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Oddbins Wine Merchants

  • EXPLORING SPACE AND WINE

    Inspired by the news this week of Britain’s first official astronaut (although we're not sure what Helen Sharman thinks about this title), for this edition of Oddnews we’ve recruited some spacemen and spacewomen to aid our continuing exploration…

    Major Tim Peake filled in an online application form and soon he’ll be jetting off into space. Well, we have a story almost as crazy…

    Come and take part in a free wine tasting at Oddbins and you could end up jetting off for a 10 day luxury wine holiday for two to Australia and New Zealand, winning wine, attending a wine tasting boot camp and even choosing your own wine for Oddbins' shelves. It can only mean one thing… The Palate 2013, Oddbins’ search for the finest amateur wine taster, is back. To find out more watch our new video here. The first round will take place in all our shops on the weekends of 1-2 and 8-9 June. Wine tasting is fun, easy and anyone can do it. The Palate 2013 could be yours, all you have to do is reach for it.

    We’re pretty jealous of astronauts. How cool would it be to control the robotic arm of a spaceship? Another person that we’re pretty jealous of is Robert Oatley. He pioneered Australian wines around the world turning Rosemount Estate into one of Australia’s most famous wineries, he’s won countless yacht races and been honoured by the Queen for his contribution to the British Empire. He also owns the paradise of Hamilton Island, which the winner of The Palate 2013 will be lucky enough to visit. Just look at the pictures and you’ll want to enter the competition immediately. And as if that wasn’t enough Bob also makes an incredible range of wines. Plucking the best grapes from his vineyards dotted around Australia to make a stunning Shiraz from southern McLaren Vale, a perfect Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula and a charming Chardonnay from Margaret River. These bold, balanced and beautiful wines embody everything we love about Australian winemaking. When Oddbins eventually gets its own spaceship, we’re going to invite Robert Oatley to control the robotic arm and bring some wine for the journey.

    We would have thought that drinking before space travel would’ve been illegal, but who are we to argue with NASA and Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to venture into space. What do you think astronauts have for Dutch courage before blast off? If Major Tim needs a suggestion, we’d recommend a classic Campbeltown single malt. With Springbank’s signature complexity, you could spend five months in space with just one bottle and never get bored of it. So many aromas and flavours, each dram is an adventure. For those not familiar with our website, each of our spirits has an alter ego. We currently have the Superman Springbank 10 year old, the Hugh Laurie Springbank 18 year old and the Bob Flowerdew Springbank 12 year old Calvados Wood. If you were looking for a companion to take into space, we imagine Superman would probably get a bit restless being stuck in a spaceship on a long journey, he’s been there and done that. There are no gardens in space and Bob Flowerdew’s ponytail would cause havoc in zero gravity. So taking into account Major Tim’s musical tendencies, we’d plump for the Hugh Laurie Springbank 18 year old. [Disclaimer: Oddbins does not condone drinking whisky before piloting a spacecraft]

    That’s all from us, until next time keep exploring, because as Frank Borman, the first man to fly around the moon, said…

    “Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.”

  • IT'S ALL GREEK TO US

    Kalimera or kalispera, depending on when you open this edition of Oddnews. Regular readers of our blog will be aware that we’ve fallen head over heels for Greek wine this month. If you missed our recent musings on Blogbins, feel free to play catch up by clicking here. To help us explore the joy of our new Greek wine range, we’ve employed a few intrepid explorers. They’re an odd bunch so, be warned, it may be a bumpy ride. For example, Scottish explorer David Livingstone said “I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward”, which must have made the manoeuvres part of his driving test particularly trying…

