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Oddbins Wine Merchants

  • Bottles for Burns

    As we’re sure you’re all aware, today is our favourite national holiday of the year (that’s right May Day; drop the Morris Dancers and then we’ll talk), it’s Burns Night! Kilts, pipers, odes to meat dishes, whisky bearers and mountains of complex carbohydrates; as far as festivities go, very few things are missing. Perhaps sunlight but this is Scotland we’re talking about after all.

    This evening many of us will be sitting around, reciting a poetic address to haggis; the great chieftain of the sausage race! But this of course raises a burning question, “what do I drink with my piping hot haggis?” The obvious answer is Scotch whisky and we feel almost like Jamie Oliver; making something called ‘Punchy Jerk Rice,’ by suggesting anything else! However, we’re not all Don Draper able to sip on single malt through the course of an entire evening. Many of us, who have not been hardened by a career in a 50s New York ad-agency, would prefer something a little easier drinking. Wishing to quash any suggestion that at Oddbins we’re food match despots, these are our top haggis pairings, for when the whisky toasts have passed!

    A nice contrast to what can be quite a heavy dish. The fresh, fruitiness of the hops lifts the palate and plays against the spicy richness of the dish. Try the American IPA - Bosko from North London based brewers Pressure Drop.

    Given the extended link between Bordeaux and the UK, it is perhaps no surprise a nice bottle of Claret is often found on the Burns Night table; full-bodied, spicy and fairly savoury Clos La Gaffeliere St Emilion Grand Cru harmonises well with the depth of this meal.

     

     

    A little more off the wall suggestion, Aglianico is typically from the south of France, very full-bodied, incredibly powerful and complex it is absolutely a match for the intensity of flavours in Haggis but we also like the racy acidity so often found in this grape that can cut through the fattiness of the Haggis. Check out Pipoli Aglianico del Vulture!

     

    Particularly blends that have higher proportions of Syrah in them as they tend to have a spiciness to them that complements the meat. We recommend Famille Perrin Cairanne; this blend of Syrah and Grenache has wonderful aromatic intensity of spices and dried fruit.

     

    The concern you may have with pairing Haggis with white wine is that it simply may not stand up to such rich flavours on the plate. There are no such concerns with Gewürztraminer, this incredibly aromatic variety has all the spicy floral notes to happily play off haggis. The Lechburg Gewurztraminer is a wonderful pick, particularly if you are preparing a veggie haggis, as this wine is itself vegan friendly!

     

     

    It’s a celebration after all! However, Champagne does actually work well, some pairings work because of similarities in the wine and dish, this match works because of contrasts. The bright acidity, lively palate and freshness of the wine offsets the density of this meal. We Recommend Henri Harlin NV.

  • Veganuary

    As the sun sets on 2018 and we cathartically tot up the number of meals over the festive season that included ‘pigs in blankets,’ goose fat glazed roast spuds and an entire tin of Quality Streets (except the coconut one of course), many of us will swear in the new year with a pledge of penance. With over a quarter of a million people already signed up to Veganuary it seems that this year’s most well-trodden path to self-improvement will be paved with tofu.

    Perhaps this is no surprise, given lasts years damning report into the severity of climate change and the conclusion that abstaining from meat was the most meaningful contribution an individual can make to tackle this existential crisis, it was predictable that a vegan lifestyle would hold greater appeal for people who previously regarded it as ‘hippy b*llocks!’

    This shift from fringe to mainstream movement still feels surreal. The fact that Matt Pritchard of Dirty Sanchez, a man formerly famed for inventing ‘naked paintball,’ now has a wonderfully entertaining vegan cooking show on the BBC, makes us think we may now be living through a Lewis Carroll novel. Yet, it seems to illustrate this lifestyle has penetrated far deeper than its traditional faction.

    Although it’s getting far easier, being vegan still comes with its challenges. From people questioning where you get your protein from, to that bloke in the pub regaling you with the tale of how he once ate Quorn or having to explain to your Nan for the 1000th time that salmon does in fact count as an animal product. Thus, at Oddbins, we wanted to lend a helping hand, we have a dedicated web page to wines that have been neither fined nor filtered with egg-white and below are our 5 top vegan wine and food pairing picks. All of these wines are also organic so they’re even more environmentally friendly than you may expect.

