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Oddbins Wine Merchants

  • IF AUSTEN COULD SEE US NOW...

    Pride, Prejudice and Wine

    January 28 sees the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s magnum opus, Pride and Prejudice. Written with a lightness of touch and poignant humour, it is a touching love story but, more than that, a damning account of the inescapable, harmful class bigotry of her day.

    Right, book club is over. The point of all that? Well, until relatively recently, the last sentence of the above paragraph could have applied to certain aspects of the wine trade. Strict appellation rules, inaccessible language, indecipherable labels, dogmatic experts and general snootiness beleaguered the industry, making it seem inaccessible.

    But we at Oddbins think that the wine industry has turned a corner and has liberated itself from the shackles of yore (you must forgive us if we indulge in some Regency-era parlance, but it does please us so). Screw caps have been sighted in Bordeaux, there has been a proliferation of knowledgeable wine bloggers on the web and an ever-increasing number of producers are abandoning appellations in favour of less restrictive classifications like France’s Vin de Pays (VDP) and Italy’s Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT). By doing so, they can experiment freely with grapes and processes and create new, interesting and, frequently, stunning wines.

    A particularly interesting manifestation of this new-found freedom is the labelling of wine. Now. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, nor a person by their appearance, but we all do it. In Jane Austen’s day they did it a lot. The supermarkets have cottoned onto our penchant for big names and snazzy labels and they stock wines that fit the bill. We at Oddbins like to think of the supermarkets as protagonist Lizzie Bennet’s shameless, socially ambitious mother, Mrs Bennet. But we believe there is more to wine than this and would like to introduce you to six wines that do their own thing, regardless.

    The first three wines are our pride. These are cracking wines that have radical, modern labels that don’t scream about their posh provenance – because they don’t care. Hooray! We think Miss Austen would approve. Let’s meet the wines:

    Parcela No. 5 Luis Alegre Rioja 2007

    What do you think of when you hear the word “Rioja”? An old-fashioned bottle, with italic script, possibly in a wire mesh? Us too. Well this here is the opposite: it is a bad-boy, renegade prodigy of Rioja and we love it. With cherry, thyme and mineral notes, it is a vibrant, expressive, ‘modern’ style of Rioja (unlike the oaky, vanilla-laden traditional styles). Aged in oak for 14 months and in the bottle for two years, this wine could call itself a Reserva, but chooses not to, in a bid to differentiate itself from Rioja of old. The funky label is actually an aerial shot of the Single Vineyard (Parcela 5) with a heat-sensitive camera and, again, is purposefully modern in style. The wine was also a Silver medal winner at the 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards.

    Falanghina “Biblos” 2010

    The Italians are known to have panache-a-plenty but, sadly, when it comes to labeling their wine, they often seem to run out of steam. So we were chuffed to find this little number from Molise, southeast Italy. Producer Di Majo Norante is owl-like in its ability to look both backwards and forwards. Backwards because it is trying to save ancient grape varieties on the brink of extinction in that region and forwards, because they don’t think they need a fusty old label to prove they have class. In fact, this pineapple-y, waxy, verdant, herby goliath of a white has a banging label that we would happily hang on the wall here at Oddbins Towers.

    Henry Fessy Fleurie 2009

    Mr Fessy has been making waves at Oddbins for a while now, both with his winemaking genius – this is one of the most engaging and deep (and surprisingly full-bodied) Fleuries we’ve seen for a while – and with the bonkers, moustachioed square-faced bloke on the label. This distinctive logo was introduced in 1988 to mark the winery’s centenary and was inspired by the facial hair preferences of the founder’s grandchildren, Serges and Henry Fessy, who also happen to have a sense of humour. Once again – hooray!

    Now: the flip side. The next three wines are also scrumdiddlyumptious but their labels are not exactly radical. You might say they are boring. These wines sometimes experience prejudice as a result. But, if the supermarkets are Mrs Bennet, then these wines have to be her feisty, headstrong daughter, Lizzie. She might not have the razzle-dazzle of the aristocracy, but she is a remarkable character. Let’s meet our Lizzies:

    Henry Pellé “Les Bornés” Menetou-Salon 2011

    From the producer who almost single-handedly put Menetou-Salon on the map as a serious competitor to its big-name neighbours, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, this wine is really a delight, though the label isn’t going to win a Turner prize any time soon. Crisp and cleansing, with brilliantly pure lemon fruit, this is what the Loire is all about and, between you and us, the prices haven’t caught up yet, so now’s a good time to get in there.

