn, also studying grain distillation at Bo’ness and spending five months at Hazelburn in Campbeltown. He took his knowledge back to Japan to help Shinjiro Torii establish the countries first distillery, Yamazaki. In 1934 he established his own distillery Dainipponkaju, which would later change its name to Nikka. Typically, Japanese whiskies are quite similar in style to Scotch, most malted barley and peat is shipped from the UK. Perhaps the most distinctive factor in Japanese whisky production is the use of ‘clear wort’ that typically gives the whiskies a crisp, clean and fruiter flavours opposed to cereal characters classic in Scotch.


    How are Irish Whiskies Different?

    Firstly, they are spelt ‘Whiskey’ in Ireland not ‘Whisky’ because everyone felt understanding the world of spirits was far too easy without uniform spelling. Most consider Ireland the original home of whiskey with some records dating Irish distillation back to the 13th Century.  However, a long period of decline from the late 19th Century has seen Irish Whiskey over taken by many other whisky producing regions. For many decades Irish Whiskey production was dominated by two distilleries, however we’re pleased to say there’s a bit of a resurgence on. In the last few years new craft distilleries have been popping up like Teeling in Dublin and Glendalough that are producing truly astonishing small batch whiskies. Although there are a broad range of styles, Irish Whiskey is typically defined by being triple distilled and with minimal use of peat. This creates whiskies that are delicate, light-bodied and aromatic with notes of corn husk, dried citrus fruit and caramel.

  • Spring Calls for Rosé!

    Nerve agents and snow in March? Clearly, Putin has taken the concept of a Cold War far too literally and enlisted the services of Storm from X-Men to delay our trains and unsettle our grapes vines. Marvel have made in excess of 18,000 superhero movies over the last 2 years yet Boris can’t find us one spidery bat person to stand watch over the White Cliffs of Dover, terrible. Although, perhaps superhero procurement should be the responsibility of the Minister of Defence… Gavin, you’re already on thin ice. Let’s not kid ourselves that the North Koreans aren’t already working on this, Kim Jong Un has obviously been binge watching Jessica Jones yelling at aids, “get me one of those, get me one now.”

    Before we inadvertently bring about world peace, we should probably mention that since Storm’s contract negotiations with Russia have stalled, it’s starting to get a great deal warmer; a perfect time to drink some Rosé as we might not make it to the summer! Thus, we thought it an excellent idea to answer a few commonly asked Rosé questions!

    What are Provence Rosés?

    Provence is a wine growing region found in the most south-easterly corner of France and blessed with a wonderful climate for grape growing. It gets tonnes of sunshine, little rainfall, warm days and cool nights; which causes acid retention and greater aromatics and Provence also benefits from the famous ‘Mistral’ winds; keeping the vineyards dry, free of pests and the skies clear! There are some wonderful reds and whites coming out of this region and over the next few years you will undoubtedly start coming across more but we all know Provence is world famous for one thing; Rosé. Renowned for light extraction of colour, these pink-hued, delicate, floral wines are so delicious it feels unfair to only drink them for the 6 days of sun we get in the UK…

    A perfect example of a Provence style rosé…

    CABARET ROSÉ 2016 - £10.50Cabaret-Rose

    How are Rosé Wines Made?

    There are 3 main methods of making rosé:

    1. Maceration – To produce red wine you typically ferment the wine with the skin before you press. This gives the wine colour and tannin. To make most rosés, they simply macerate the wine on the skin for a shorter period of time typically 12-24 hours compared to upwards of 72 hours, which is common for red wines. This gives roses wines a delicate body and light colouring.
    2. Saignée (bleeding) – Rosé wines made in this fashion are essentially a by-product of red wine. If you want to make red wine more powerful, you can remove (bleeding off) some of the grape must from the skins, the remaining must will have a great skin to liquid ratio thus the final wine will be much more concentrated, tannic and deep of colour. The liquid separated from the original must and skins will have a much lighter colour and can be easily turned into to a good quality rosé.
    3. Blending – Fairly self-explanatory; the process of simply mixing red & white wine together to produce a rosé. This is a prohibited method for rosé production in many wine making regions and is rarely used for a high-quality wine with one notable exception; Champagne. Many rosé Champagnes of exceptional quality are made by merely blending red and white wines together!

    Are Light Rosés Better than Darker Rosés?

    The long and short of it; no. Light roses are not necessarily better, nor are they necessarily drier; however, there are usually stylistic differences. Light rosés will typically be closer in style to white wine with a lighter body, very little (if any) noticeable tannins and less of a red fruit profile. Darker rosés, due to greater extraction, will typically be richer, fuller-bodied and a more powerful fruit character. There are outstanding examples in both categories so don’t write off the darker styles!