    Querciabella Mongrana 2014

    An organic ‘Super Tuscan’ made from a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is rich with flavours of both red and black berries, tomato leaf, balsamic and baking spices.

    Food Match – Sundried Tomato and Lentil Ragu

     

    Gertie Cabernet Franc 2017

    Minimal intervention Clare Valley Cab Franc made from just 5 rows of vines. It has a bright palate of blackberry jam, redcurrants, bramble, tobacco and a spicy, mineral finish.

    Food Match – 5-Bean Chilli

     

    Pfluger Cuvee Biodynamite 2017

    The Pfluger Cuvee Biodynamite is off-dry, very aromatic and deliciously juicy wine. Full of character with citrus, peach, herbal and mineral notes. Elegant and exotic with long finish.

    Food Match – Thai Yellow Curry with Rice Noodles

     

    Lechburg Feteasca Regala 2017

    An elegant and floral scented organic white with ripe flavours of citrus fruit, dried grass and acacia underscored by a refreshing acidity, made from native Romanian varietal Feteasca Regala.

    Food Match - Spinach, Avocado and Tofu Salad

     

    Gysler Riesling Brut 2015

    With a nose that is such a pure expression of Riesling but a palate reminiscent of a super-premium traditional method Blanc de Blancs, it is clear no quality is lost by being vegan or organic!

    Food Match - Portobello Mushroom Wellington

  • New Year, New Cocktails!

    If there is a time of year where a little decadence is acceptable, then surely it is the strange week between Christmas and New Year. Like a festive Dorian Gray, we all routinely smash a 6-pack of mince pies for breakfast, spend most evenings working through a bottle of port and a tin of Quality Streets leaving nothing but wrappers and the orange crème flavour, and glaze all carbohydrates in either honey or goose fat, not worrying about the portrait in the attic until January. However, here at Oddbins, we intend to nudge you even deeper in to Christmas hedonism; think of us as your winter Lord Henry.

    After all, it’s been a tough year and we think you deserve a little luxury, and there is nothing more luxurious than sparkling wine cocktails! Taking Champagne, arguably the greatest beverage of all time and thinking, “pish, I can make it better, bring me my bitters case,” feels so indulgent that you should probably have to drink it under a napkin to hide your decadence from god.

    Here’s our favourite sparkling wine cocktails for New Year’s Eve, don’t worry, the gym will still be there in January.

    Haven’t had an Aperol Spritz since the first week of September? Festive it up by adding Aperol to a traditional buck’s fizz giving this festive classic great colour and a bitter edge.

    25ml Aperol, 25ml orange juice, 125ml Follador Superiore Prosecco & garnish with orange twist.

     

    Sometimes the classics are the best; it doesn’t take a mountain of prep and works with virtually any sparkling wine, but we recommend as follows…

    25ml Lejay Crème de Cassis, 150ml Canard Duchene Brut Champagne, garnish with fresh raspberries.

    If there’s one thing we’ve learnt in 2018 is gin is awesome, it’s even better with sparkling wine! Try our Cremant and gin cocktail with a twist.

    25ml Whitley Neil Gin, 12.5ml lemon juice, 12.5ml sugar syrup, 125ml Louis Eschenauer Crémant De Bordeaux NV & garnish with a lemon twist.

    Sparkling Rosé is regal at the best of times but in this succulently fruity cocktail, backed up with smooth Devon vodka, it is purely divine.

    Muddle blackberries, ice, 10ml lemon juice, 30ml Black Cow Vodka, a teaspoon of caster sugar, strain and top up with 125ml of MM Reserva Vintage Brut Rosé Cava.

    Hardly the most imaginative of cocktail names but hey, we’ll forgive ‘em given this cocktail’s classic appeal. This is a bartenders main-stay for a reason.