    For those not up on their explorers, Norwegian Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen led the first expedition to reach the South Pole and was also the first to undisputedly reach the North Pole. He also rocked a particularly stylish bowler hat, though this was probably saved more for exploring the local grocers than for treks across the icy tundra. We like the mantra that “adventure is just bad planning.” But it doesn’t always hold true. Not planning sufficient dessert wine for your dinner party doesn’t make for an adventure, more of a veritable high society travesty, populated solely by extremely disgruntled guests. To avoid just such a situation, we imagine that Mr Amundsen always carried with him a husky sled full of Samos Vin Doux. Dripping with lemon curd, apricot and honey, this sweet little Greek marvel is an extremely versatile pudding wine, just as good with pâté or blue cheese as it is with baked cheesecake or a fruit flan. “Samos” even sounds like something you might shout to order the advance of your husky pack. SAMOS!
    Atma White - £10They’re an unusual lot, these explorers. Don’t get us wrong, we love a peach, maybe not quite as much as Thomas Walker, who lead expeditions into Kentucky and was also the first American to discover and use coal, but we do like them. We think we’d still choose life over shuffling off this mortal coil, even in the absence of peaches. Mainly because we’ve found Apostolos Thymiopoulos’ Atma, which is a glorious white wine, exclusive to Oddbins and made by one of Greece’s rising stars, laced with Amalfi lemons, pears and of course heaps of crisp peaches. Take some of Mr Walker’s beloved coal, fill the barbeque, fire it up, grab some σούβλα (that’s Greek for skewers) and get your souvlaki on. Drizzle with lemon and serve with a glass of Atma, for that’s what makes life truly great.

    Hatzidakis Santorini White - £13.75 & Naoussa Jeunes Vignes - £12.50Sir Hillary must have conquered himself a couple of times on the way up Everest. Do you think he and Tenzing Norgay raced the last bit to see who would be first up? Because we just don’t buy that “they reached the summit together” stuff. The Greeks have also conquered a mountain or two. Despite the trip-hazard of white robes hindering early progress, they turned the volcanoes of Santorini into stunning vineyards. Now Chablis and Sancerre may boast about their minerality, but the Hatzidakis Santorini White puts both French regions to shame with its stony, flinty flavour. Not satisfied with just volcanoes the Greeks then turned the Vermio Mountain range into a vineyard, producing elegantly exquisite, forest fruit-infused wines like our Naoussa Jeunes Vignes. And they did all this without a Sherpa and while wearing sandals. Go Greece!

    That’s all from us, until next time, we’ll leave you with some words from American pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone, which most of us can probably relate to…

    “I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.”

  • POSITIVE DRINKING

    It's all Greek to us...Happy Planet Index 2012

    The United Kingdom is not famed for its positive outlook. In 2012’s Happy Planet Index we finished below Israel, Palestine and Iraq, this seems surprising what with our being relatively wealthy and peaceful all things considered. If you hadn’t heard about our standing in the Happy Planet Index, that’s probably because it wasn’t very widely reported. But why wasn’t it? We love a spot of bad news. Something meaty to moan about. Surely we could’ve gone to town on that one? Well the truth is that it wasn’t really bad news at all. In 2006 we languished in 108th place; by 2009 we’d made a giant leap to 74th; now we’re in 41st; if we carry on at this rate we’ll be in the top 10 for the next one. Watch out Costa Rica, you may be the greenest and happiest country in the world, but we’re coming for you. Unfortunately good news rarely makes the news.

    One exception occurred a couple of weeks ago when the Institute for Economics and Peace published the UK Peace Index, which revealed that violent crime is falling faster in the UK than in any other country in Western Europe. We may never be able to compete with the Germans when it comes to penalties, economic prudence or Riesling, but when it comes to happiness or peace we can. But the most interesting thing about the UK Peace Index was that our perception of violent crime is up. We’re becoming increasingly convinced that we’ll fall prey to an atrocity, despite the fact that the probability of this is reducing. Is this because violent crime and fewer bobbies on the beat are far more likely to make the news than the positive statistics that show we are safer? Why is good news not news? Reports saying “young people are much worse off than their parents” don’t mention that luxuries like mobile phones, the internet, foreign travel and a choice between green or red jalapeños in supermarkets are often a given now, but weren’t for previous generations. Our poor ol’ grandparents’ nachos must have been a woefully drab affair.

    Before you get worried, we’re not going all Harold Macmillan on you, and you know we love the press, but we do wonder whether it would have a positive impact on our current economic situation if we heard less about how dire things are economically and instead focussed on the successes and positives. Wouldn’t this help build consumer and business confidence where the politicians have failed? We’re not calling for feel-good American-style cute news story features like the water skiing squirrel in Anchorman, but a little positive perspective wouldn’t go amiss. Imagine how refreshing it would be if every bad news feature was balanced by something good like how well English wine producers like Gusbourne Estate did at Prowein, Europe’s largest wine fair, last month?