    Looking for a dark rosé? Why not try a Tavel rosé? Tavel is a region renowned for exceptional quality darker rosés.




    What Temperature Should Rosé be Served At?

    Rosé is clearly a wine that shows well when chilled but don’t overdo it. Just like white wine it should be served between 8-12°C. An hour in the fridge before serving will typically do the trick.

    What Food goes with Rosé?

    Let’s be honest, most rosé is going to be drunk as an aperitif, perhaps in the vicinity of a BBQ, which is really just an excuse to drink plenty of rosé, it’s circular. However, rosé is a fantastic food wine. For light Provence style wines think summer dishes; pan fried salmon, more interesting salads and due to the high acidity, you can even pair it with charcuterie and cheeses. Darker rosés will happily pair with richer dishes, try things like fish curries and matching them with Asian cuisine.

    What is Brosé?

    For some reason, rosé is perceived as ‘feminine’ by a section of society. To overcome this apparent stigma some gentlemen have taken to refer to it as ‘brosé’ (rosé for bros). You may regularly come across this turn of phrase if you spend any time around Chelsea in July. The “offending bros” will often be wearing boat shoes, possibly a pink shirt, in possession of a copy of GQ and hollering at each other “yeah boy, break out the brosé!” We would advise you to not join their ranks…


  • The Spanish Road Less Travelled

    This week, we’d like to talk to you all about Spain. Ever since the 70s, when Brits, bored of package holidays to Blackpool and ‘Jolly Boys Outings’ to Margate, started bothering the folk of Benidorm with yells of “more vino por favour,” Spanish wine has been much loved in the UK. Washing down food that tasted a bit “foreign,” with jugs of Rioja based sangria. Good times! However, the 70s are over, now we all love a good bit of Tapas and Spain have become renowned for more than just Rioja. Thus, we thought it would be nice to highlight a few indigenous Spanish grapes that you might not have heard of…


    This grape isn’t particularly obscure, in fact it’s the second most important red grape in Spain after Tempranillo but you might not be used to seeing it as a single varietal (It’s often found in blends in Rioja). Garnacha has gone through a bit of a revolution over the last 20 years or so, from relative vineyard ignominy, it has become the bell of the ball. The incredibly old Garnacha vines in Priorat and Aragon (a wine region, not the King of Gondor) have delivered wines with fantastic fruit concentration, typically displaying notes of red forest fruits baking spices and charred wood with supple tannins.

    Why not try…? LAS MORADAS 'SENDA' 2013 



    We know what you’re thinking; it’d be awesome to open a Samuel Beckett themed bar and name it Waiting for Godello. Well you can’t, it’s our idea, get your own 20th Century playwright’s bar! A few years ago, Rias Baixas, and Albariño were the region and grape names to drop to prove your wine aficionado credentials. These days, those names have become almost mainstream, and it's the tiny neighbouring region of Monterrei - and Albariño’s doppelganger Godello - that you need to be talking about to show off your esoteric knowledge. Like Albariño’s, Godello is crisp, fresh and so friendly to seafood it risks an injunction. Snap it up while it's still an undiscovered (and undervalued) gem.

    Why not try…? ALMA DE BLANCO GODELLO 2016 



    Pronounced ‘men-thee-uh,’ you can normally find this plucky little red grape kicking about in Northwest Spain. It nearly went extinct until wine making legend Alvaro Palacios brought it back from the brink and made it the coolest cat in all of Bierzo. Mencía is renowned for having the aromatics of a well-made Pinot Noir but the intensity of Syrah. Displaying characters of sour cherry, red plum, bramble, liquorice and a mineral backbone, this wine is not the easiest find so when you do, you should probably buy a case.

    Why not try…? ALMA DE TINTO MENCIA 2016


  • Women in Wine

    It was a relatively busy month for those of us championing a bit of the old gender equality in the drinks trade. To be fair, those passionate about maintaining gender disparity might have been busy as well, we don’t know. Constantly tweeting “it’ll be illegal to ask out a woman next,” nodding along to Donald Trump diatribes and being furious Caitlin Moran was taught how to write, is probably quite time consuming. Anyway, while they were doing that, at the grown-ups table people were celebrating the 100-year anniversary of women winning the right to vote and International Women’s Day.

    Throughout 2018 we’ve been showcasing some of the finest wines in our range that also happen to be grown, vinified and bottled by women. Below we are featuring 3 female winemakers, that produce some of our top selling wines.


