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  • 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!

  • The Real Spirit of Christmas

    Christmas Eve at Oddbins is doing exactly what Christmas Eve should do at Oddbins. The Liverpool store is thronged beyond all known laws of physics, and a sweet-natured queue snakes from the counter to the back of the shop and round on itself to the front door. Who in their right mind would think this was a good time to get the tasting samples out?

    CW-Gin

    "Ello darli-er, good afternoon madam!" But of course. Hello, Crazy Chimp. "I see you're feasting your minces on our gins, I've got a lovely one here you'll enjoy. You're not driving, are you? Oh, good, there you are, Christopher Wren Gin from the City of London Distillery. Mmm, nice palate, liquorice and oranges going on there, very Christmassy. Handsome bottle too, looks just like St. Paul's Cathedral. So that's two masterpieces with Wren's name for the price of one! Tell you what, I'll let you enjoy it in peace while I go and pop one under the counter for you..." And he scuttles away on his knuckles, to charm somebody else.

    Crazy-Banner

    At the end of the counter, a whisky lover is being told things by a chimp who has a slight smell of old books and a charming aura of forgotten academia. "...and Masataka Taketsuru, who established the distillery in 1934," instructs Curious Chimp, "was the first Japanese person to study whisky-making at Glasgow University. His Nikka From The Barrel is decidedly high in alcohol - 51.4%! But rather than merely making it hot, the extra abv adds depth, weight and richness, don't you think? Orange peel, cedar, woody spice - true decadence and indulgence, 50cl of Christmas. And the packaging? So stylish. If Blue Note was a distillery instead of a jazz label, they'd have made things that looked like this. Give me a bottle of this and a Horace Silver CD and I'll happily come and make Christmas dinner for you. As long as it's nut roast!"

    Nikka

    In the corner of the room, a roguish chimp is telling a group of rum aficionados about the time he and his old chum Shifty had to flee to Venezuela in a borrowed Jaguar. Crafty Chimp is no stranger "...heh, heh, heh, and no sooner had she finished peeling my banana than in walks her brother - turns out he was the bloody ambassador!"

    Crafty-Banner

    "That's one diplomatic incident I won't be returning to in a hurry, I can tell you, but this Diplomatico Exclusiva rum really is something you can go back to without a forged passport. It has the kind of gravitas that could get a chap out of any scrape - brown sugar and liquorice underneath delicious dried fruit peel and toffee characters - and it rather lends itself to be taken neat. Drunk au naturel, so to speak. Which takes me back rather neatly to the ambassador's sister..."

    Exclusiva

    Wandering around the shop with an empty bottle of Brockman's Gin and a beautific smile is Loveable Chimp. He is trying to get people to smell his empty bottle, and though he hasn't quite got them in the palm of his hand, he isn't giving a monkey's. It's Christmas Eve and his family and friends are all in the one place, and they are in their element, helping to choose gifts and treats for his beloved regulars, and everybody is in the very best of heart and humour. He is surrounded by people and chimps who are giving a shit this Christmas, and this, he muses as his smile grows even wider, is the true spirit of the season.

    Brockmans

    Although, that Nikka whisky was pretty decent, it has to be said...

    Thanks to all of you for another extraordinary year. Merry Christmas! x

  • The Long Arms of The Law

    Hilarious Chimp is listening to records. At the moment it is the turn of Pithecanthropus Erectus by Charles Mingus, a long-standing family favourite. The music is terrifically exciting, with five men seeming to make the noise of eleven, and Hilarious is playing it at an appreciable volume while whirling around the room on a unicycle and whooping and a-hollering with the band! Unfortunately, his neighbours are rather less appreciative. They've seen the video Hilarious made recently with all of his other Oddbins cohorts, and they didn't find quite the same joy in its assorted muckslinging or the Mingus-maybe melodies that have sent the chimp back to his record collection. And now this racket! Tired of his primate pranks, they have summoned the long arm of the law...

    Hilarious-Banner

    In the conference room of a swish hotel, Sassy Chimp is delivering a seminar entitled 'Writing On The Wall: When To Flog Your Business, and Where You Won't Be Found'. It consists, in large part, of the murky tales surrounding his sale of 'Monkey Vegas', a huge empire founded on teaching circus skills and party tricks to primates. By what he described as an 'uncanny coincidence', Sassy sold the business at an eye-watering profit exactly one month before animal acts were banned from circuses. "I didn't so much avoid the country after that, it was more a case of simply being somewhere else...". He has come back to help his friends and family with the cheerful invasion of Oddbins, whence he has graced his event with ample supplies of Terra Noble Reserva Terroir Syrah, a deep and deliciously savoury red from the Maule Valley in Chile, together with a Chardonnay from the same winery, a warmly approachable white that partners delightfully with the hors d'oeuvres he's provided. While he's pointing to a Venn diagram on a Bo-Nobo board, he is discreetly called out of the room and taken into a police station.

