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Oddbins go barking mad…

Welcome Blogbins reader, you most pedigree of chums. If you’ve taken the dog for a walk past an Oddbins this week, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’ve rebranded as a pet shop, with our pooch-based posters dangling nonchalantly in our windows. But fear not, we haven’t and there is method behind our apparently barking madness…

We chop each financial year into four segments and assign them themes to explore. Last year we navigated this obstacle course with the dexterity of a Crufts Best in Show champion, beginning on food and wine matching with our theme “TASTE”, before moving on to music and wine matching in “SOUND”. Next up, “WORDS” saw us wrestle an Olympian and inadvertently promote cannibalism on our posters. And we have just spent the last three months putting the “LOVE” back into wine.

So what meaty morsels will you find in the dog bowl of this new financial year? Well, our new themes are based on what we consider to be the Oddbins ethos. They will be: “TRUST”, “EXPLORE”, “INSPIRE” and “FUN”, in that order.

February therefore sees a subject move from “LOVE” to “TRUST”. So we thought about going all Shakespearian after stumbling across this quote: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” But that is from All’s Well That Ends Well and we are just starting out on this New Year. So instead we contemplated sticking it to the man and basing our “TRUST” theme around the Newt Gingrich quote: “You can’t trust anybody with power.” But again, we spent January bashing the politicians under the thin disguise of “LOVE” and let’s be honest saying that you can’t trust politicians is about as insightful us as us telling you “wine is good”. So we started thinking what is trustworthy? What is dependable? Who can you always rely on?

And the answer was of course: DOGS. Dogs are man’s best friend. Oddbins is wine’s best friend. It seemed beautifully fitting. We promise it wasn’t just an excuse to put cute dogs on our posters, oh no, we feel a deep affinity for the mutt…

Dogs are hunting animals, as are we, always on prowl, working as a team, seeking out great new wines. Recently our buyers Emma and Ana have uncovered a couple of incredibly successful dog-related wine treats. We’ve already told you about the success of Longview’s Whippet Sauvignon Blanc that wine critic Matthew Jukes described as a “phenomenal creation” that “manages to cram in enormous swathes of minerality and laser-driven lime pith notes.”

Next to be collared was Tribal Wines’ Virat, hailing from Mallorca and made mainly from indigenous grape varieties Manto Negro and Callet (a small parcel, only available in our shops). Rather like the striped Mallorcan sheepdog featured on the label, this wine is rare, robust and reliable, but also has a warm, cuddly and loveable side.

Cats are also warm, cuddly and loveable, but for some reason they don’t seem quite as trustworthy. They roam around ‘til all hours and look down their doggone noses at you. Our shop on Allerton Road in Liverpool was frequently frequented by a feline fella. Called Oddcat by some and Trevor by others, this furball had built up quite the Facebook following. Then one day he upped sticks and moved away without so much as a goodbye, leaving our guys, Andrew, Mike and Ste, forlorn and friendless (they weren’t really, but we got carried away with the alliteration). Dogs wouldn’t do that, they’re pack animals that forge strong emotional bonds. Unlike cats they’re friendly and respond to names, as do we. If you need proof just pop into one of our shops in Edinburgh and you can have a chat with Caitlin, Mike or Graeme, you can meet Dave, Simon, Gosia, Woodrow and Kate in London, Glasgow is home to Jamie, Lorna and Ross or why not head to Bristol to shoot the breeze with Owen or Oxford to chew the fat with Tom? Our banter is free, the quality may vary.

Our canine-like trustworthiness, however, never varies and it extends to our dogged pursuit of honest pricing. We are often asked why we don’t offer as many discounts as we used to in days gone by. These questions and this article from Fiona Beckett in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago have prompted us to explain our reason for this. In large chunks of the retail industry, discounts are used to dictate what consumers buy. For example supermarkets know that you will buy toilet roll, they just use special offers to direct you to the one they want you to buy that week. Sir Terry Leahy, the son of a greyhound trainer and former boss of Tesco, described this as “part of progress” on Desert Island Discs. He went on to choose largely clichéd songs from The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Pachelbel, while we were humming songs like “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)” by Bobby Bland and “How Much Of That Doggie’s In My Burger” by Patti Page. We don’t want to be like that guy. We don’t want to force you into buying something that isn’t your first choice or that isn’t perfect for you. How could you trust us if we did? We would prefer to give you advice and find the ideal wine for you at a price point that suits you. This is what we call progress, we have the bottle to stand by our beliefs and you won’t find us bribing our kids to spy on Mummy in case she shops with another retailer. All that said, it doesn’t mean we won’t have special offers from time to time, but what it means is that when we do, you know it is a bone-a fide good deal.

Although our prices are honest, we would like to apologise on behalf of the politicians who are hell bent on pushing them up. Shortly the government, in all their wisdom, are going to increase the duty on alcohol again, and are also looking to pass a minimum price on alcohol. The politicians are trying to reduce irresponsible drinking, however both of these measures are no more likely to achieve this goal than a dog is likely to catch and devour his own tail. They are, unfortunately, far more likely to increase the price of wine for responsible drinkers, such as yourself.  As you know we are not shy in making our views heard, we bark a bit if we are angry and we wag our tail when we are excited. So we’ve tried to explain the error of their ways (and been backed up by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, who joined the fight launching a campaign against minimum pricing). Unfortunately it has become apparent to us is that either politicians do not like wine, they do not read blogs or simply that it's true you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

All this trustworthiness aside, dogs are also mischievous. From time to time they’ll chew your mobile, run away with a string of sausages or leave a little present on the lawn. We also have a mischievous side; every so often we’ll invite stormtroopers into our shops, have nudity on our posters or wade into a political debate. But we’re not just a scrappy little Terrier, causing mischief and picking fights with dogs that are much bigger and scarier than us. No no no. If we were a cross-breed, we’d have a bit of Lassie-esque Collie in us too: we’re team players and we happily go the distance when Timmy falls down the well (did you know that interestingly Timmy never actually once fell down a well?). For example, we have em-barked (geddit?) on a relationship with two brilliant charities, Comic Relief and War Child. Until 15 March 2013, we will be donating 10% from the takings of eight lovely wines to the former, which fights poverty at home and abroad; and we'll continue to give £1 from each sale of the cracking Wine Not War Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the latter, which supports children caught in war zones.

Ok, time for us to bound off like a St Bernard and rescue some poor cold individuals with our little barrel or warming spirit. If you share our fondness of dogs, please show us by way of photos on Facebook. We've already had these... (TO)

This post was written while drinking: Château Ksara Reserve du Couvent: a Lebanese mashup of Rhône-style Syrah and Bordeaux-style Cabernet, all for £9.75. Chowing down on roast lamb and this, we wholeheartedly agree with the Wine Gang’s enormous score of 87/100. Unfortunately this has proved so popular it sold out on the web, but is available in most of our shops, and more is due in shortly. Interestingly and tenuously, if you walk north east along the Bekaa Valley from Château Ksara’s vineyards and take a left over the snow-capped Lebanon Mountains, you’ll find yourself following the Nahr al-Kalb or “Dog River” down to the Mediterranean. Probably a bit far to walk the dog though.

2 thoughts on “WINE'S BEST FRIEND”

  • Jane Dixon
    Jane Dixon 5 Feb at 11:03 pm

    I have to say you guys are cool. Really love your posts and your approach, breathe of fresh air. Wicked subtle swipe at the Tesco man, bribing our kids to spy on mum.... pure genius. Will make my way to West End Lane and shoot the breeze with you guys!