    Anette Closheim produces modern, premium wines grown on the banks of the river Nahe. She supplies the sommeliers of top chefs and was the first winemaker to win the "Riesling Discovery of the Year" wine world award. Luckily for us, she also agreed to sell her wines through Oddbins!
    In a short time, Anette Closheim has made a name for herself as a winemaker. In the 150-year-old winery owned by her family, she grows highly ripe grapes, with a focus on the purity and concentration of the fruit.
    Anette studied wine business and was initially a product manager for a range of Single Malt Whiskies and premium vodkas.
    Thanks to these influences, the wines are presented in casually elegant bottles backed up by the quality of wines which are testament to the dedication Anette commits in the vineyard and the winery.


    Claudie Jobard is following in the footsteps of her mother; Laurence Jobard, who gained great acclaim as one of the best oenologists in France. Under Laurence's watchful eyes, Claudie simply makes wonderful wines. She is meticulous in the fields because she knows you cannot make great wines unless you start with great fruit. She also believes that the wine is mostly "made" in the vineyards, not the cellars. Therefore, she strikes a balance between letting the terroir and grapes express themselves while also adding a few loving touches to influence the process.
    Claudie not only produces excellent wines under her own label, but also works as a winemaker at Remoissenet. Below are two perfect examples of her prowess. meticulous in the fields because she knows you cannot make great wines unless you start with great fruit. Claudie also knows that the wine is mostly "made" in the vineyards, not the cellars. Therefore, she strikes a balance between letting the terroir and grapes express themselves while also adding a few loving touches to influence the process.


    First Creek’s star winemaker has collected an impressive number of awards, while still producing top-notch wines for her own label in her spare time. Liz Silkman tirelessly makes wine under the First Creek label and for 25 different clients at First Creek’s contract winemaking facility, so it was no real surprise when she was crowned 2016 Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year.

    Growing up in Cessnock, Silkman never had the wine industry on her radar, despite having a relative making wine at Lake’s Folly and wine “always being around”. Surprisingly, no-one ever suggested a winemaking career to the budding student whose strong suits were maths and science. But while working in the cellar door at Pepper Tree Wines, winemaker Chris Archer called for some help in the winery and Silkman’s interest was sparked. “I liked the machinery and the process,” says Silkman. “It was something so new, exciting and different.”

    In 1999, armed with a freshly minted science degree, she heard on the grapevine that P.J. Charteris from Brokenwood was looking for a lab technician. Silkman landed the job, but found it was not for her. “I was terrible at it and I found it tediously boring.” So, she asked Charteris about spending some time in the cellar alongside Nick Paterson. Despite the long hours, modest wage and physical, on-the-job training, she loved it and was drawn in by the winemakers’ infectious passion for wine.

    In 2002, while doing vintage in New Zealand, Silkman was offered an ­assistant winemaker position at Tempus Two by Sarah-Kate Dineen. “I came home in a heartbeat,” says Silkman.

    Before they could make any wine, they had to build the winery, which Silkman recounts as “an amazing opportunity”. It was the openness of the working relationship with Dineen that allowed Silkman’s knowledge to soar. Today she is one of the most respected winemakers in the Southern hemisphere and is the hand behind the wonderful First Creek Shiraz and First Creek Chardonnay that have been excellently received by both Oddbins staff and customers since we started stocking them in 2016.

    You can also catch up on our first Women in Wine blog by clicking here.

  • St. Patrick's Day

    Paddys-Day-Blog-Banner Irish Whiskey for St Patrick's Day

    It’s St Paddy’s Day on Saturday! Where we can all ruin various delicious beverages by chucking a load of green food colouring in them. Our favourite is the river in Chicago that changes colour for a few hours; it’s reminiscent of when someone would micturate in a public swimming pool and an incriminating stream of green would lead straight back to the source. Was that real or was it a lifeguard conspiracy to keep us all docile and law-abiding? They were such squares; guarding our lives! We say, let’s march (but not run as it’s slippery) onto poolside, topple those ivory high chairs, give the swimming pools back to the people and dye them all green for St. Paddy’s Day! Woo revolution!

    If you are celebrating St Patrick’s Day we have some wonderful Irish whiskies and gins that will go down an absolute treat, we must also ask you to not attempt to overthrow the management of your local swimming pool, they’re actually doing a fine job.

  • International Women's Collaboration Brew Day

    If you’re one of the 7 people left in this fine country that still listen to British politicians, you may be under the impression that the key to everlasting happiness is the division of ‘boy jobs’ and ‘girl jobs’. Going on the One Show (which by the way is clearly Blue Peter for the over 60s) and singing the virtues of 1920s domesticity seemed like an odd campaign choice but who are we to judge? We forgot to even run!