    Explore GreeceYou may be asking where on Earth we’re going with all this. Well the answer is Greece. We’re bored of hearing so much negative news about our favourite wine producing archipelago (oops, did we just offend New Zealand?). If you turn on the news you could easily get the impression that Greece has had its day and has been condemned to the past. But when it comes to wine we actually think that Greece is the future.

    This may seem like an unusual thing to say about a country with 6,500 years of winemaking history and if you weigh up the evidence, the odds may appear heavily stacked against our claim. Most Greek wine is made from obscure grape varieties, like Agiorgitiko, Moschofilero, Xynomavro and Assyrtiko, which are near impossible to pronounce, especially after a glass of wine. Winemaking is on a comparatively small scale, which means that there are few brands large enough to do the ambassadorial legwork needed to crack the UK market. Modernisation has been rather slow, there’s the love-hate relationship with Retsina, oh and you may have heard about a spot of economic trouble over there.

    But don’t forget, the Greeks introduced winemaking to Italy and the Romans then took it to France, so the two largest wine producing countries in the world effectively have Hellenic heritage (they may not appreciate being told that though). Those perceived weaknesses described above are, in our opinion, Greece’s hidden strengths. One of our bestselling wines is Quinta de Bons Ventos, a Portuguese red made from weird grape varieties, so maybe this isn’t a hindrance. In fact it makes a nice change from the usual suspects like Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc, and who cares if the names are difficult to say if they are easy to drink, right? Small scale production means these wines are desirably unique and boutique, their lack of fame means that they represent great value for money and their survival through the economic tumult is proof of their quality. And finally we aren’t the only ones who think that Greek wines are the future, we have it on good authority that Hellenic vines are being planted in Australia, as winemakers there think that with climates warming they are going to need just this kind of hardy grape variety.

    A quick fix?So we took it upon ourselves to invest in the future. We’ve brought in a raft of new Greek wines, which you can pick up in our shops or online here. If you aren’t sure what to expect from Greek wines, we say imagine the food friendliness of Italian wines crossed with the rustic charm of the Portuguese. We also have two brand new Greek beers from Fix, which are available in our shops. Fix was the number one brewery in Greece, it unfortunately went into decline, but was resurrected and has risen like a phoenix from the flames and its beers are perfect with souvlaki, pork from the flames. Beyond that, we say, go forth and explore…

    Greek philosopher Aristotle said that “happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” We’re no philosophers, but we think he is saying “happy is good” and we also think he’d have told us that there is more to Greece than the financial crisis. Our philosophy is positive thinking and positive drinking. (TO)

    Pyrrho and AtmaThis post was written while drinking: Rising star of the Greek wine world, Apostolos Thymiopoulos’ Atma White. This wine is vegan, organic and made using biodynamic principles; we think that means it makes the world a better place, just by its very being. But it’s the peach, pear and lemon laced taste of this Oddbins exclusive that puts everything refreshingly in perspective. It might even bring out your inner philosopher. It could be Heraclitus, Socrates, Pythagoras or Plato; we’re not sure which though, because like Pyrrho we believe it’s impossible to know anything for certain.

  • DIOGENES, LIZA MINNELLI AND ORSON WELLS

    This edition of Oddnews is quite the hedonistic concoction, we’ve got wine, food, philosophy, singing and dancing. Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and ritual madness, would be very proud of us…

     

    Free Greeks v Romans Wine Tasting

    With an attitude like that, the cynical Diogenes of Sinope probably wasn’t particularly popular around the tavernas of Athens. Normally, we wouldn’t put much stock in the musings of a man who slept in a terracotta pot, but this guy was on to something: there is something really satisfying about free wine. So if you like free wine as much as we do, head to any Oddbins shop after 5pm on Thursday 2 May for a clash of the titans tasting tussle: Greeks versus Romans. We will be throwing two of our barnstorming new Greek wines into the arena to battle it out with two classy Italians. Will 6,500 years of wine making experience give our Hellenic wines the edge or will they be crushed by an unstoppable vinous Roman phalanx [can two wines form a phalanx? – Ed]? Our money is on the underdog Greece. As well as giving us democracy, drama, discus, dolmades and Dionysus, we also have inside information that the six new Greek wines and two new Greek beers hitting our shelves shortly are awesome. But you never know, the Italian-inspired Heartland Dolcetto Lagrein scythed its way through the competition like an angry Russell Crowe, to become the victor of our last gladiatorial tasting event, so they are still in with a fighting chance. Pop your sandals on and come and explore an ancient world with us…