    Ségla Margaux 2009

    Get yourselves a glass of water, folks, it’s a Bordeaux under screwcap. A flipping Second Growth Bordeaux under screwcap! Wonders never cease. The people behind this daring move? Chanel’s owners, the Wertheimer family. Yes, Château Rauzan-Ségla is run by the family that runs the innovative fashion powerhouse. Not only have they broken ranks with cork-lovers, but they have overseen a spectacular renaissance and its wines are garnering rave reviews across the board. The Château’s Second Wine, Ségla, is made with grapes from the very same vines that produce its Grand Vin and the result is just blinding. It is clean, modern and chunky, with real integrity. Having expended all that effort on the wine and the screwcap, they clearly needed a Kit Kat by the time they got to the label, but ne’er mind, eh?

    Luis Alegré Rioja Crianza 2009

    Déja-vu? Yes – you have seen this name before – Luis Alegré make the aforementioned Parcela No. 5 with the cool label. So what happened, you ask? Did they lose their creative marbles? Well, we don’t really know what went on with the label, but this Rioja Crianza is packed with such a rich tapestry of blackberry, blueberry and liquorice flavours that we’d happily forgive them anything.

    And this last wine wraps up our little foray into wines and their labels nicely: here we have a brilliant producer, who has given one wine an excellent label, and another a bog-standard label. This demonstrates how totally arbitrary wine labelling can be. But if these wines represent Lizzie, who represents her sexy, shy and smouldering suitor, Mr Darcy? Well we think that is you, dear reader. OK we don’t know if you are sexy, smouldering or shy, but you are the ones who save Lizzie (amazing wine) from the influence of her mother (supermarkets) and from the tawdry pursuit of class (labels) at all costs. So, to steal a phrase from this book, you must allow us to tell you how ardently we admire and love you. (LT)

    This blog was written while drinking: Besserat de Bellefon’s Rosé Champagne. You didn’t think we were going to let this anniversary slide by us without some bubbles now did you? A masterclass in elegance and charm, to quote Austen one final time, we have fallen "violently in love" with this Champagne. Its plain Jane label and relatively unknown name testify, once again, that you really can’t judge a book by its cover…

  • SECRETS, LOVE AND BARDS

    Happy Burns Night one and all. In the words of Rabbie: “Go fetch to me a pint o wine, an fill it in a silver tassie.” or at least a bottle of malt whisky from Oddbins. But before you do, have a read of this…
    Well, that was well over 400 years ago. These days it’s unlikely that Golden Globe winning actor and redheaded heartthrob Damian Lewis is going to be burnt alive at the hands of a pitchfork-wielding, baying mob. However, reports earlier this month of a young gentleman who received a shattered jaw for his birthday, courtesy of a thug in Birmingham, simply due to his hair colour, are proof that redheads still sometimes get unfairly picked on. Here at Oddbins, we love red hair and we would like to celebrate it. So if you have two copies of a recessive gene on chromosome 16, which have caused a mutation in the MC1R protein, resulting in a reddish hue to your hair, head down to an Oddbins from Friday 25 to Sunday 27 January and receive some love from us. As Frank Sinatra said “orange is the happiest colour.” Let's keep it that way. To find out more have a gander at our blog: Blogbins.

    Donna Tartt’s book The Secret History is a macabre tale of what happens when clandestine Bacchanalian festivities go bad. It’s a good read, but dark. Although we love a little secretive revelry, we prefer ours on the lighter side. At £11 a pop the Secret de Viu Manent wines are a better reflection of how we roll. These are three wines, one made from Carménère, one from Malbec and one from Viognier. The twist is that each one contains a proportion of mystery. Now don’t be scared, it isn’t horsemeat. We wouldn’t do that to you. 15% of each wine is made from an undisclosed blend. Now we love a secret, so our lips are firmly locked on what those blends are. But do your Columbo-like taste buds have the skills to unravel the enigma and identify the puzzling grape mixes? You'll just have to pick up a delicious bottle at one of our shops to find out...