    1 sugar cube, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, 25ml H by Hine VSOP Cognac, 150ml Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée NV Champagne and a twist of lemon.

    Make a softer, lighter and more refreshing Negroni by swapping gin for Prosecco, perfect for pacing yourself over a long evening of partying!

    25ml Campari, 25ml La Quintinye Royal Vermouth, 50ml Ca Rosa Prosecco, serve over ice and garnish with an Orange wedge or twist and sprig of rosemary (optional).

  • Say it With Wine!

     

    In these strange and uncertain times, does anyone really have the energy to trapes around department stores looking for gift inspiration? Vacantly starring at kitchen appliances as the first two lines of ‘Good King Wenceslas’ replay in your brain like it’s your mantra; desperate to achieve some meditative Christmas serenity. Time is surely much better spent with friends and a fine bottle of wine, discussing the likelihood Trump will get indicted, which era Jacob Reece Mogg escaped from (we reckon 1762) and whether or not Die Hard can be considered a Christmas film! By the way, not only is it a Christmas film, it is the greatest of all Christmas films!

    Thus, Oddbins are here to help with gift suggestions. We all know everyone in Britain has too much stuff, we crossed that bridge when we invented the R2D2 coffee press. That’s why a great bottle of wine, beer or spirit is the ideal present (for grownups who drink wine, obviously). In fact, 98% of UK adults (there was a focus group) admitted they would rather a gift of wine than anything else in the knowable universe! Don’t just take it from us, try if for yourself, give your friends some wonderful bottles from our selection of fine wine and spirts and if they aren’t overjoyed, then next year we’ll suggest you give them a snood for a labradoodle or whatever. Deal? Deal.

    Perhaps you’re looking for a couple of bottles to say thank you to your children’s teacher, who does such a wonderful job with them. A red, white & sparkling to take you through Christmas dinner from start to finish or a selection of special bottles to send out to your preferred neighbours. This is where you’ll find our best Christmas cases!

    So, you know someone with excellent taste, maybe it’s you, we don’t know what kind of life you lead. Either way you’re going to need something delicious for Christmas. Thus, here is a selection of wines from the most coveted regions and producers across the globe. Some are very famous, some are produced in tiny quantities, but all will make your friends very happy!

    You can do whatever you like over Christmas! As long as it’s safe… and legal… and feasible. Point is, this is your Christmas and if you want Peking shredded duck instead of Turkey, then fill your boots. Yet, there are a couple of things that feel close to a necessity for the festive season, namely sparkling wine. Understand you don’t have to get any, but we do recommend it.

    If there is one thing that we’ve learnt in the last few years it is British people really like gin, to the point it is said, that when in London, you are never more than 3 metres away from a column still. Here, you’ll find some of the biggest names and some of the most exciting micro-batch distillers. Classic London dry or unfathomable fruity, local or international, whatever you need, we’ve got your gin gifts sorted.

    Is there anything more seasonally appropriate than whisky? We even put it out for dear old Santa, unless you’re from somewhere weird like America, in which case Santa gets milk and cookies… squares. Often loved, rarely bought for one’s self, whisky makes the perfect present. Here you’ll find fine single malt Scotch, powerful bourbons and elegant Japanese bottles.

    The world’s only Pure Milk Vodka, Black Cow is crystal clear and sophisticatedly smooth, perfect for the cocktail lovers in your family. Not to mention, buy a Black Cow Vodka Gold Plated Straw Gift Pack and receive 2 complimentary hi-ball glasses with your order and a chance to win a tour of the distillery, a cocktail masterclass and a luxury lunch at Black Cow Bar + Kitchen, for 4!

     

     

  • Wines of Germany

    We do love a good German reformation - One minute you’re farming turnips in the dark ages, the next Martin Luther’s banging an eviction notice on the door of the Vatican, and Nietzsche’s knocking off God so we can all feel guiltless about selling our souls for a Mercedes-Benz.  Wine is the latest, and in our mind most significant aspect of German culture to undergo a reformation. The wines of Germany have long been renowned for their quality by those in the trade and it has been a perpetual source of frustration for sommeliers that German wine has remained underrated. A mixture of the British markets 40-year hangover from mass produced Liebfraumilch, higher sweetness levels of some quality wines, the prevalence of classic, Teutonic labels and of course, funny German words like Anbaugebiete, limited their appeal to some wine drinkers.

