Basket - 0 item

Tag Archives: wine tasting

  • 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

  • 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.

    Loveable-Banner

    "...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. "...so 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!"
    Crafty-Banner

    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...?

    Chateau-Peyrabon

    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...?

  • EU Referendum - should we stay or should we go?

    In a little over a week we will march like toiling drones in an Escher painting to the polling booths to make one of the most important decisions in our nation’s recent history.

    The EU referendum is almost upon us, and thank the stars we will consign these months of repulsive campaigning to history.

    In the Donald Trump inspired post-truth era we have been besieged by misinformation, lies and malicious slurs by campaigners on both sides of the so-called debate. Never have our politicians stooped so low to secure our support and never have voters been so repulsed by their foul antics.

    What should have been an informed, serious and measured debate to decide one of the most important questions to have faced the UK in generations has been reduced to a slagging match. The mother of all democracies has been left an imbecilic bereft of all decency.

    Depending on whom you choose to believe, the NHS is doomed if we remain in the EU and definitely doomed if we leave. And the cost of a bag of groceries will significantly jump if we opt out and we would be inundated with half the Turkish population if we stay in!

    A plague on both their houses!

    Brexit Arguments

    Is there any way that we can cut through the fusillade of mud-slinging to come up with an informed decision on which way to vote?

    Well, before me as I write is a bottle of CoBo Côteaux Bourguignons 2015 (France) and a bottle of Leyda Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 (Chile). In my futile attempt to come to a clear minded decision, I might as well let these two wines guide my thinking.

    Meanwhile, business leaders from the founder of JCB to the CEO of Unilever are all graciously offering words of advice from their gilded pulpits.

    The Masters of the Universe that run the City would have you believe that they would migrate like swallows to the other side of the Channel if we leave the EU. These are the same banks that loathe “EU red tape”. Oh and the same banks that nearly bankrupted the country in 2008. Yes, let’s listen to what they have to say. Good idea.

    Brexit Voting

    Their profound utterances from on high are supposed to sway their staff and others to support their personal business cases. Well balls to that! At Oddbins I am quite happy to let my colleagues across the UK make up their own minds. They have a tough enough decision without me weighing in with dire warnings. They probably wouldn’t listen to me anyway.

    My, this CoBo Côteaux Bourguignons is remarkably good. Say what you like about the French, but they are masters of “le humble grape”.

    Where was I?

    Ah yes, business leaders weighing in sprouting drivel – the only business person to have put forward a rational, logical argument void of emotional claptrap or sentimentality, is Sir James Dyson. He argues that we are better off voting to leave not because of various dubious reasons given by the political class, but solely due to his first-hand experience of the uncompetitive nature of the EU - “we have never once during 25 years ever got any clause or measure that we wanted into a European directive. Never once have we been able to block the slightest thing”.

    Time to sample the Leyda Reserve Pinot Noir. Yep, as good as the CoBo.

    As for Boris Johnson and David Cameron – they are both so divorced from reality that they wouldn’t recognise the difference between Pinot Grigio and a Pinot Noir. David Cameron’s so called Euro Reform deal doesn’t add up to a hill of beans and Boris’ suggestion that we would have a strong hand negotiating with the EU is nothing short of cloud cuckoo land.

    Jack

    Back to the CoBo, yes, this seems to get better if you let it breathe a bit. This is something I am struggling to do in a calm fashion at the moment – is it too much to ask to have a clear answer about the consequences of either option?! All I am reading now is an analysis of the nature of the debate! Am I guilty of adding to that? Yes. Maybe. But one thing I know for sure is that in the event the result is a vote to leave, we can expect the rest of the EU to make life difficult for us even if it means cutting their noses to spite their face. Why will they do this? In order to protect the EU they will have to make an example of us so as to deter other countries that might be thinking of leaving - similar to the 'zwischenzug' manoeuvre in a game of chess.

    Really can’t make up my mind as to which of these two wines is better…

    My last comment on the subject: No one really knows what the blinking consequences of ‘Brexit’ will be, because we have not been informed or simply because the politicians haven’t thought this through. This however, should not stop people from voting to leave as long as we all realise that we can expect a world of pain for the next 10-12 years.

    So I am going to vote with my instincts and suggest you do the same. Now, where did I leave my polling card?

    IN or Out?

    According to latest opinion polls (assuming one can believe them giving how wrong they were at last General Elections!) 11% of voters haven't decided which way to vote. So if you are one of these voters we invite you to pop into an Oddbins store and taste 2 wines that represent the "in and out" proposition and let your palate guide which way to vote. The wines will be on tasting across all Oddbins stores between 20th and 22nd of June. Preferences will be counted and results released on 24th June.

    On the other hand why not try our "Leave" case of new world wines and/or our equally compelling "Remain" case of old world wines. Both cases are priced at £65 and available to order online until 2pm Wednesday 22nd of July.

    Remain

    Brexit In Mixed Wine Case

    Leave

    Brexit Out Mixed Wine Case

     

    Well, my mind is made up now, what about yours?

  • PUT YOUR PALATE TO THE TEST

    Like a pretentiousness-seeking missile that annihilates wine snobbery whenever it is deployed, The Palate has shown thousands of people over the past four years that wine tasting is easy and it is for everybody.

    The Palate 2015

    Like wine but are sure that your friend with the Master of Wine qualification/impressive wine cellar/bragging arrogance is much better qualified to talk about it? Yeah, that’s not true. Come to The Palate at any of our shops this weekend (27/28) and we’ll show you that anyone with a tongue in their mouth can use it to taste wine – and to talk about it, too.

    Did we mention that, as well as the chance to win the title of The Palate 2015, you can win: a wine holiday to South Africa; a long weekend in Italy; a day course at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School; wine prizes totalling £3,000; much free wine; and the chance to pick a wine for us to list nationwide? Now that’s something to brag about.

  • 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.

5 Item(s)