    Over the last three months we’ve been exploring the theme of love. But unfortunately our love is dwindling. It’s not you, it’s us, we’ve changed and we’ve got to move on. We’re joking of course, we’ll never stop loving you, we just have a new theme starting in February. But what this means is that our “Love Now On!” January special offers on Fine Wines will be coming to an end on 31 January, so make sure you get yourself to an Oddbins shop before then. Who knows you might find the perfect Valentine’s Day present well ahead of time. For example, we have money off one of South Africa’s finest Pinot Noirs, the great value second wine of the illustrious Château Pichon-LonguevilleBillecart-Salmon’s Champagne made in oak and many more in our shops. And if you are wondering what our next theme will be, well you’ll just have to trust us…

    That’s all from us, go forth and do wrong to none.

  • REASONS TO LOVE JANUARY AND OWLS

    For a change we are going to keep this relatively short and sweet. So let's get down to business. Oh yeah, it's business time...

    Here at Oddbins, we think “SALE” is a dirty word. It suggests that a shop has dug out all those items that nobody wants, piled them up and slashed the prices of them. But as you know, we are not like most retailers. That is why we are calling our January special "LOVE" instead of "SALE". We are offering up to 25% off our finest of fine wines. We have tasty offers on almost 200 lines, including unusual limited parcels, fine wine classics and stunning Champagnes that are so swoonsome they’ll have you reaching for the smelling salts. So pop into your local Oddbins shop to peruse delights like Niepoort’s Doda (£6 off), Château Gloria Saint-Julien (£7.25 off), Verget’s Pouilly-Fuissé (£8.25 off) or even Louis Roederer’s Cristal (£23.50 off). Remember, fine wine is not just for Christmas…
    With the exception of sterling performances from our sportsmen and women, 2012 was a bit of a damp squib and will probably not go down as a vintage year for most. With this in mind, Oddbins would like to kick off 2013 by spreading some love. So on every weekend in January we’ll be offering some intriguing discounts for different groups of people who perhaps didn’t receive the love that they deserved last year. And we’ll be kicking things off with Mothers - for whom, let it be said, we have a lot thank! To find out who the rest of the groups are, and why we love them, head on over to our blog: Blogbins.
    Aren’t owls brilliant? Owls invented reggae and Caesar salad. They frequently win prizes for being the first to complete The Times’ cryptic crossword. Actor Jon Hamm based his Mad Men character Don Draper on an owl called Wilbur, who he met in the queue at El Super Taco taqueria on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. Zadie Smith is an owl with a very convincing human pseudonym. OK, none of that is true, although it would be amazing if it was. What is completely true, however, is that the Gufo Bianco and Rosso are amazing value, extremely food friendly Italian wines, perfect for a frugal January at just £6.25 each. Why all the owl nonsense you ask? Well they have owls on the label, you see. And they are so good they might make you swivel your head all the way round.That’s all from us, keep spreading that love…

  • JANUARY LOVE WINE DISCOUNTS AT ODDBINS 2013

    For the last two months we’ve been spreading love almost willy-nilly. As Edgar Allan Poe put it “We loved with a love that was more than love.” But now we have decided to give our love focus. So during this, the first month of 2013, we are going to turn our attention to four groups of people who, in 2012, did not always receive the love that they probably deserved. Each weekend in January we will be offering a different select group a 10% discount off full price wines (including sparkling and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop. The first weekend will put Mums in the spotlight, followed by the journalists and bankers in the second, the much maligned Germans in the third and, bringing up the rear for that final weekend in January, those flame-haired marvels: the gingers. If anybody manages to pick up the discount every weekend and can prove it by way of receipts, they may be in line for some bonus extra loving…

    MOTHERS: Friday 4 – Sunday 6 January 2013

    Before you get angry, we’re not talking about Yo Momma, we’re talking about all Mommas. Mums generally have it rough. We aren’t saying that Dads don’t pull their weight, but we think it’s fair to say that Mums shoulder an uneven proportion of the burden during the year and particularly over the festive period. They’ve been run ragged by the family; shopping, cooking, wrapping, cleaning, transporting and planning. Now the sales have started (how quickly those presents have been forgotten) and the kids aren’t back to school yet; things haven’t let up in the slightest.