     

    Cabaret Rosé - £9

    The 1972 film version of Cabaret picked up eight Academy Awards, seven BAFTAs and a Golden Globe. Pretty impressive for a musical. But, when it comes to things that drive us wild with desire, it isn’t Liza Minnelli that gets our hearts racing, it is the return of our Cabaret Rosé from Provence. Seriously elegant and dangerously seductive, this rosé picks up IWC Medals for fun and is made by a Master of Wine with a winemaking lineage going back 700 years. Exquisitely delicate strawberry, pink grapefruit, passionfruit and cherry blossom all mingle in the mouth with this one, all we need now is the summer sun. So if you are having trouble finding the perfect rosé, to quote the film Cabaret one more time: “Where are your troubles now? Forgotten!”

    So what’s for lunch? And more importantly what wine are you going to match to it? If that second question leaves you floundering over what to pair with flounder, quailing at the sheer choice of matches for quail, or finding it hard to gauge the perfect partner for greengage, worry no more. Remove all the stress with our new and oh so easy Food and Wine Matcher, conveniently located here on our website.That’s all from us, other than to say that if you were so lost in a whirl of hedonism that you missed Malbec World Day on Wednesday, we have two brand new ones, so you can play catch up here.

  • PORTUGAL, BUDGETS AND BIRTHDAYS

    This week we want to talk to you about our website’s birthday, the Budget and Portugal.We’ve chosen three people of dubious trustworthiness to help us out...

    Mr Armstrong has been stripped of his wins. But nobody is taking our recent win from us. Last week we were presented with an award by His Excellency the Portuguese Ambassador [we were a little disappointed not to receive any Ferrero Rocher, maybe they aren’t so popular in Portugal – Ed]. A spokesman for the Association of Portuguese Wine Importers said that: “We are delighted to have presented Oddbins with the Award for Best Specialist Chain at the Portuguese Wine Awards this year. Oddbins have embraced the diversity of Portugal over the last twelve months, going out of their way to introduce unique grape varieties and terroirs to their customers.” To try our award-winning Portuguese wines get yourself down to one of our shops or pick some up by clicking here.

    Only five sleeps until the Budget. Luckily George W Bush will not be involved. Instead we have George Osborne. Is that better or worse? We are running a poll to find out what you think. Do you think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will turn the economy around or bury us deeper? Read our take on it in our blog by clicking here and take part in our opinion poll. And we’ve even thrown in a special Budget related discount on our Torre Oria Cava Reserva and Casa Lluch Tempranillo for you.

    Like Paris Hilton we like to celebrate in style, although maybe not quite so lavishly. A little over a year ago we launched our current website, it now officially one year old. As we were in the party mood we’ve put together a very special case of our most exciting wines, including some chosen by our wine buyer, our staff, you and the winner of our national amateur tasting competition, The Palate 2012. But that didn’t seem like enough so we knocked 20% off it for good measure. Grab your case while stocks last by clicking here.
    That’s all from us, now go and find some more trustworthy people to mingle with…
    …there are loads in Oddbins’ shops.
  • ODDBINS BUDGET POLL

    What do you think of our Chancellor?

    In the year when Britain lost its triple-A rating, which we think means that we now have less power than quite a small battery, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is about to take the little red Budget Box for its annual outing and try and turn this country’s fortunes around.

    This also means that we in the wine industry are about to leap on to our high horses, (we were feeling left out of all the horse-related shenanigans of the past months), about the ever-increasing duty on alcohol.

    Despite the fact that it is a tradition that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is allowed to drink alcohol while delivering the Budget, something that is forbidden at all other times in the debating chamber, in recent history the speech has become a platform for a parliamentary pummelling of alcohol. Unfortunately George Osborne has followed in the footsteps of two others who also opted for water and also proved rather unpopular. The last Chancellor to partake in an alcoholic drink whilst delivering his speech was Kenneth Clarke, who enjoyed a wee dram of whisky. Interestingly, Kenneth Clarke is seen as one of our most successful Chancellors, who helped the country recover from recession and reduced taxes, unemployment, inflation and the budget deficit, and even had his policies implemented by the opposition when they took over the reins. Although we are no politicians, we think this might suggest that George Osborne should consider partaking in a proper drink whilst delivering this year’s Budget speech. Oddbins would happily provide it for him.