    This is definitely changing however, with young, trailblazing vintners producing exceptional, terroir driven wine, with a focus on dryness, modern styles, and with many producers working with organic, biodynamic and minimal intervention practices, German wine is becoming down right cool. This August, Jenny (Oddbins Buyer) and a team of Oddbins shop managers (Vahagan, Bertrand and Dave), visited Germany for a buying trip and were stunned by the strikingly modern styles on offer, the passion of the current generation of winemakers and the sense of place delivered in the wines. These were the producers who’s wines we couldn’t resist bringing back to the UK and selling in our stores!

     

    Anette Closheim produces modern, premium wines grown on the banks of the river Nahe. She supplies the sommeliers of top chefs and was the first female winemaker to win the "Riesling Discovery of the Year" wine world award. Luckily for us, she also agreed to sell her wines through Oddbins!

    In a short time, Anette Closheim has made a name for herself as a winemaker. In the 150-year-old winery owned by her family, she grows highly ripe grapes, with a focus on the purity and concentration of the fruit.

    Anette studied wine business and was initially a product manager for a range of Single Malt Whiskies and premium vodkas.

    Thanks to these influences, the wines are presented in casually elegant bottles backed up by the quality of wines which are a testament to the dedication Anette commits in the vineyard and the winery.

    Alexander Gysler started his winemaking career in two wineries in Germany in 1992, where he honed his now prolific skill for working with sustainable winemaking practices.

    After this he decided he required a greater understanding of the theory of viticulture and vinification so in 1995 he began studying in Geisenheim. During his years of study his father, Gernot Gysler, got seriously ill and so Alexander took on the duties of the family winery along with his university work. In 1999, when his father unfortunately passed, he took control of the winery and initially worked with very conventional winemaking practices, as his father before him had done. His early vintages were fermented with cultured yeasts, at cold temperatures, in an international style.

    However, after a few years he came to the realisation that his wines were the same year on year, like an industrial product. Thus, he changed to organic farming in 2004, in part because he wanted to make wine that was more representative of the regions terroir and partly because this was the year his first child was born, and he didn’t want to expose his child to herbicides or pesticides. A year later he converted to Demeter and is now enjoying his natural wines and vineyards. His wines have a purity and intensity that would suggest his biodynamic practices has paid dividend.

    In 1896 the brothers Walldorf founded today's winery "Walldorf" in the heart of Rheinhessen, in Saulheim. Much has changed in over a century of fine winemaking, with every generation shaping the winery and the wines in their own way.

    Since 2012, Max Dexheimer, the fifth generation has managed the family business. The most significant influence Max has had on the Weingut Walldorf estate is a focus on minimal intervention winemaking. Vineyards are cultivated and maintained according to biodynamic principles, while in the winery the team with wild yeasts and an incredibly long fermentation period to create original, characterful and expressive wines.

    Weingut Walldorf focus on wines made from Riesling, Sylvaner, Weissburgunder and Spatburgunder.

  • Discover Biodynamic Wine

    Right, what the heck is biodynamic wine? A question all wine professionals dread, as the answer invariably evokes a slightly gaunt expression, a half-hearted chuckle, followed by “no, but seriously, what the kumquat is biodynamic wine?” We get it, it sounds like the grapes should be hand-harvested by the Six Million Dollar Man, “for although we can rebuild him, we have the technology, he seems much more interested in making wine than working for a top-secret government agency.”