    As if being underappreciated by the family isn’t enough, the government is putting the boot in too. The “cap” on maternity and paternity pay is just an innovative use of a three letter word beginning with “c”, which sounds different but still means “cut”. With inflation almost tripling the capped figure, the net result is that Mums and their families will be even worse off in 2013. On top of which, on Monday the government will be removing or reducing child benefit for approximately 15% of families. Now we aren’t going to get into a debate on whether this is fair or unfair; the simple fact is that nobody wants to have £1,000s taken away from them and be labelled a “scrounger” by out of touch politicians as it happens. Why can’t our politicians provide a childcare system that doesn’t strong-arm a hugely important part of the country's workforce into making a choice between their career and children? And don’t get us started on increasing university tuition fees, which are preventing many Mums being able to afford to offer their kids the same opportunities they were given, or the nappy shortage scare…

    Here at Oddbins, we would like to stand up for Mums across this great nation and give something back. We’d like to say thank you, Mums: without you none of us would be here. So, from Friday 4 – Sunday 6 January, Mums can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop.*

     

    How you choose to prove that you are a Mother, we will leave up to you: toys in the handbag, baby sick on your shoulder, a bag of new school uniforms, a post on Mumsnet, a grumpy teenager in the back of the car or a menacing letter from the government. We hope this year the country appreciates you more, because we love you, Mums.

    BANKERS & JOURNALISTS: Friday 11 – Sunday 13 January 2013

    2012 ignited a fire beneath bankers and journalists, fuelled by crises, allegations and scandals, which looked set to engulf both groups. The embers are still glowing voraciously as 2013 opens for business. We don’t want to rake over the coals of Libor rate-rigging, phone hacking, money laundering, inaccurate reporting, enormous payoffs, etc. Oops! We just did. We promise we didn’t mean to go all Vince Cable on you. What we would like to do is draw a line under all this. Some bankers and journalists have misbehaved, but the majority should not be blamed for the actions of a minority. This country needs these guys.

    Finance became the UK’s most important sector after successive governments decimated the industrial base of our country. We rely on it every day and our economy is literally “banking” on all those who work in it not upping sticks and moving to Switzerland. A “banker” is an individual who is engaged in the business of banking. Last year the word has become a derogatory term used to refer to only a select group of rogue investment bankers. However, every time we chastise “bankers” for the financial crisis, how must this make tellers, analysts, loan officers et al feel? They have done nothing to deserve this derision, but it must affect the morale of the whole group. And why do we revel in bad news and ignore good things that banks do, like HSBC’s ground-breaking programme to educate primary schools students on personal finance, RBS offering charity donation services through their ATMs, Barclays’ Community Sports Awards, Mr Banks of Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank’s U-turn on votes for women in Mary Poppins, etc.

    Similarly, not all journalists are listening in on our telephone conversations or stalking the celebrities that sell their newspapers. Should we actually be looking more closely at ourselves? Why do we care what Sienna Miller and Hugh Grant are up to? And do we really want our politicians to control the only people who are able to hold them to account? What will be next in line to face regulation? Twitter? Blogs? Democracy? Besides, wasn’t it the free press that eventually dragged the phone hacking scandal into the light, where politicians and the law had failed to? On that note can we please leave Auntie alone? Yes the BBC has made some mistakes; most organisations of their magnitude probably have, but they are still a great institution, a credit to our nation, and no other broadcaster holds a candle to them. When politicians make mistakes, heads at the top rarely roll as they have at the Beeb; it is more often than not a civil servant further down the line that catches the brunt of the flak. How many ministers resigned over the West Coast Mainline franchise debacle?

    Here at Oddbins we’re calling for a little clemency. Maybe the more love the UK gives the press and bankers, the more they will give back. So, from Friday 11 – Sunday 13 January, journalists and bankers can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop.*

     

    Simply come down and show us your press card, office pass or business card and we’ll take care of the rest. Let’s leave 2012 behind us and give bankers and journalists the support they deserve.