    What is most likely is that on Wednesday George Osborne will not mention alcohol at all, which will in turn be reported as “no changes to alcohol in this year’s Budget.” But in reality the duty escalator, set up in 2008, will sneakily push the duty up by 2% above the rate of inflation for the fifth year in a row, without many people noticing. This seems a little harsh when the government is capping everything else at 1% irrespective of inflation.

    Duty on a bottle of wine is set to rise to £2 this year and to £2.56 for sparkling wine, the second highest rates in Europe. This enormous and largely covert tax hike is usually marketed by the politicians as an attempt to curb our “unacceptable behaviour” and “binge drinking”. Funnily enough alcohol prices have been rising steadily for years and this seems to have had little discernible impact on the nation’s drinking habits. In Narcotics Anonymous’ basic text it says “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” Unfortunately not many politicians have read this text, so it’s unlikely that we will hear innovative suggestions like making alcohol less convenient by selling it through alcohol only retailers, educating consumers or campaigns to “drink less, but drink better” (as this is healthier and offers more value for money to the consumer). Just a few thoughts.

    We might be getting a bit conspiracy theorist here, but has it crossed anyone else’s worried mind that minimum alcohol pricing (which would contribute nothing to the government coffers) was only scrapped in the week before the Budget to make way for massive duty increases or worse?

    Anyway, before we get carried away, you’re probably getting bored of listening to us bash the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We got to thinking that maybe we’ve been a bit unfair on George Osborne. We want to know what you think. Maybe you rate him and think he is doing a stellar job with the mess he inherited. We hear about opinion polls all the time, but do you know anyone who has actually taken part in one? Neither do we. So we’ve decided to start a poll of our own, one that you can all join in on.

    We’ve chosen two lovely Valencian wines that reflect the opposing camps when it comes to feelings about the Chancellor and his Budget. All we’re asking you to do is put your money where your mouth is and tell us how you rate the Right Honourable MP’s chances of pulling us all out of this lingering financial fug…

    …and to sweeten the poll we are going to give you a little Budget-based discount. Before the duty escalator was introduced an £8 bottle of wine was about 17% duty, it is currently nearer 24%. For an £8.50 sparkling wine the duty has moved from 20% to nearer 29%. On this basis we are going to sell our two poll wines at a 2007 duty rate until our shops close on Budget Day. We’re calling it our dubious duty discount.

    Torre Oria Cava Reserva – Was £8.50, NOW £7.78 until Budget Day

    If you think that George Osborne is going to make it fourth time lucky and put the wind back into the UK’s sails with this year’s Budget and navigate our way out of these economic doldrums, please cast your vote by buying Torre Oria Cava Reserva (you can do this online or in any of our shops).

    This Spanish fizz has more in common with Eurosceptic George than he might care to admit. Like the Chancellor of the Exchequer this wine is full of youthful charm, exuberance and fruitiness (did you see the GQ Awards speech?) that belies the hard work that has been put into its creation behind the scenes. Cava is often unfairly overshadowed by its sparkling comrades of Champagne and Prosecco, as George has sometimes been by David Cameron, Michael Gove, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, but like the Chancellor it still maintains its aristocratic air. The IMF has described George’s policies as “essential” and the Torre Oria Cava Reserva certainly makes financial sense. It would also make the perfect way to celebrate a bit of long overdue economic good news.

    Casa Lluch Tempranillo – Was £8, NOW £7.43 until Budget Day

    If you think that Wednesday’s Budget is going to go down about as well as George’s performance at the Olympics please cast your vote by buying Casa Lluch Tempranillo (you can do this online or in any of our shops).

    Roguish as a Bullingdon boy and clad with a paisley label that is strangely fitting for the heir to a successful wallpaper empire, Bodegas Enguera changed the name of this wine at a young age, much like Gideon did. This wine is a little bargain; you might say that this is First Class for a Standard Class price, something George would certainly approve of. Like the avian label, will George prove too much of a flouncy chicken to do anything about the silly duty escalator? Come Wednesday will we all be as “appalled” by him as the Financial Times was?