    Yet, biodynamic practices are actually a little stranger than cyborg vineyard workers. It’s a fast expanding and fascinating method of winemaking, based on the work of Rudolf Steiner in 1924. It’s a bit like organic winemaking; restricting herbicide and pesticide use, but they also complete particular viticultural procedures in accordance with lunar cycles and prepare vineyard soils and compost by doing things such as burying manure in cow horns, underground. Sounds kind of weird, right? Thing is, it might actually work…

     

    This is a practice that can be applied to all areas of agriculture, not merely vine growing and was conceived of in Austria almost 100 years ago. It is the concept of interconnectivity, like in Avatar when they make their ponytails tie up. Those who practice biodynamics suggest agricultural results are best when there is balance between the vine, grower, soil and celestial bodies.

     

    The calendar is essentially divided into the classical elements of earth, wind, fire and water (Do you remember the 21st night of September?) This relates to vine growing as all the vineyard tasks, harvesting, planting or pruning for example, are determined by the calendar.

    1. Fruit Days: Best days for harvesting grapes
    2. Root Days: Ideal days for pruning
    3. Flower Days: Leave the vineyard alone on these days
    4. Leaf Days: Ideal days for watering plants

    This calendar can even apply to drinking wine, for example the Oddbins buyers don’t organise tastings on leaf days, supposedly wine shows better on fruit days!

     

    Biodynamic winemakers cannot use chemicals in the vineyard and certain additives are also prohibited in the vinification process. Instead, growers make soil preparations, believing that this boosts biodiversity throughout the vineyard, the preparation substances are numbered 500 to 508.

    500: Horn Manure - a humus mixture prepared by filling the horn of a cow with cow manure and burying it in the ground, in autumn. It is left to decompose during the winter and recovered for use the following spring.

    501: Horn Silica - crushed powdered quartz prepared by stuffing it into a horn of a cow and buried into the ground in spring and taken out in autumn. The mixture is sprayed over the crop during the wet season, in an attempt to prevent fungal diseases.

    502: Yarrow Blossom - stuffed into stag bladders, placed in the sun during summer, buried in winter and retrieved in the spring.

    503: Chamomile Blossom - stuffed into small intestines from cattle and buried in humus-rich earth in the autumn and retrieved in the spring.

    504: Stinging Nettles – stuffed underground surrounded by peat, retrieved a year later.

    505: Oak Bark - chopped into small pieces, placed inside a sheep’s skull, surrounded by peat and buried in earth in a damp place.

    506: Dandelions - stuffed into the mesentery of a cow and buried in earth during winter and retrieved in the spring.

    507: Valerian – extracted into water.

    508: Horsetail – extracted into water.

    These substances are typically chosen for their ability to prevent certain fungal diseases and promote biodiversity in soil so that herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilisers are not necessary, to find out more about soil preparations have a look at the Biodynamic Association’s website.

     

    No doubt you’re thinking this is rather peculiar and surely can’t affect the taste of the wine. We thought the same at first, but the funny thing is, time and time again, in blind tastings when two similar wines have gone head-to-head, the biodynamic wine has been judged to be the better wine. On top of that, biodynamic soils have been tested against non-organic soils and they showed greater disease suppression, a decrease in compaction and added organic material. Whether it’s the cow horns or simply that wine makers are just more involved, biodynamics seem to work.

    Domaine Zind Humbrecht – One of the most renowned Alsace producers on the market, this family rum winery can trace its routes back to 1620. They have been fully biodynamic since 1997.

    Louis Roederer – If you had got the impression biodynamic winemaking was just for hippies, well check out Roederer. Although not fully biodynamic yet, their top wines such as Cristal are made entirely from biodynamic grapes.

    Alexander Gysler – A family run winery, Alex is at the forefront of the German wine revolution, focusing on premium, dry, textural and modern wines. His Kammerton Riesling is our top tip this week – 

  • Spanish Whites


    We have perceptions of places that are often incomplete, it is this removal of nuance that leads people to believe everyone in Texas is a gun-toting cowboy, that all citizens of Tokyo are supressed businessmen and Londoners are rude hipsters that spend 20 quid on a round of avocado toast and half a pint of 18% craft beer. Then you visit these places and you’re actually a bit disappointed that no Texan greets you by cocking a revolver, the people you meet in Japan have an excellent work/life balance and despite an unhealthy partiality for avocado, the Londoners you came across were perfectly lovely.

