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Tag Archives: Bordeaux

  • Mission Chimpossible!

    A couple of leathery digits poke around in a box. They remove a corkscrew and deftly prepare it for its noble purpose. A few more leathery digits introduce a bottle of wine, and as the cork is removed, the customers in the Maida Vale branch of Oddbins heartily applaud Loveable the chimp. Loveable has just opened the day's tasting wine with nothing but his feet and a winning smile. It's clear that his boyish demeanor has charmed the socks off some of those present, who will happily take him home and mother him. Job done! Now he must go on a mission. He grabs a handful of shiny, colourful cards from the counter, hops on his bike and wobbles off to another Oddbins store, to meet his brother Crafty. Crafty is deep in conversation with a group of American tourists.


    "...and it turns out the blighter had made off with my bally wallet! Anyway, yes, that claret is a big favourite of mine, tell you what, buy two and I'll take one home with me and we can compare notes tomorrow. Oh I say, here's my young brother, adorable chap. Looks young but he's actually in his twenties...". He places another bottle on the counter, next to what is now two Bordeaux wines. " you won't come unstuck adding his favourite Chilean red to your basket. Quite the star in his youth, whole string of TV adverts, got me a part as a confidence trickster in Carry On Cajoling. Who'd have thought?". 

    Loveable pushes the shiny cards upon him, with an imploring look. "What's that, old fruit? Malaysia? Your shop in Maida Vale is offering a free trip to Malaysia? Oh no, I can't go back there, not after the hoo-hah with the bridesmaids, dreadful kerfuffle, heh, heh, heh...Oh, the customers? Free entry with every purchase? And all the shops are doing it are they, even this one? What-ho!"

    From the no-chimps-land beneath the counter he conjures open a bottle of Burgundy and a handful of wine glasses, and starts pouring. The Americans are looking nervous. "You heard that, gentlemen? Once you've paid for this little beauty you get chance to win a holiday. Worth eighteen pounds of anybody's money if you ask me! Anyway, I was telling you about this chap, absolute blackguard he was..."

    With a forlorn expression, Loveable slips out of the shop and disappears into London, his rear wheel squeaking a little. From Notting Hill Tube to Portobello Road and on to every store in the capital, he is compelled to tell every single customer about this fabulous trip to a simian heartland, the very mention of which chimes a lost ancestral chord, a misty memory of Home. Instead he finds to his delight that the entire Oddbins estate has been taken over by chimpanzees, every one of them totally in command of this remarkable customer initiative, and driven entirely by thoughts of numerous festive get-togethers, for chimp and customer alike! The look on his face changes from desolate to blissful as he realises that the once lonely city is now teeming with his extended family, all wanting to take him to their bosom. Even the thought of exactly what might happen to a branch under Crafty's management doesn't rain on his parade!

    Now to find that accommodating couple from Maida Vale who were keen to put him up for the night. They might want to share the bottle of Château Peyrabon Haut-Médoc in his pannier, that his brother inveigled from a bloke wanting a bag of crisps. Will Crafty notice it's been acquisitioned? Will Loveable be expected to open the wine with his feet? Will the couple have plenty of 'nanas in after all this cycling...?


    And off he squeaks along Elgin Avenue, back towards Maida Vale, wondering how the shops outside London are dealing with having chimps all over the place. Aren't we all...?

  • The Chimpmas Season is Upon Us!

    Glasgow, a city of contrasts; of culture of confusion, poetry and folklore, melody and melancholy, comedy and grit. All of human life is there, every incandescence of its beautiful cosmic infinity!

    And so it would seem, is the odd chimpanzee...

    In a dusty and forgotten room above a branch of Oddbins in Glasgow city centre, a chimp is reading a book about wine. He is a chimp with a thirst for knowledge, and is entranced by the section about the wines of Bordeaux. The differences between the two sides of the River Gironde, the great classification of 1855, the way the region can produce such accessible everyday wines while also being a byword for quality, luxury, history and so much more.


    Just as every facet of humanity can be found in Glasgow, he muses, so can every aspect of wine culture be found in this one region. He checks the time. "It's getting dark early", he says to a now-closed book. "Soon be Christmas! Time to go downstairs...". He types out a message on his smartphone, amused that the technology bears his own name, Smart. Pressing send, he sneaks down a staircase and out onto the shop floor.