    Terra-Noble-Syrah

    Terra-Noble-Chardonnay

    "...and he says you're the only person he knows who can pay for his bail. Well, you and..." consulting a notebook, "...Billy Expletive Smart. Funny bloke considering he doesn't even crack a smile!"

    "Funny?"

    "Yeah. He's cracked everybody up round here, playing table tennis with the boys. 10p, 50p, whatever, absolutely thrashed all of them. Funny thing was, he was riding a unicycle throughout. Even when we brought him in he pedalled out to the panda. Then he made the handcuffs disappear and we found them in the glove box."

    "How much is his bail exactly?"

    Sassy-Banner

    "Well, he's clearly a chimp of good character. In fact, we considered dropping all charges when we told him we don't usually have much to do with hominoids, and he said that's because you can get cream for them nowadays. If we can find a caring home for him we'll forget the whole thing - you seem to have done better than he has out of circus regulations, maybe you owe it to him to see he doesn't spend another Christmas in the park? Meanwhile, we'll set him up in Oddbins and the staff will take him under their loving wing! Now,  back in the car and you can pick up your records while we bring your neighbours in for crime against hilarity. A couple of days in the cooler listening to Kenny G should teach them what side their bread's buttered!"

    In the back of the car, Hilarious and Sassy are making up. "So, Hilarious, 50p a game, you say? I'm sure I could fix you up with plenty more games, and at a pound a pop! How about we seal the deal with a bottle of this Tarlant Champagne..."

    Tarlant

  • An Oddbins Peek Into Burgundy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As would we Bernard.

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

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

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

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

    The Burgundy Winemakers Dinner - Complete Wine List

    Starter Wines

    Marchand-Tawse Côte de Nuits Villages 2013 - £26.00

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

    Remoissenet Puligny Montrachet 2014 - £45.00

    Remoissenet Chablis 'Amiral Vernon' 2014 - 19.00

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

    Main Wines

    Remoissenet Vosne-Romanée 2014 - £50.00

    Remoissenet Rully Blanc - £20.00

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

    Justin Girardin Pommard 2014 - £32.00

    Roche de Bellene Chassagne-Montrachet 2014 - £40.00

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

    Dessert Wines

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

    Remoissenet Vosne-Romanée 2014 - £50.00

    Roche de Bellene Meursault - £38.00

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

    Justin Girardin Bourgogne Blanc 2014 - £15.00

  • TERRY’S TALES Part Four: Thumbs Down

    Welcome to Part Four of Terry's Tales. If you've missed any episodes, you can catch up with Part One herePart Two here and Part Three here.

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part Four: Thumbs Down

    There they were: the Queen slumped and agog; Terry and Gwinny sparkly eyed and irreverently happy.

    After a word with her Lord Lieutenant (they had appointed themselves military titles after finding an old army register in the woods), the Queen regained her composure and a cool, surmising look spread across her face. Her previously concerned offspring, who lay, lazily, all around her, relaxed a little as their Mother regained her composure.

    “We are amused at one’s earnest outpouring,” she drooled, enjoying what she considered highly sardonic emphasis, “but we must arrive at the admittedly unfortunate occasion of your… extermination” the last word delivered with such bile even her litter shuddered.

    Looking from the rotund Queen, lolling in her lair, to the sycophantically approving Generals, to the terminally absent-minded colony beyond, Terry and Gwinny felt like the fun might be finally over. Barely hearing as the Queen gave the order for their removal, and the hideously sober reality hit home.

    Offering their heads up for the collars placed before them, they started and hunched suddenly to the ground as an almighty noise, rocked the entire chamber: a high-pitched, gurgling giggle, that made way for delighted tones, that sounded like “Daddy, I found a big ant hill,” as the roof began pitching in in great clods above them.

    The ensuing pandemonium saw the guards jumping in terror before pelting headlong to the nearest exits. Terry, now in full super hero mode, grabbed Gwinny’s arm and swept her with him towards a smallish side tunnel. “Quick!” he cried, grabbing her arm, and they hurried towards it.