    The same is true of wine. Most people have a monochromatic view of grape growing regions, certain that they only produce the wine they are most renowned for. If we were to mention Spanish wine, most wine drinkers’ minds would skip to big, full-bodied, oaky reds from Rioja. However, just like a Texan who is more than his NRA membership (he’s really into the work of Gustav Klimt and studies mandarin every other Tuesday), Spain is so much more than heavily oaked red wines. Along with outstanding fortified wine and incredible value sparkling, their white wine is of ever growing quality and well deserving of our attention. These are some of the Spanish regions making a name for their white wine.

    In the north-west of Spain, in the region of Galicia, Rías Baixas almost certainly has the most noteworthy reputation for whites. Given the cool Atlantic breezes and persistent rainfall, it is unsurprising that 90% of vines in Rías Baixas are white. While there are several permitted grape varieties, the region’s reputation is almost entirely built on single varietal Albarinos. Here, they typically retain a piercing acidity, keeping the wine fresh, which is balanced by a fruit profile of citrus and ripe tropical fruit, with an undertone of white blossom. There is also increasing excitement for the Godello grape, while permitted in Rías Baixas, it is more frequently found from the Valdeorras region to the East.

    “What, but you said Spain did more than just Rioja and this blog was about White Spanish wines?” We did indeed, glad you’re keeping up. What may surprise you is that there are some truly wonderful whites produced in Rioja. Typically made from Viura (called Macabeo in Cava), Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. As with red Rioja, these wines can vary stylistically, largely determined by the amount of oak aging they have received -

    • Joven: Wines are under 15 months old with no oak requirements
    • Crianza: 12 months aging with 6 months in cask
    • Reserva: 24 months aging with 6 months in cask
    • Gran Reserva: 48 months aging with 6 months in cask

    Young Rioja will be lean, crisp, with citrus notes of lemon zest, lemon curd, melon and a distinct herbal aromas, typically tarragon. These wines will often have a mineral character on the finish. Aged Rioja, however, will tend to have riper tropical aromas, namely pineapple as well as preserved lemon, with obvious oak and aged characters of vanilla, coconut and hazelnut.

    Centred on the town of Rueda, in the province of Valladolid to the northwest of Madrid. It is known primarily for whites made from the Verdejo grape. Up until the 1980s, these wines were typically oxidative and not dissimilar to Fino sherry. Over the last 40 years, advancements in the vineyard and the winery have led these wines to be much more racy and crisp, they tend to be highly aromatic and fairly full-bodied. Rueda is typically a single varietal Verdejo however these wines can also be blended with Viura, and Sauvignon Blanc is having a growing impact in the region.

  • For Goodness Sake, It's Sake Day!

    We do hate having gaps in our alcohol knowledge, it’s embarrassing, we’ll be holding court at a trade event, everyone looking at us doe-eyed, as if, as an organisation, we represent the wine reincarnate of James Dean (stop laughing, you don’t know). Then Craig, blooming Craig from an unnamed wine importer asks us “so, where do you land on the so called therapeutic use of Kombucha?” In our ignorance we must fake an outbreak of Ramsey Hunt Syndrome and hightail it out of there to save face (that’s a joke for the GPs in the house).

    We swore this wouldn’t happen with saké. For too long we only thought of saké as that hot liquid seemingly served in earthenware espresso cups, at unspecified ‘Oriental’ restaurants and must be greeted by a chorus of “o for goodness saké!” So, before we could be shamed by Craig again (god damn Craig), we went on a class trip to learn all about saké!

    “Right so, what is saké?” we asked our beverage guru. Saké is essentially a fermented rice wine from Japan, where the rice has been polished to remove the bran. The level to which the grain has been polished dictates the style of the saké, with nearly all falling into four distinct categories (described below). Saké rice is inherently different from rice eaten in Japan. The grain will be larger, stronger and with less starch in its core. Although there are many strains of saké rice, the most widely used is Yamada Nishiki.