    In a stock room in another branch of Oddbins, in London's Crouch End, another chimpanzee is opening boxes of wine. Many of the bottles hold little interest for him, but hold on, this looks more like it. Let's see, Matetic Coralillo Winemaker's Blend, with a lovely picture of a, what's that, a cow?! No, it's Chilean, it'll be a llama.


    Notorious, as the chimp was baptised, knows and loves Chilean wine. He's been over there quite a few times while things cooled down on his manor. A quick look at the label tells him the wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah, and he gauges, quite accurately, that he's looking at a brambly red fruit compote held up by toasty oak and vanilla notes. His wine acumen is an unsung part of his character.


    He's about to slip a bottle into his pocket when his phone pings, and as he reads the message, the bottle falls by the wayside. It's from Smart. It's time to get out on to the shop floor and sing the unsung.

    And in that moment, every branch of Oddbins unleashes its inner chimp, and the #12ChimpsofChristmas take over the estate. Loveable, Crafty, Thoughtful, Passionate, Snazzy - no, not the staff, those are the names of the chimps. And so are Curious, Hilarious, Outspoken, Sassy and Crazy; like daemons of folklore, each branch has a chimp that embodies its character.

    The #12ChimpsofChristmas will be quietly taking control of all of our stores as you read this. Visit your local branch to discover their inner chimpanzee, and stay tuned to see what they'll be getting up to as Christmas approaches.

    Twelve Chimps Of Christmas


    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…


    While Ed Miliband channels the power of Funkadelic with his bright pink tie and his “One Nation”, in a game of one-upmanship that any politician would be proud of, we’re going to shout about “Two Nations” instead. We’ll start with South Africa and end with France and might add a little sprinkling of Portugal for good measure.

    Jules Renard was a novelist who wrote “Poil de Carotte” (Carrot Hair), an autobiographical short story about the trials and tribulations of being ginger and French, and “le Plaisir de Rompre”, a racy sounding title that suggests it would be advisable to use a Kindle if you wanted to read it on public transport (á la Fifty Shades of Grey). We’ll admit we’ve never read either of these books by Monsieur Renard. We got a bit scared when we found this quote from him: “the horse is the only animal into which you can bang nails.” We hope he was talking about hooves, as it made us think of that Blue Peter story about them putting a nail through one of their tortoises while boxing it up for hibernation. Or was that just an urban myth? Anyway, the watery quote above is either his ironic humour or alternatively, despite being French, he may have known nothing about wine. But he might not have been too far off the right track. Rather than adding water to wine, the key may be in making the wine underwater…

    Our wine buyer Ana Sapungiu just brought in Cellarfoot’s Underwater Syrah, a South African wine aged for 11 months in barrels submerged underwater. Honestly, we promise we’re not making this up. It’s one of the most intriguing and astonishing pieces of winemaking we’ve ever come across. But Ana didn’t stop there, oh no, she also managed to secure us a couple of web exclusive small parcels from Tokara’s Miles Mossop, owner of what is probably South Africa’s finest vinous curriculum vitae. We’ve got his Bordeaux blend “Max” and his unctuous dessert wine “Kika”, made under his own label. Be warned, when these are gone, they’re gone, and we may not even be able to finish this sentence without getting distracted by the urge to go and buy som…

    If you have a moment you can read why Ana loves South Africa so much on Wines of South Africa’s blog. However, if you are short on time you can see all the wines featured on our website here. We heartily recommend the Lothian Pinot Noir, which has just picked up a score of 90pts from Wine Spectator for its maiden vintage.

    Crazy-haired Berty Einstein was just as sharp as a splinter. But it isn’t just the chopping of wood that the people love, they also like to plane it, sand it, chisel it and most importantly make wine in it. But not in Champagne surely? Well yes actually, let’s go back to school, but don’t worry it isn’t a woodwork class. To make Champagne, you firstly make a dry white wine. This is then popped into bottles with some yeast and some sugar, which ferments. The by-product of this fermentation, carbon dioxide, is absorbed into the wine, which turns into bubbles when you open it. Since the 1950s the initial dry wine has mainly been made in stainless steel. However, in the days before stainless steel it was the norm to make them in wood imparting a gentle oaky note. And that is what Billecart-Salmon have done; they’ve gone old-school for their “Sous Bois”, giving it an exquisite texture with notes of toffee and grilled brioche. Just don’t call it SuBo, Billecart-Salmon don’t appreciate the comparison with Scotland’s premier mezzo-soprano and they’ll get angry and come after you with a hacksaw. Trust us, we found out the hard way, which is why we now enjoy this woody Champagne while tottering around on our wooden leg. There are another couple of amazing Billecart-Salmon wines on our website and even more in our shops.