    The roof was now pouring in on the Chamber and the bright sky opened up above them. Having reached the tunnel entrance, Terry and Gwinny turned back to watch it all collapse, only to see the intruder, grinning from ear to ear, greedily scoop up Her Royal Highness, hissing and helpless, for a thorough examination.

    Bursting out of the tunnel, they were greeted with a white landscape, the like of which they’d never seen before. Darting across the wintry scene, which was interrupted only by the snow-covered fir trees and a lark, rising up into the sky above them, they made for the shelter of some nearby gorse. Here they allowed themselves to pause for breath, and did so, with considerable relief.

    Evening was falling and the forest air was cool and refreshing after the hot chaos of the inner chamber. Leant up against the trunk of the bush, Terry allowed himself to reflect. As far as days go, it had been pretty eventful. That morning he had awoken in turmoil, believing it unwise to confuse his steady life with women and now here he was, the colony prodded and poked to oblivion, with Gwinny by his side. All his life, he’d lived in placid acquiescence. Why? But it didn’t bother him now as he gazed out over the snow, watching the hill continue to fall in on itself; he was simply amazed at his own complacency. Deep in these thoughts, he nodded off, into an instant slumber.

    Read Part Five by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Catalin Ardeleanu.

  • TERRY'S TALES Part Three: Trouble at the Hill

    Welcome to Part Three of Terry's Tales. If you've missed any episodes, you can catch up with Part One here and Part Two here.

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part Three: Trouble at the Hill

    Full of life and love and the promise of excitement, he charged out of his tunnel only to find her entertaining a few off-duty workers with a coy dance routine outside on the path. But when she saw Terry, deranged and wide-eyed, still clutching his tea, she went weak and collapsed in laughter for a second time. This wasn’t what he’d wanted, but he didn’t care anymore. “Mrs, er, Miss.. er, we should copulate!” Again, not what he’d wanted to say, but not to worry. Laughter petering out, she told him that sounded like a lovely proposition, but maybe they ought to have some tea first. So they walked off, femur in femur. “Gwinny,” she said. “Terry,” he replied. “How’d you do?”

    No sooner had they got in the door of Terry’s nest, talking animatedly now – Terry, loosening up in a way that was a marvel to him – than they heard something odd. It started off low, like an underground humming, but it grew louder and more discernible, until they recognised it for what it was: the inexorable thud, thud, thud of a thousand footsteps.

    Quaking, as the noise reached fever pitch and then stopped outside their door, they knew they must have come for them. They’d been careless and Terry was grief-stricken with the thought that it was going to happen again; that his clumsiness was going to result in the death of another woman whom he loved.

    Illustration by Catalin Ardeleanu

    They looked at each other as the General kicked down the door: Terry, amazingly, still holding his tea, and Gwinny, unrecognisably vulnerable. But, however frightened he might have been, the sight of Gwinny, cowering like that made Terry swell with indignation and blind anger. What came next was a surprise to them both, but he reared up on his hind tarsi and roared,

    “You pathetic, miserable cowards!,” gesticulating wildly, “look what you’ve done to Gwinny!”

    Well, even as they came marching towards them, Gwinny felt exhilarated and thought her chest would just burst with pride. “Isn’t he wonderful?” She gleefully said to the soldier escorting her out by the femur, “I think I rather like him!”

    On hearing this, Terry suddenly became flushed with the knowledge that he didn’t care if he lived or died, as long as he experienced love, and so he waltzed merrily along, as the grim-faced guards thudded on. Catching Gwinny’s eye, and seeing she was equally jubilant, he couldn’t have been happier.

    Illustration by Catalin Ardeleanu

    All of which meant that, when they arrived at the Queen’s Chambers, much to Her Majesty’s displeasure, they were grinning from ear to ear like a couple of naughty school children. Not convinced that the gravity of the situation had quite struck them, the Queen shifted in her nest, white rage flashing across her eyes.

    “Do you mock me?” She eventually bellowed.

    “You, Ma’am? No, Ma’am!” offered Terry, amiably.

    “Then what do you mean by this?”

    “Well Ma’am, I just don’t care anymore! This whole colony is ridiculous! And I’ve got this beautiful ant by my side, who makes me very happy. And the fact is, we can Talk, which is a joy. We can chew the cud or float off on whimsical flights of fancy and, in doing so, we connect, you see! It’s just wonderful, isn’t it? We’re not revolutionaries – we rather like the established order – we just want to be able to lose our selves in conversation if we feel like it.”