    GERMANS: Friday 18 – Sunday 20 January 2013

    Germans. Why is everyone so mean to them? Studiously keeping their flat-pack-homed, forest-clad, industrious country immaculately clean, with their finances neatly in order, in accordance with the Micawber principle, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery." And what do they get for all this careful, cautious behaviour, which has seen their economy blossom into Europe’s largest? They have to dole out money to other countries left, right and centre and they still somehow come out looking like the bad guys, for insisting that indebted countries adopt more prudent behaviour.

    The Germans’ work ethic and technological superiority are legendary. They produce some of the world’s most underrated wines and yet, as a nation, we still prefer to source wines from halfway around the world. The Germans are the second largest consumer of beer per capita in the world, and yet their youth don’t run amok at weekends causing mayhem. They have taken what is thought to have been a Greek invention, the humble sausage, and promoted it to an art form. The French are lauded as Europe’s culinary kings, but they can’t make a cake like the Germans. They pre-empted the recession and reined things in while their neighbours, us included, were busy spending wantonly and as a result they haven’t been hit as hard. But it seems that, no matter what the Germans do, the rest of us just love to cast them as the panto villains. And we’re sorry to go all Basil Fawlty on you and mention the war, but isn't it time to put that behind us? Does China bring up opium whenever David Cameron visits?

    Here at Oddbins, we say "No more should Germany be cast as the panto villain" (“Oh no you don’t”, you gasp. “Oh yes we do” we cry!). That’s right; we think it’s time Europe stopped giving Germany the finger and instead show some neighbourly love and extend a nice firm, efficient handshake instead. So, from Friday 18 – Sunday 20 January, Germans can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop.*

     

    If you are German pop on down to an Oddbins near you and prove it by way of a passport or German Identity Card. Alternatively if you aren’t carrying those around with you, you may be asked to answer a few questions to prove your Teutonic descent.

    GINGERS: Friday 25 – Sunday 27 January 2013

    Gender. Race. Religion. Sexuality. Weight. OK, we’re not perfect in this county when it comes to persecution, but things are improving slowly. All except the final taboo: ginger hair. Last year was shaping up to be a good year for redheads, with sterling performances from Greg Rutherford, Damien Lewis, Christina Hendricks and Prince Harry. Tesco didn’t print an anti-ginger Christmas card. The University of California reported that ginger felines are preferred over their white, black and tabby counterparts because they are stereotypically more "friendly and loveable". However, all the good work was cancelled out by Lindsay Lohan’s downward spiral, customer Laura Payton’s abuse from a Halifax employee, Dundee man Max MacAskill being jailed for having red hair and Rebekah Brooks, who continued the work she started in 2011: Operation Convince the World Gingers are Not to be Trusted, which culminated in her £10.8m payoff. Oh yeah, and South Park-inspired Kick a Ginger Day enjoyed yet another outing.

    Here at Oddbins, we say enough is enough. Variety is the spice of life. Vive la difference. So, from Friday 25 – Sunday 27 January, redheads can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop.*

     

    We love your hair and think 2013 should be the year we all put this nonsense behind us. (TO)

    *The above discounts are only applicable to full price wines. No futher discount will be applied to items already on special offer.