    Right, last week was International Women’s day and in honour of this we’d like to hail the rise of female brewers in the craft beer scene. Throughout this month we’ve highlighted some of the amazing female winemakers that are blazing trails and smashing ceilings but we thought, what about beer? Perhaps, even more than in wine, brewing is perceived as the prerogative of men. Why? Female brewing can be traced back 9000 years in fact, throughout history women typically had a greater stake in beer than men (maybe not in the monasteries).  In Mesopotamian culture, Ninkasi was the goddess of beer but in the modern day we’re supposed to accept that in some corners of the industry, it is essentially a middle-class boy’s club, naming beers things like ‘Double D – double IPA’. (Apparently that’s a coveted bra size and seemingly allows you to put a balloon chested pinup girl on your pump clip.)


    We’re proud to say that for the last couple of International Women’s days we’ve taken part in IWCBD (International Women's Collaboration Brew Day). Last year, our former Head Beer Buyer Sarah, along with other prominent women in the beer industry such as female brewers from Wild Card, East London Brewery, Five Points Brewing Co, Fourpure, Weird Beard Brew Co and Stroud Brewery canned a ridiculously delicious Rhubarb Pale Ale under the Unite branding. Last Wednesday, our buyer Jenny (who has taken over the beer category), went to Wild Card Brewery and under the careful guidance of Wild Card Head Brewer Jaega Wise and with the support of many other talented female brewers, they filled up those fermentation tanks for IWCBD. Keep an eye out in stores for the tropical delights of the finished beer!

    We believe that boy jobs and girl jobs are whatever the respective boy or girl would like to turn their hand to, and if that happens to be a fermentation tank then that’s hopping brilliant. Now go and put the bins out Theresa, the 20s are over.

  • Women in Wine

    We at Oddbins like a good bit of flag-waving, particularly if it’s used to land planes full of delicious imported wine. That was a stupid joke; no one lands planes anymore, it’s all done by Sat-Nav. In recent years we’ve stood on our soapbox (or winebox ay? Even inside brackets these dad jokes are embarrassing.) and supported independent brewers, artisan growers, organic, biodynamic and natural winemakers. Whether invited or not, we like weighing in on hot wine topics. That being said we think it’s long overdue that we all have a little chat about gender disparity in the wine trade... Imagine if we now just went on a sexist rant claiming women are too emotional to be at professional tastings or how menstrual cycles upset fermentation in the winery. You would all just have to go “o great we’ve got to hate Oddbins now, where am I going to buy my Primitivo?"  But seriously, there are people in the world that believe *@!$ like that! Whilst, the numbers are increasing dramatically every year, women are still in the minority in the winemaking world. Women winemakers are also less likely than their male peers to own their own winery; just as in so many other industries, the glass ceiling of the wine trade still seems to be pervasive.

    With that in mind it’s unsurprising that women have had to fight for their right to ferment, many have done just that though and claimed leading roles in the industry. Our buyers have noticed at trade tastings and on their travels to wine producing areas across the world, a significantly increasing female influence, even in traditionally male dominated regions. The fact is we have a growing number of wines made by women in our wine range (currently standing at approximately 20%). We are not actively searching for female winemakers per se (because we recognise and admire talented men and women winemakers equally) but this growing breadth in the range is happening, we hope, because it is a microcosm of the wider wine world. Throughout 2018 we will showcase some of the finest wines in our range that also happen to be grown, vinified and bottled by women. Below we are featuring 4 female winemakers, that produce some of our top selling wines.


    An oenology graduate of the prestigious Adelaide University, Debbie has become a cool climate specialist, having made wine overseas in the cool regions of Alsace, France; Marlborough, New Zealand; Niagara, Canada; Sonoma, California, in Australia at Piper's River, Tasmania and in the Victorian High Country on the mainland.

    Now in the role of Senior Winemaker, Debbie relishes the challenge of taking high elevation wines to another level with the impressive resources of Cumulus Estate. In the last few years, she has created some intriguing new additions to the Cumulus range, such as Sparkling Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Moscato and Rolling Pink. We at Oddbins were lucky enough to receive a parcel of her amazing value Rolling Hills Chardonnay and Shiraz that have pushed the perception of these varietals grown in Australia.  Watch this space for more of her innovative work.


    Samantha arrived in South Africa seeking the ‘Californian dream’ and bought a former dairy farm in Greyton on the Western Cape. With her nearest wine neighbours over two hours away, the local shop 30 minutes away and a daily school run with her two toddlers taking an hour, she had little time to second guess her decision and so embarked on a 13-year journey that has resulted in the wine world clamouring for her wines.