    Although often regarded as a wine, production of saké is much more similar to that of beer. Unlike grapes there is no sugar in rice grains so the starch must be converted into sugar, which can then be fermented. However, unlike beer where this process occurs in two distinct stages, in saké this conversion and fermentation takes place simultaneously.

    Rice is first polished then milled, after which it is soaked in water, the length of time typically related to the degree to which the grain was polished. The grain is then cooked by steaming, which is carefully controlled as overcooked rice will ferment too quickly.

    The fungus Aspergillus Oryzae (the same used to ferment soy beans to make soy sauce) is then added for up to a week to begin fermentation. After which yeast (normally the same strain used in grape fermentation) is added to finish the ferment. The main fermentation will typically be at 15-20°C for 2-3 weeks but more premium saké will often ferment at temperatures as low as 10°C for considerably longer. In some styles, a small amount of distilled alcohol will be added before filtration and pasteurization.

    Junmai

    The purest form of saké, with no fixed polishing percentage, while the addition of distilled alcohol is not permitted.

    Honjozo

    A minimum of 30% polishing; a small amount of alcohol is added.

    Ginjo

    A minimum of 40% polishing, the addition of distilled alcohol is optional, bottles labelled ginjo will have alcohol added; those labelled junmai ginjo won’t.

    Daiginjo

    A minimum of 50% polishing, the addition of distilled alcohol is optional, daiginjo sakés will have alcohol added; sakés labelled junmai daiginjo won’t.

    There is a vast range of styles in saké; from bone dry to sweet to sparkling. As mentioned previously, level of polishing has a huge impact on style, hence it can be difficult to generalise on flavour profile. However, most sakés will have some esters that express fruit aromas such as green apple or banana. Most people describe a white flower character such as acacia or honeysuckle and saké will typically be expressive of yeasty characters such as pastry and honey.

    Like grape made wine, preferable serving temperatures can vary vastly from style to style. More delicate styles like Ginjo and Daignjo do best lightly chilled, ideally around 10°C. Whereas more full-bodied sakés drink best at room temperature or lightly heated. Warmed sakés are often served at around 50°C, there are decent quality sakés that can be served at these temperatures although heating is often used to cover up faults in poorer sakés, so caution is required.

    Place a saké cup on top of a pint of beer, resting on chopsticks. After shouting ‘Saké Bomb’ to the rest of the karaoke bar, bang the table until the saké sinks into the pint of beer at which time you are ready to drink your delicious cocktail. Do not let a citizen of Japan see you do this, they will probably be offended by your desecration of their beautiful native drink.

  • Portugal Goes It's Own Way

    We like to think of Portugal as the wine producing equivalent of M. Night Shyamalan’s the Village. This might strike you as mean, after all it’s the film that confirmed M. Night Shyamalan as a one hit wonder and that Joaquin Phoenix definitely isn’t as good an actor as River…You know their sister is called Rain Joan of Arc Phoenix? The Phoenix family clearly had some fun with the Big Book of Baby Names.

    Despite the Village’s questionable quality, it serves as a useful metaphor for Portuguese wine. Just as the Village was, the Portuguese wine industry is an isolated pocket, unaffected by the influence of the rest of the world. While this was rather macabre in the Village, in Portugal it means there is a huge resource of indigenous grape varieties, resulting in wines that are replicated in few other places.

    Perhaps due to the Pyrenees cutting off Portugal from the rest of Europe, their winemakers have never fallen into the trap of ripping up native vines and replacing them with fashionable international varieties. Often part of high quality blends, few Portuguese grapes are household names, but the wines offer some of the best value of any old-world region and are well worth the time of any adventurous wine drinker.

    The National Touriga if you prefer (you probably don’t, you probably prefer to call it by its actual name), is arguably the Portuguese black grape of most renown. Often compared to Cabernet Sauvignon as, like Cab in Bordeaux, it is regularly used in blends to add structure and fruit intensity.

    Where’s It Grown?

    It’s most widely planted the Douro where it is significant in Port blends however a growing number of producers in the Douro and in the Dao region are making excellent quality table wines from port varieties such as Touriga Nacional.

    What Does It Taste Like?