  • ALICE COOPER, DEBBIE HARRY, JANUARY JONES AND A PENGUIN

    Christmas is almost upon us. We hope you are all stocked up. If not, don’t panic, there is still time. However, don’t leave it too late; we’d hate for you to miss out. Please allow Alice Cooper, Debbie Harry, January Jones and a very important penguin to lovingly take you by the hand and guide you through the next few weeks. Just be warned they each have some unusual dining habits…
    …any guesses what Alice Cooper’s second most joyous time of the year is? Answers on a postcard. To be honest, we wouldn’t have pegged the original golfing shock rocker as the festive type. Not least because everybody knows he prefers raw chicken heads over roast turkey breast. The fact that the whole domesticated foul nibbling incident was just an unappetising urban myth is irrelevant, as it brings us neatly round to the issue of “the bird”. What delights are you planning for the Christmas menu, and have you sorted your wine matches yet? We’re going for the Breakfast of Champions: scrambled egg-topped muffins (feel free to add smoked salmon or gruyere and chives as you please) accompanied by the stylish Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut Champagne. We are planning on going off-piste with the roast by serving the elegant South African Lothian Pinot Noir and La Closerie des Lys Chardonnay, the latter being the wine selected for our range by Fran Evans, winner of The Palate 2012 (have you read the blog and seen the video?). Our Christmas pudding will be complemented by the rich Château Pajzos Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos, the cheeseboard will be introduced to the smoothest Port on the market: Sandeman LBV 2007, and if we’re lucky enough that Santa has furnished us with a bottle, we’ll loosen our belts a notch and wash down a mince pie with a wee dram of Glengoyne 21 Year Old. If you'd like to share your own menus with us, we’d love to hear from you; let us know on Facebook or Twitter. However, if you need any more advice, get yourself down to one of our shops pronto, there aren’t many unopened doors on that advent calendar. If you go dressed as Alice Cooper we promise that, after the initial shock, our staff will offer a level of service beyond even their usual excellence.
    We wish we were a little more punk. Wouldn’t it be cool to be Debbie Harry? Now we don’t want to come across all “humbuggish”, but we bet that Blondie’s front lady hasn’t spent many New Year’s Eves freezing her extremities off in Baltic conditions, queuing six deep at overpriced bars, stuck on adverse-weather-conditions-public transport or standing in line for the toilets when the countdown commences, as we have. We love New Year’s Eve, but find that the reality rarely lives up to the hype. So for the 2012/2013 transition, instead of going out for New Year’s Eve, we’re going to be celebrating New Year’s In. Maybe we are getting old. Imagine all the comfort and warmth of home, invite friends round and open something nice. If you’re hosting quite a few people, we challenge you to find a bubbly with a higher quality to price ratio than the Torre Oria Cava Reserva. Or why not finish off the year with something legendary like the Château Gloria Saint-Julien? £38 might seem like a lot, but remember it doesn’t cost £30 for a ticket to get into your house and it will taste much better than a warm pint of Carling in a plastic cup. So what is Debbie’s weird eating habit we hear you ask? Well she likes to eat to the beat obviously, which must mean that jazz makes for quite an uncomfortable dining experience Chez Harry.
    January is coming people. And we’re not talking about actress January Jones, with her car crashing antics and her unusual après-birth diet (the latter we will leave to your own imagination, all we’ll say is that her argument that “we’re the only mammals that don’t do it”, simply doesn’t cut the mustard with us). Oh no, we’re talking about the twice as icy month of January. Before you use your New Year’s resolution to cast wine aside with the cold heartedness of Betty from Mad Men, you might want to wait and see what we have planned for next year. Our “love” theme is going to take an unexpected twist and we are definitely going to be showing off. We wouldn’t want you to miss out, so keep a loving eye on us.

    That’s all from us, but before we go, have you met Pepita the Penguin yet? She loves a krill burrito…

  • OUR LOVE LETTER TO YOU

    Putting Our Hearts on the Line (and into the Wine)

    Dear customer,

    We know we probably shouldn’t be writing to you now: it’s well past midnight, we’ve had a dram of whisky and we’re feeling a bit misty-eyed. But we have something to tell you, something important… we love you!

    The thing is, customer, we’d be nothing without you and we thought that we should let you know how appreciative we are. We first got thinking about all this last month, when we noticed that you struggle to find the time to unwind, and show yourself a bit of TLC. You may have noticed the posters we put in our shops to remind you to treat yourself, like our very subtle “Relax with some red wine IMMEDIATELY” poster.

    But the nearer it gets to Christmas, the more we’re reflecting on how lucky we are to have you. When you think about it, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster of a journey: there have been heady highs, when we felt light and dizzy just at the thought of you, and there were lows when we felt empty and we weren’t sure if we’d make it. But when times got tough, you….*sobs*…. stuck with us….*loud sniffing*.

