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  • 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.

    KatyKL

    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!

    KatyBC

    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.

    KatySuns

    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.

    KatyPara

    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.

    KatyAnimals

    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!

    KatyRiver

    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 :)

  • 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 WAR OF THE WORLDS, A RIGHT ROYAL CARRY ON AND THE (CORNISH) MINORITY REPORT

    The world is scary and, quite frankly, the news does nothing to help. They could give us more heart-warming stories about kittens but, oh no, they have to tell us about Eastern European conflict that’s threatening to destabilise the entire continent. It’s like Orson Welles famous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast from the 30's all over again – except that whilst the US public was huddled under the kitchen table with the misguided assumption that aliens had landed, we’re huddled under the table in justified fear. So, we say, shun the news-stand, turn off the radio and telly and enjoy an alternative take on the news from yours truly, via the medium of delicious wine and whisky. So much better than actual news.
    Whilst Kate and Wills proudly parade young George around Australia and the press coo at his every hiccup and marvel at the wisdom of Kate’s choice of dress, we have a slightly different bundle of joy for you. It is not teething and its surname isn’t Windsor, but it sure is cute: it’s Oddbins’ Spring Breeze Mixed Case. It’s a selection of bright ‘n’ breezy wines for the bargainous price of £50, including the eternally popular, pear-scented Prosecco Ca’Rosa (£10), so you can raise a glass to George (and his dragon-bothering namesake, if you didn’t do so on Wednesday).
    Speaking of national pride, we now turn our beady eye to Cornwall, with the news that, as the BBC put it, ‘Cornwall is not England’. Yes, the region has won its battle for minority status, in recognition that there’s more to Cornwall than pasties and the grumpy yet affable Doc Martin. Great news for Cornwall. But, though we love them and they have the best regional flag ever, we are going to disagree with Tori here. We think we've spotted one down-side; Ireland, Wales and most definitely Scotland all produce famous whisky, so if they’re joining the gang in their official minority status, we reckon this is a ‘could do better’ area. Scotland has new malts coming out of ears, such as Flaughter, from anCnoc (the C’s silent, the flavours aren’t). anCnoc usually offer a more gentle, honeyed Highland style, but Flaughter (£55) is a new arrival that combines come-hither vanilla and toffee flavours with smoky, manfully peaty notes. Take heed Cornwall!
    Now. If we offered you six years’ pay for only 10 months’ work, you’d take it, right? Well unlike Manchester United’s remarkably well-remunerated former manager, David Moyes, you’re not quite so lucky. But – ta da – we have an alternative offer to ease your bitter disappointment. How about the chance to win one of two pairs of tickets to the terrifically trendy (people still say terrific, don’t they?) Meltdown festival this summer for simply subscribing to this newsletter (i.e. for doing nought).  Not bad eh? The winners will be announced in the next email, so stay tuned.

    Anyhoo. If we’ve managed to coax you from under the kitchen table in the tentative hope that the apocalypse isn’t nigh, then why not celebrate with a glass of the luscious, star anise, cinnamon and blackberry-flavoured antidote to unpleasant news that is Domaine de l’Arnesque’s Côtes du Rhône ‘Fleur de Garrigues’ (£9.25). And… relax. Just stay away from the radio.

    ‘Til next time.

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