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THE RHÔNE, NEIL YOUNG AND FREE MELTDOWN TICKETS

To quote Otis Redding, we are going down in the valley, down in the valley so low. Down in the Rhône Valley to be precise. This week we are mining the soulful depths of this expansive southern French appellation with assertive, modern wines that showcase the jaw-dropping value to be found with just a lil digging. We’ve Châteauneuf-du-Pape-alikes for under a tenner, ethereally delicate Provencal rosés (we don’t need much prompting to bust out the rosé and sandals here at Oddbins) and all-round, supermarket-smashing wines that will make you want to go down, down, down in the valley, so low. Oh, and if you go low enough, you might just discover some hidden treasure…

Skipping from Otis to Neil, merrily dispensing ear worms left, right and centre (that doesn’t sound very charming, but you catch our drift), we find another musician who knows that, sometimes, you have to dig deep to find the good stuff. It’s often the same with wines, but luckily our Buyer Ana Sapungiu is a superb miner and always strikes gold… The blueberry and star anise-laden Domaine de l’Arnesque Côtes du Rhône ‘Fleur de Garrigues’ 2011 (£9), for example, isn’t so much a wine as a gift to palates nationwide. So get in there as – to (mis-) quote Mr Young again – in the field of opportunity, Ana has been ploughing again… Now, if you really get carried away by the Rhône, you might end up in Provence, which is no bad thing, because it allows us to talk about Château Coussin Rosé 2012 (£12.25)… Aside from sun salutations and a trip to Stonehenge, this pink grapefruit and strawberry sorbet-flavoured jewel is a darn good way to welcome in the truanting golden sphere.

That’s what our Ana sings as she skips around the office, sampling wines (contrary to popular belief, and unfortunately for her, she doesn’t spend her days cavorting around sunlit vineyards in bucolic idylls). No, she just sings ‘dig-diggy-dig’ in the office, where she discovered the 2010 Côtes du Rhône ‘Le Vent’ Rouge. The winemaker, Jean-Luc Colombo, was a chemist in a former life and has deployed his science-y know-how expertly with Le Vent Rouge. For just £8.50 (down from £10), you get an awful lot of silky redcurrant and bay leaf flavours for your money. Another belter is the herby, warm and sensuous Serabel Gingondas 2012 (£15.50). From an underrated appellation in a cracking year, this Gigondas could give its neighbour, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a run for its money. Now, are we correct in thinking that you’ve been looking out for the hidden treasure we promised earlier? Well you’ve found it by gum! For we have two pairs of tickets to the cultural mecca that is the Meltdown festival, this June, on London’s South Bank. Meltdown is curated by a different musician each year and, this year, it’s the turn of Unkle co-founder James Lavelle, so should be a trip-hip-hop-electro delight (if that means something to you, you’re officially cool. If it doesn’t, then we’ll translate: it’s going to be brilliant). ‘But how do I enter?’ you cry. You already have, by subscribing to these bi-monthly musings! Good luck!

Whilst we do like it down in the valley, we keep our periscope firmly above ground, and were alarmed when we clocked the rise of councils banning the sale of beers and ciders above six per cent. Brewing is an art and brewers must achieve balance between elements such as hops, alcohol and sugar. But if such schemes were rolled out nationwide, 23 per cent of the 398 craft products that won awards at the International Beer Challenge and International Cider Challenge would be banned. Our Managing Director, Ayo Akintola, had no hesitation in joining Off-Licence News’ United to Protect Strength campaign, saying: “The criminalisation of that which is not criminal, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, mustn’t be allowed to creep in through the back door. If it does, we don’t face a Nanny State, so much as a ‘Nurse Ratched’ State.” But, *dismounts soapbox*, if you want to check out craft beers with serious flavour (many of which weight in over six per cent) before a ‘crafty’ council stops you, we have a stonking range in our shops. So swing by your local and ask our staff for their brew du jour.

Anyway, we hope you’re at least six per cent happier having read this – ‘til next time!