    We’re running our poll and duty escalator discount on these two wines until Budget Day. Once we’ve crunched the numbers we’ll release our findings on Thursday 21 March, right here on our blog. Then we’ll see how you feel and how accurate you guys are. Please note that we will ensure that our figures are based in fact to avoid being rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority.

    If you are unable to get to an Oddbins shop or order online before Budget Day, but still want to participate, you can take part in an online version of our poll by clicking here. [Please note voting and Budget poll web page are now closed]

    And finally, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer does the right thing in this year’s Budget by scrapping the duty escalator and not increasing the duty on alcohol, we will be so deliriously happy that we’ll give away a bottle of Torre Oria Cava Reserva and Casa Lluch Tempranillo to the first customer who heads into each of our shops on Thursday 21 March and says the magic words “George Gideon Oliver Osborne is a bally hero.” Despite the craziness of committing to give wine away for free, we still have our fingers crossed that common sense prevails on Wednesday.

  • DOGS, PENGUINS, CHARITY AND MUMS

    Today we want to talk to you about dogs, penguins, charity and your mum. And you thought we were just going to spraff on about wine didn’t you?
    The more observant among you may have seen a little video we put out before Christmas introducing you to a delightful Mexican penguin called Pepita. If you missed it amongst the festive mayhem, fret ye not, because we have managed to twist Pepita’s flipper into writing a guest post for our blog. She recommends our One Ribera del Duero and the exquisite Excellia Blanco Tequila, proving that there is more to penguins than Morgan Freeman and David Attenborough have old us. So if you’ve ever wondered what a Mexican penguin’s views on wines are (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t?), you can read Pepita’s musings by clicking here.

    Last year we released our Wine Not War Châteauneuf du Pape collaboration with War Child, which is still selling strongly; continuing to help this fantastically worthy cause with each sip of wine. We were so inspired by this that we were hungry to do more. So we’ve teamed up with Comic Relief to take part in its Wine Relief campaign this year. We’re donating 10% from the sale of eight or our favourite wines until 15 March 2013. You can check out the wines by clicking here, or by visiting any of our shops. Sorry we got a bit serious there; sometimes it’s better to leave comedy to the professionals.

    You’re a sweetheart, aren’t you? You wouldn’t forget Mother’s Day? Of course you wouldn’t…

    …but just in case, it’s on Sunday 10 March 2013 and we’ve got every angle covered from the very special Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin to the classic Ruinart Rosé Champagne: from the unctuous Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximinez Sherry to Henry Pellé’s elegant Sauvignon Blanc from Menetou-Salon. [Or if your mum is like mine, you may want to pick up all four – Ed] Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

    That’s all from us, we leave you with a question from P.G. Wodehouse to ponder:

    “Why do dachshunds wear their ears inside out?”
  • ¡HOLA!

    Para todo mal, vino, y para todo bien también

    ¡Hola! ¿Cómo está? Mi nombre es Pepita. Lo siento, I forget that I live in the UK now. I try to stick to English. Welcome to my guest blog for the Oddbins. Let me introduce myself. My name is Pepita. You might remember me from a video these nice Oddbins people make, no the one with the sexy Valentine lady, the one with the sexy Christmas penguin [see both videos below - Ed]. That was me; I’m a penguin from the city of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. Mi madre, a fat, kind penguin called Pumpkin, she moved to the state of Chihuahua because she loved the little handbag dog. Anyway mi madre, she was so sad to find that there were no Chihuahuas in Chihuahua, but she stay there and start a family all the same.

    When I was born, she call me Pepita. This is Mexican name for a pumpkin seed. But I am not like a pumpkin seed because I no like being roasted in hot, hot Mexico. Did you seeing the African penguins on that Africa programme with the nice Mister Attenborough man? Then you know what I talking about. So I save up all my pesos and jump on British Airways flight to see what this place London is being all about. They were going to make documentary of my journey, Flight of the Penguins, but Morgan Freeman – hombre estúpido – was filming The Dark Night Rises so it was not to be. Film was no good anyway because Batman has no penguins anymore. ¿Que no?

