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Tag Archives: laurent-perrier

  • Orang-Utangover!

    The bar has reached a Friday evening peak. Everybody is loud and excitable, Prosecco is flowing and there is love and laughter everywhere. The Headache Fairy will be busy tomorrow, but for now...

    "...So, then I said, right, I said 'And anyway, darlin, that's not a banana you're peeling!'" Mass guffaws. HAHAHAHA HA HA HA ha...ha...haaa...and fade to black. And silence.

    Crazy-Banner

    A chimpanzee is lying beneath a tree. Well, perhaps "beneath" dignifies the picture somewhat. "Underneath" might be better. And the tree is horizontal. On the floor surrounding the chimp are a number of festive baubles, and on a nearby sofa is a crumpled heap of clothes and blankets. Looping on his television screen is a video of a chimp invasion of a wine store. After a BLT he will realise how much fun last night's Christmas party was, but right now he is sulking about a lost battle with a tree.

    "Oi, Snazzy", he says to the sofa. The crumpled heap moves a little to show the head of another chimpanzee, this one topped off with an angel. "How did we get here?"

    "I think we started off with a couple of aperitifs, Crazy, Laurent-Perrier Non-Vintage, £27 a pop. Christmas has come early at that price..."

    LP

    "No, here!" I was a tree climbing aristocracy not so long ago, now I'm pinned to the floor by a Norwegian Spruce wondering how I'm going to get to work. I should be sitting in the sunshine picking fleas off my girlfriend, not working in a wine shop in Clapham!"

    "Well for a start, I warned you against putting your Christmas tree up after a night on the Brasso. You should have savoured some Bourgogne Blanc Girardin with me - elegant, pleasantly aromatic, and appealingly fruity. The wine's not bad either, boom boom!"

    Bourgogne

    "And as for your job, well, think about it. People want a shop with character, and they want the best of everything. The confused man with ten quid who'd never been in the place before - you gave him Coteaux du Pont du Gard - fruit, structure, intensity and complexity. And a rather saucy joke. Think how some small part of his life may have been changed by a wine of such quality. He might have had a Road to Damascus moment with a country wine from Avignon."

    Pont-du-Gard

    "...and the lady wanting a change from boring, boring Pinot Grigio? Domaine de Coudoulet Viognier - a lovely flowery nose and tropical fruit on the palate, balanced with a dash of citrus. She didn't think wine shopping could be such fun, and now she's looking at the more generic offerings with something approaching pity. You see, we send out little ripples of love and affirmation with every bottle, and though you can't see them, they cross your path with every step you take from the shop to Clapham Junction station. Every cosy looking, lamp lit window may have a Coudoulet Viognier behind it. If only you knew!"

    Snazzy-Banner

    "Cor blimey, Snazzy, you don't half talk some cobblers. And there's nothing elegant or pleasantly aromatic about you while you're piled up on my settee! Now get yourself out and get us a banana, lettuce and tomato, while I sort some coffee out."

    As the front door closes, Crazy Chimp's mind drifts to Snazzy's comments. To the tables he may have enriched in some way, to the laughter he's brought to unsuspecting shoppers, to the enrichment of his own mind and so many others with knowledge of the seemingly obscure or opaque. Clapham has become a beautiful place, and Christmas is his, for him to give to the world!

    Well, that's if he can get from under this tree now Snazzy's gone out...

  • THE PALATE, FASHION FAUX PAS & EVIL

    This week saw the culmination of London Fashion Week and, thank heavens, people now know what to wear again. We’d been running out of ideas and feeling afraid, and had started lashing out with clashing prints, double denim and anything else close to hand. Oddbins’ Managing Director Ayo, however, is bold and doesn’t need such direction. Too bold, some may say, but nonetheless, he stuck to his guns with his red trousers at The Palate Final last Saturday, September 6:
    Some people, like Odd Writer, are Followers, becoming manic and Gollum-like without annual direction from Jean Paul Gaultier. Ayo, however, is not. Neither is Steve Saunders, this year’s winner of The Palate (our annual search for the nation’s finest amateur wine taster). Steve is a fashion leader (not in a sartorial sense, though we do admire his black pinstripe shirt), but in terms of his communication style. When he was asked to do a presentation on why he had paired a pumpkin tart with the Verget Mâcon Bussières 2012, Steve gloriously avoided any prescribed Wine Speak whilst hitting the nail on the head, in a fresh, direct manner. So what did he say? “I chose this particular match as the classic oatmeal and peach characteristics of the Chardonnay went very well with the pumpkin, while the wine's buttery finish complemented the pastry. The subtle hazelnut notes on the finish combined seamlessly with the truffle and, overall, the wine had sufficient weight and texture to cope with the egg filling. Together, both food and wine lifted each other, flavour-wise, to something greater than the sum of their parts.” In almost Churchillian style, this was the speech what won it for Steve, earning him the title of The Palate 2014, a luxury holiday for two to Australia, a magnum or Laurent-Pérrier and an engraved ‘Palate 2014’ decanter.
    Over 21,000 of you entered The Palate (not you, in a Being John Malkovich way; that would be weird) this year and, we have to say, some of the other suggested food and wine matches were memorable. Quarter Finalist Jerome, from Oxford, went wildly left-of-centre with his suggestion of ‘salted aardvark’ with Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2013 and Heather, from Aberdeen, broke new ground with her suggestion, ‘cantaloupe melon carved into the shape of a shark, swimming in a sea of lemon sorbet’. We’re reassured to see that you’re all just as mad as we are. Anyway, if you took part this year, we hope it left you with a renewed sense of how fun and unpretentious wine tasting can be. We reckon runner-up Robert Macaloney, from Glasgow, who won £300 to spend at Oddbins (“which was promptly cashed in the very next day”), summed it up nicely when he said: “I’ve always felt my tasting abilities were very, very average but I surprised myself throughout the competition in that I actually wasn’t too bad at all.”
    OK. You know how we’ve always said how pleasant and modest our Buyer, Ana, is? Yes well she’s not – she’s evil. Ana set the wines for the sparkling wine exam at The Palate Final and included Albert Bichot Crémant de Bourgogne Réserve Privée NV, which is really, really delicious. Just cruel. With its fine bubbles, crisp acidity and inflections of manuka honey and toast, it could easily pass for Champagne and is, therefore, darn tricky to answer questions on. As we say, pure evil. If you want to see just how demonic Ana and the other judges were, just have a look at our blog, and keep an eye on our website for The Palate video. Just have a sofa to hide behind. S’alls we’re saying.

    ‘Til next time.

  • THE PALATE 2014

    The Year of Men, Festivals and Red Trousers

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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