    Boggle-eyed and with a mood perched somewhere between rage and incredulity, the Queen sat, slumped, for quite some time.

    Read Part Four by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Catalin Ardeleanu.

  • TERRY'S TALES Part Two: The Lady Killers

    Welcome to Part Two of Terry's Tales. If you missed Part One, you can catch up here.

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part Two: The Lady Killers

    If he was honest with himself, Terry knew that there was a bigger reason, lurking below the surface, for his outburst. It was the profound anxiety suffered by every male in the colony, that none of them could talk about (in fairness, Terry thought, they can’t talk): that to copulate was to die. Copulation Means Extermination, as his dear old Ma used to chirp.

    Making the tea back in his tunnel the next morning, the rain beat down outside and he put an old record on and stood, inert, as the steam billowed from the kettle.

    “Oh to be an ant!” He thought, pitifully. What other creatures must choose between having sex and dying, and never Doing the Deed? Birds do it. Bees do it. Even bloody humans do it. A cruel joke, that one.

    It had never bothered him before – he’d taken it as life’s lot, as he had done with being a Talker – but it seemed to bother him rather a lot now. Why? “May the Queen have Mercy, I like her.” Admitting it was a relief. “I like her, but I don’t want to die… I like her but I don’t want to die,” he glumly mused. Settling into his chair and stretching out, he thought of his Ma again.  She’d never regretted sex, even though the old man had quickly snuffed it.

    “It’s part of life, son,” she had soothingly told him, never one to make a fuss unduly. Terry had always admired her stoicism and twinkle of naughty humour, however bad things were  – she wore life lightly and he tried to do the same. But thinking of her now, of how her short time in the colony was ended so brutally and mercilessly, he could not muster the same lightness and he could not escape the stifling sense of guilt.

    It had happened on Terry’s first week birthday, when he was officially presented to the colony at the weekly Initiation Ceremony for new arrivals, attended by the Queen. Wearing her best attire, antennae bristling with pride, Terry’s Ma took her young son along to the Inner Sanctum, adjacent to the Queen’s chambers. But, on the lap of honour with the other arrivals, Terry, still lacking in co-ordination, tripped up and plunged face-first into the neatly-raked soil. Having been sternly warned by his Ma that morning not to speak in front of anyone, least of all the Queen, Terry held back the cry of mild expletives running through his head, but it was his Ma who made the fatal mistake. “Terry!” she’d cried as he fell. The march stopped, a thousand ant heads swivelled in unison in her direction. She made no move and no further sounds but, as the Queen shrieked instructions for her to be taken off to the gallows, she looked at Terry and winked. Though now blinded by tears, he winked back, and smiled. And then she was gone.

    And it was then that Terry realised that it was the Queen and the Generals, and they alone, who were supposed to talk. His Ma had always warned him that they hated speaking, though she didn’t know why, and now the depressing consequences were crystal clear to this young orphan.

    Shell-shocked and trembling, Terry saw that the room’s attention had now turned to him and, before he could think, a severe-looking General was standing before him, watching him with scientific scrutiny. “What’s your name, ant?” Terry looked as blank as he could. “Your name!!” Summoning as much dullness in his eyes as he could, Terry looked blankly up and continued his silence. Cogs churning, the General, not quite as intelligent as he imagined himself, was satisfied that Terry was not a talker. So it was that he escaped death and began his lonely path in colony life.

    Presently, Terry noticed that the rain had stopped and the temperature had picked up a little. He put down his now cold tea and walked to the window. His Pa had sacrificed it all for love and neither he nor his Ma had thought twice about it. The romance of it softened Terry’s mood and he made up his mind in a flash. “They’re right. They are so right! Living just isn’t living without loving!” And, with that, he grabbed his coat, headed out into the rain and resolved on finding this mystery ant, wherever she was.

    Read Part Three by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Cat Ardeleanu.