    When O’Keefe was starting her wine career and considering which vines to grow in the then-untried Greyton area, she took advice from Peter Finlayson of Bouchard Finlayson, who said: “If you succeed, you will be considered a pioneer; if you fail, no-one will care.”

    The pioneer soon found that the barren mountain-top shale soils produced exceptional wines, not least the Syrah, which has gained recognition from Robert Parker in his list of the 50 Best New Releases from 2015, and was highly praised by Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate with 94 points.

    The reception of Sam’s wines at Oddbins from both staff and customers, have been truly astonishing. We tried the Lismore Viognier at our annual Oddbins Christmas meeting and from MD to wine advisor, the room was struck dumb.


    In 2008, when Karoline was 24 and Dorothy just 22, Karl-Heinz, their father who was running the family winery, was suddenly taken ill. The daughters returned, prematurely, to Sausenheim, and took charge. They have had to finish their education on the job, though they have been helped where necessary by their wider family and by some of the winemakers Karoline did placements with during her studies. There are five full-time employees: the two daughters, their mother, who does the accounts, a female intern and a token man, who drives the tractors. Under Dorothy & Karoline’s tutelage the Gaul range have become a beautifully modern expression of German winemaking. Their Dornfelder and Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) are defined by freshness and intensity of fruit; they’re absolutely delightful if you’re in the business for a lighter red.

    Watch this space for our next update on female winemakers.

  • Ctrl Alt Delete

    What a mad world we live in where a keyboard shortcut that has existed for less than a quarter of a century and only on IBM PCs is such a pervasive metaphor it now holds more meaning to most than a bloomin’ Shakespeare quote. Did you know ol’ Bill coined the phrase “the leopard does not change his spots”? Yeah, you thought Romeo & Juliet was good, how often have you heard that metaphor?

    Imagine how many times it’s been said at parole hearings for evidence of recidivism; “sure, Dennis has converted to Buddhism, spent the last 5 years helping disabled inmates, gained a PHD studying the impact of Gandhi on Colonialism and has even started using conditioner on his beard but… the leopard thing. God you’re right, give him another 10 years!”

    It’s okay, Dennis was wrongfully convicted so you shouldn’t feel bad that you’re hoping he breaks out of Pentonville and makes it to Zihuatanejo. (Yes, apparently that is how you spell that beach in Shawshank.)

    At Oddbins, we’re feeling a little more accepting of change. We’re not saying the world is as ruined as that half-drunk bottle of Pinotage that’s been sitting on our office windowsill for the past 3 months but umm, we are a little concerned we’re living inside an Orwellian allegory of political polarisation and the death of accountability in our leaders.

    The point is, at the start of 2018, we’ve been wondering what it would be like if we could just press Ctrl Alt Delete on much of 2016 & 2017. We could get Bowie and Alan Rickman back! We could Ctrl Alt Delete Brexit so that maybe we could have a referendum that addressed some facts opposed to purely dealing in “post-truths.” (You know what we actually wouldn’t; as decidedly bad as Brexit seems to be going, nothing would make us jump back into that abyss of hyperbole and ennui.



    We might suggest that Ctrl Alt Delete be pressed on the Trump/Kim Jon Un thing but they’d probably both just get confused and jam their tiny rat claws onto their respective red buttons and blow up Norwich. (Poor old Delia, your creamed scallop soup will be missed.) Perhaps it’s positive we don’t have the power to just reset life and it’s certainly positive that Delia Smith and the rest of Norwich are absolutely fine.

    Yet, every year, most of us try to reset in some way. After getting out of breath walking to the fridge to claim another cold goose-fat glazed roasty we think next year is going to be different. “2018 will be the year I’m so healthy and so successful that one day, on my walk to work, I’ll just dissipate and join a higher realm of consciousness, like a Dali Llama in Prada.”

    Then when January actually arrives everyone realises kale is disgusting, gyms are full of people that like going to the gym and being outside is generally horrifying. Well, it’s February now; you’ve smashed through Dry January, the 5:2 diet was a relative triumph despite the regularity with which you hallucinated that your loved ones were giant steaks and you’ve successfully braved the gym a total of 3 times. O well, it’s done and none of us have to worry about it for a whole year. Proper 2018 can start now and we reckon it’s going to be great, it’s time to log back in!

  • L.L.A.M.A.

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

    Guillermo blog 1

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

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

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

    Ch Meynieu blog


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

    Jeremy alpaca blog

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


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

    CNDP Remy Ferbras blog

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

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

    Veuve NV blog

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

  • Chimpanzees and Christmas Giveaways

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

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

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

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

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

    Katy winning

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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