    It will quickly become a favourite if you’re a fan of full-bodied, ripe red wines. On the palate black fruit dominate namely blackberry, blueberry and dark plum backed by more savoury aromas of bitter cocoa, dried violet and eucalyptus. Tannins and acidity tend also to be high, so it is a wine that tends to age well, if you do lay it down for a few years, except notes of prune, tobacco and leather to develop.

    What to Pair It With?

    As we’ve established Touriga Nacional takes no prisoners, it’s basically Liam Neeson who wants his daughter back. Thus, subtle food is not going to cut it, think rich fatty meats to balance the tannins and acidity, such as a well-seasoned lamb shank. Creamy vegetables curries are awesome pairings if you don’t dig the meat.

    The only grape that is grown in any significant quantity outside Portugal however it’s confusingly called Tempranillo in much of Spain but often goes by Tinto Fino in the Ribera Del Duero & Aragonez in Alentejo, this grape has more names than P Diddy. Tempranillo is derived from the Spanish word for early, a reference to the grapes early ripening.

    Where’s It Grown?

    It’s been kicking about the Iberian Peninsula since the time of the Phoenicians, most notably as the dominant grape in Rioja, it is considered a noble grape in Spain. In Portugal it is a key ingredient in Port and unfortified ‘Port- style’ blends from the Douro. It can be found more frequently as a single varietal wine in Alentejo, these are of rapidly increasing quality. Interest from New World producers has also been increasing with some very fine examples coming out of California and South Australia.

    What Does It Taste Like?

    Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) is relatively neutral compared to other full-bodied reds making it an excellent blending partner and does very well with extended oak aging. Flavours tend to be quite savoury the fruit profile tends to be more on the red spectrum; red cherry, red plum and currants, while given its affinity for oak, oak characters such as vanilla and coconut are common.

    What to Pair It With?

    Due to its savoury characters, it’s quite versatile as a pairing. BBQed grilled meats & Mexican cuisine are excellent choices.

    A white grape on the rise, often part of Vinho Verde blends but is becoming more widely planted in other regions of Portugal. The UK market hasn’t scratched the surface of what Arinto can deliver, be excited, be very excited!

    Where's it Grown?

    The Minho region as a blending partner in Vinho Verde, while becoming more important as both a single varietal and in blends in Baírrada and Alentejo.

    What Does It Taste Like?

    It has racy acidity, grapefruit and citrus notes, with an undercurrent of honeycomb and hazelnut. It does decidedly well when aged in oak so will often display sweet spice characters.

    What to Pair It With?

    With the renown Portugal has for its fish, it’s hard to look past sardine dishes and similar to pair with Arinto. Keep it simple – try Arinto with sardines, fresh tomatoes and watercress on toast with a touch of balsamic vinegar.

  • Win a Luxury Race Day with Laurent-Perrier

     

    We can’t imagine you need much of a nudge to shop for Laurent-Perrier Champagne, just a casual glance down the list of prominent Champagne names will, before long, reveal Laurent-Perrier as one of the leading lights. With its impeccable credentials, Laurent-Perrier is an instantly recognisable byword for quality, whether it is their fresh Chardonnay dominant La Cuvée or their delightfully diminutive, round-bottomed rosé, Laurent-Perrier have a range that suits all occasions.

    Despite this pervasive renown, sometimes we have a price promotion or a prize giveaway so good that we think “hey, let’s remind everyone Laurent-Perrier’s still awesome,” and this month we have both…

     

     

    This autumn we’ve teamed up with Champagne Laurent-Perrier and Newbury racecourse to offer Oddbins customers the chance to win a luxury day at the races for you and 15 friends!

    Simply purchase any bottle of Laurent-Perrier in store or online before 30th October to be in with a chance of winning a hospitality box for 16 guests for at the Betway Challow Hurdle on Saturday 29th December 2018. This prize includes a Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Reception, a 3-course lunch, afternoon tea, access to all the activities on site plus 2 Jeroboams of Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée to enjoy throughout the day.

    For full details and T&C's, click here.

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