  • TERRY'S TALES Part One: Down The Rabbit Hole

    Prologue by Mother Christmas

    Hello there. I’m Mother Christmas, not sure if we’ve been formally introduced? Obviously I already know everything about you, especially vis-à-vis your levels of naughty/niceness, but that’s beside the point. Some of you may be aware that my husband was involved in an awful antler-based accident and has been rendered incapacitated for the festive period. Rather than calling the whole thing off, I have taken hold of the reins (I was doing the majority of the heavy lifting anyway) and have teamed up with Oddbins to deliver the best Christmas ever. I’ve also taken over their Twitter feed, which is far more fun than mucking out the reindeer. Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yes, I remember…

    The other day the elves and I were chilling (sorry that was just a bit of North Pole-based humour). We’d just sweated out the troubles of the working day via the medium of Bikram Yoga, and the conversation was doing its usual progression from ways to economise on wrapping paper to ribbon curling techniques and on to bubble wrap versus those polystyrene things that we don’t really know the name of. Then we got on to what we would do if we weren’t in the festive fulfilment industry…

    Eerikki (head elf of the Wooden Toy Department) said he’d like to audition for Willow The Musical. Lyyti (Gift Tags Department), bored with children’s toys, coveted a career in the adult toy market. We moved swiftly on from that bombshell. Honestly, I almost choked on my sea buckthorn herbal infusion. Mikko (Dolls and Figurines) has been distilling his own moonshine during the quiet months and yearned to start exporting. Tarja (Elf and Safety) inspired by Tariq Knight aspired to become a magician. And finally, one of our Gift Coverage Analysts, who wished to remain anonymous, so let’s call her J.K. Wrapping, wanted to be a writer. A little elf with big dreams.

    Well, as I’m sure you’re aware, Mother Christmas loves to make dreams come true. So right here on the Oddbins Blog I am publishing J.K. Wrapping's work. So have a read for yourself, this is the first of an epic five parter…

     

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part One: Down the Rabbit Hole

    “Now there’s a thing,” thought Terry. “There is certainly a thing.” Terry was looking up at the blossomy, billowing clouds, way, way above the pine tops, way above the rich, sweetly earthy ant hill and certainly way above his rather perplexed head.

    Rather uncharacteristically, Terry was ambling. He’d always been a sturdy sort of ant – happy to throw himself into whatever work the colony threw at him, thriving on the community spirit and the wholesomeness of it all. The fact that he was different to the rest of the colony – and the fact that he knew there was no way he could or should share this with them – didn’t deter him. He was a stoic, sanguine, albeit occasionally weary, ant.

    But he had just been thrown a considerable curveball and was ambling, not marching, on his way back to the colony. He was deep in reverie and had only just enough sense of mind to hold onto the bark with which he’d laboured all day.

    The catalyst for Terry’s abstracted state? He’d met someone like himself. Another… another Talker. In a flash, his muddlement changed to delight, an enormous grin spread across his face and he developed a decided spring in his step. For the first time in years he was actually happy! He was thrilled! All of a sudden the world took on a keener, more tangible quality and the events of the day began to race through his brain.

    She had walked past him just after lunch, given him a wink and said, cheekily, under her breath, “Afternoon”. It took Terry a while to realise what had happened and he busily carried on gnawing on the bark that was proving tough.

    Then, mid-bite, the thought hit him like a dumbbell: she had spoken. She had bloody well said “Afternoon”! How sweet, how tantalising it sounded, after not having heard words uttered since his dear old Ma had passed over (Ant on High, rest her soul). But his joy was interrupted by panic as he wondered if any other ants had noticed? He knew they couldn’t understand Words, but they sure hated it when they thought they were being used. Breaking rank with the dozy column of workers, Terry went to have a sit down.

    He wiped the cold sweat from his brow and was beginning to calm down when he spotted her walking sassily towards him.For Pete’s sake,” Terry murmured nervously.

    This time she sidled up beside Terry, stretched her front tibia out seductively and said “Words: they’re sexy aren’t they?” They really are, thought Terry, now in quite a state.

    But the thing about Terry was that he had lived in quiet isolation, thinking he was the only ant in the colony who could talk, for the best part of his adult life. His excitement began to drain away and he began to feel terribly discombobulated. Who was this ant – this woman? What right did she have to interrupt his day talking about the sexiness of words? He found himself, much to his surprise, angrily shouting these questions at her.

    To Terry’s dismay, however, his enquiries were not met with answers, but with an ant almost catatonic with laughter. She was heaving and weeping with amusement that was exacerbated every time she saw Terry’s agitated face. She eventually staggered off, leaving Terry to swim in a soup of consternation and disbelief.

    It was late evening by the time Terry re-joined the homeward-bound column. Earnestly but unsuccessfully trying to make sense of the surreal chain of events, he distinctly felt like he wasn’t heading back to the ant hill but down the rabbit hole…

    Read Part Two by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Cat Ardeleanu.

  • 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.

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