    That’s all from us, but before we go we just wanted to let you know that there’s a new post about Portuguese wines on Blogbins, which is best enjoyed with a glass or two of our new favourite fine wine; Niepoort Doda. Oh, and as it’s National Sarcastic Awareness Month (who knew?), we’ll leave you with one of our favourite quotes from an old master…


    Hannibal LecterLadies and gentlemen, we are proud to introduce our new posters...

    If you’ve strolled past one of our shops in recent days, you may have noticed that we have some colourful and rather natty posters swinging merrily in our windows, emblazoned with unusual quotes. You may have asked yourself “What the blazes are Oddbins going on about now?” And to be honest that would probably be fair. So bear with us and we’ll try to explain…

    We’ve hung the year up, drawn some lines on it and roughly quartered it (yes, we literally went medieval on 2012). We then designated each portion a theme. We started the year with “taste”. Rather than going down the obvious route of telling you that Sauvignon Blanc tastes like gooseberries and Gewürztraminer has hints of Turkish delight, we asked whether it matters what the flavours are as long as you like it and it perfectly complements your dinner. We concluded that maybe there’s room for both.

    Then things got noisy when we moved on to “sound”. Here we explored what music goes best with our wines. We also carried out what we think was the world’s first synchronised music and wine matching tasting and discovered that “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds prefers Burgundy. Who knew?

    Jean-Antheleme Brillat-SavarinPortuguese Proverb

    Then we hit the third quarter and the theme of “words”, which coincided with it coming to our attention that the world had gone “loco” and that asinine restrictions were being placed on our freedom to use the English language. As you can imagine, this made us pretty angry, so we tooled up and fired off a few rounds of devastating words. After a bit of a Mexican standoff, we emerged from the written shootout victorious. We’re not really allowed to talk or write about it so we’ve holstered our weapons. But we’d have no problem drawing them again if another fight comes our way.

    For now though we are just peacefully getting back on track with our “words” theme. If you would like to understand the reasons that lead us to choose this preposterous subject, please have a read of “A Brief Word…”. But be warned, the title is ironic. We’ve ignored Thomas Jefferson’s adage that;

    “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

    Instead we’ve proceeded to write about seven times more than was completely necessary (kind of like JK Rowling did with the Harry Potter books), but hopefully you’ll find it entertaining.

    Ana Sapungiu

    Homer Simpson










    Where were we? Words? Thomas Jefferson? Oh yes, quotes. For this quarter we’ve chosen six quotes roughly on the topic of drinks and drinking, and put them pride of place on our beautiful posters. But there were some classics that didn’t quite make the cut, including the following…

    “There’s a beverage here.”

    The Dude

    "Drink a glass of wine after your soup, and you steal a ruble from the doctor."

    Russian Proverb

    “Wine… is a food.”

    Oliver Wendell Holmes

    “If wine disappeared from human production, I believe there would be, in the health and intellect of the planet, a void, a deficiency far more terrible than all the excesses and deviations for which wine is made responsible.  Is it not reasonable to suggest that people who never drink wine, whether naïve or doctrinaire, are fools or hypocrites…? A man who drinks only water has a secret to hide from his fellow-men."


    “We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now.”


    Emma Nichols

    If only we could’ve had more posters. Anyway, our questions to you are these… Which did we miss? What are your favourite wine, Champagne, beer or whisky quotes? No need to put your answers on a postcard, this isn’t Blue Peter, just pop it delicately into our comments section down at the bottom there. Thanks for reading, but we’ll love you more if you comment too. (TO)

    This post was written while drinking: Gusbourne English Sparkling Rosé. However, even England’s sexiest fizz couldn’t stop us getting horrendously distracted by the genius of the Mo Farah Running Away From Things website. P.S. The introductory price on the Antoine Remy Champagne will only last until the end of October 2012.

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