    I move to Hackney because there are plenty mezcal bars near here and of course for los Juegos Olímpicos. Did you ever see anything so good as El Tricolor winning the gold medal? It was lucky we win the football because almost all our other medals come from the ladies. Hombres perezosos Mexicanos. Anyway, maybe you miss this because you were busy with Jessica, Mo and Wiggo. There are no jobs for penguins in Hackney so I find one in Iceland on Kentish Town Road in the North London. It is very nice because it is always cold and there is plenty frozen fish. I take the shiny overground train to Gospel Oak every day because there are too many steps at Kentish Town. Steps are no a friend of the penguin. Lo siento, maybe this is boring if you no live in London. On the way to work I read my favourite book, Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov. Mi madre, she tell me “this novel is post-Soviet literary masterpiece.” Maybe she right, but me, I just like it because there is a penguin in it. In the UK there are so many penguins on books, but not so many in books. Anyway, one day I look up from my book and see this nice-looking shop called the Oddbins, so I go to have a look.

    Inside the shop is being full of bottles, but I have big surprise and feel a little lost because none of them is mezcal. So I say “Hey hombres, where all the mezcal?” The nice men inside, Ian and Luigi, they welcome me in, they telling me that this is a wine shop and then they teaching me about the wine from many, many countries. Dios mío! There is a lot of choice but you know what? I think my favourite is the first one I ever had in that shop. You know what this wine is called? You won’t believe. It is called ‘One’. And it was my first one! OK I think you getting my little joke. Anyway, this lovely wine is from a place called the Ribero del Duero in España and, Ian say, is made from 100% Tempranillo and is 10 years old?! 10 years old and is no even gone bad?! Ian also say is even better now than it was. ¡Este vino esta bien chido wey! The taste is like so nice and rich and smooth, mi madre, I can’t tell you just how nice. You must try it my little chipotle.

    Mexicans, we say “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también”, this means that for the bad times there is mezcal and also the same for the good times. From now on though I say “para todo mal, vino, y para todo bien también.” But I no think I have many bad times now I meet Ian, Luigi and Oddbins. (PP)

    This post was written while drinking: Excellia Blanco Tequila. Now, I know I talking lots about mezcal, but Luigi, he recommend this tequila as substitute and I fall in love with it and with him. He tell me this tequila have a little sleep in sweet wine and cognac barrel and this make it so smooth. I like it most of all with chipotle shrimp. Those funny Oddbins people they have plenty dog picture in the window, I think they want me to eat the dog with the tequila, but we penguin no like eating the dog. They also say with they website that lovely tequila is just like Gael García Bernal, but I always preferring Diego Luna. What does a penguin know about such things?

    [Just in case you missed it, this was Pepita's video - Ed]

    [And this was the video with what Pepita so eloquently called "the sexy Valentine lady" - Ed]

  • GOING BARKING MAD

    We’re eager to dive into this edition of Oddnews, so join us as we tear into it with the dogged enthusiasm of a blind dog in a meat market…

    Valentine’s Day is next week. Many men will buy their other halves inappropriate underwear in the wrong size. Many men will destroy the romance by complaining that Valentine’s Day is just a ploy to make us consume. Many men will forget to book a table. Many men will just forget. And many women will start to share Charles de Gaulle’s sentiment. Our message is simple; sparkling wine is always a winner. Our cherry blossom and raspberry ice cream scented Antoine Remy Rosé is a stunningly simple way to avoid the dog house. And before we are accused of sexism, ladies please remember that a bottle of the gloriously smooth Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old might be enough to teach an old dog a new trick.

    Watching the BBC’s brilliantly resurrected Food & Drink programme on Monday, we were so filled with joy to see our Quinta dos Roques featured, we would have wagged our tail clean off, if we had one. We’ve been chuffing on about this “elegant and fruity” Portuguese red for a while now, so it is good to see it receive the praise it deserves. Much like Brian May of Queen, winemaker Luis Lourenço gave up a promising career teaching maths to throw himself into his passion. And just like Queen, Luis’ wine will Roques you. Sorry, that was just painfully awful punning. Getting back on track, the point is that on a cold February night, the herby Quinta dos Roques is top dog.

    Have you been wondering what on earth is with all this pooch-related chat? Well thanks for bearing with us. Rather than launch into the full shaggy dog story here, head on over to Blogbins to find out more. Trust us, it's a good read.

    The 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, said “You want a friend in this city? Get a dog!” We say “You want two friends in this city? Get a dog and take it to Oddbins!” And that’s all from us.

  • WINE'S BEST FRIEND

    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.

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