    However, we think you’ll agree that, these days, things are pretty swell. In fact, we reckon things are better than ever. As our lovely Head of Buying, Emma Nichols, said recently: “People talk about the glory days of Oddbins, but I’m excited now because I think the glory days are ahead of us.” So to hell with looking back, our sights are firmly locked on the future because our love was meant to last.

    We believe that the reason our love is so strong is that we are doing what relationship counsellors will advise any partner: we are listening to you. We’ve understood your needs and desires and we’ve been going hell-for-leather making them happen, baby…

    We’ve re-stocked our shelves with some dangerously exciting products that have got the wine world a-chattering, like the fabulous Le Cigare Volant from the talented folk at Bonny Doon, our mind-bendingly innovative Cellarfoot Underwater Syrah, the most incredible Pinotage ever created in the Chamonix Pinotage and our Portuguese range, which has been much lauded in the press.

    We’ve been holding regular, free tastings and have provided a gamut of easy, fun ways to buy your wine. For example, you can peruse the latest case of wine handpicked by our very own bloggers, or buyers, or if it’s gifts (corporate or otherwise) you’re after, we have a range of ready-to-go gift sets, available pre-packed that we can deliver to single or multiple addresses complete with personalised gift messages.

    But we’ve been learning too: you told us you’d love more local beer on our shelves and, loving you deeply as we do, we took this very seriously and now have nearly 150 local ales in total. From southwest London we have, for example, the very popular Rocky Head Pale Ale, made by Steve Daniels, a former Head Buyer with Oddbins, while in Oxford we have the festive brew Tannenbaum, from the Compass Brewery. Also from London we have a range of exceptional ales from microbreweries like Moncada and London Fields. In Bristol we have the spiced Bristoltoe from the Bristol Beer Factory, which won the 2011 BBC Food and Farming Awards, while in Scotland we have Jarl from Fyne Ales, which scooped gold at last year’s International Beer Challenge.

    Now although we can’t buy you presents (sorry to tear down the “fourth wall”, but you do realise we are a wine merchant and not your lover, don’t you?), but what we can do is to offer you splendiferous prices...  like the delicate yet yeasty Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV, which is down to a very approachable £30 (was £40), the French grape-based G'Vine Nouaison Gin £33.50 (was £38.50) and the Sauternes and cognac barrel aged Excellia Blanco Tequila £39 (was £44).

    If you’re thinking “yes, yes, this is all well and good, I know you love me, just tell me what is going to go well with me Brussels Sprouts you daft idiot”,

    …then allow us to direct you to our Oddbins 12 Wines of Christmas case. Delivered straight to your door, for £115, you get 12 delicious, handpicked wines. From the gorgeously smooth Sandeman LBV 2007 to the ‘people’s Cava’ Condesa Blanca; from the bestselling, practically iconic Quinta de Bons Ventos to the honeyed and gentle Concha y Toro Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, this case has it all.

    We have some flipping fabulous new Fine Wine arrivals too, the kind that would transform the most humble Pigs-in-Blankets into something altogether more exalted, such as Château Gloria Saint-Julien 2007 (£38). Firm, supple, full-of-fruit but perfectly-balanced, it is a dream of a wine. But do you know what would look really good on the Christmas table? A giant magnum of loveliness, like the Louis Alegre Crianza Rioja 2008.

    Well, we really must go to bed now, it’s getting light outside and if we continue all this mushy stuff we might end up saying something embarrassing. But before we go, we should tell you that… (LT)

    This post was written while drinking: Old Pulteney 21 Year Old. We pushed the boat out, because that’s just the effect you have on us. Crowned king of the whisky world by Jim Murray in 2012, it really is a handsome malt. As Mr Murray says, it “explodes from the glass with vitality, charisma and class." It might have you writing love letters throughout the night, though. As a last thought, and as we’re writing about things we love, we thought we’d dig out an old favourite from the criminally funny Monty Python, the Upper Class Twit of the Year Competition...

    Remind you of anyone? Let us know in the comments box below...

  • THE ART OF CHRISTMAS SHOPPING

    We’ve held off just about as long as we could, but the number of sleeps ‘til Christmas is ticking away rapidly and we want to shout about our festive joy. As is traditional in these situations, we are going to call on the whole Hungarian nation, the father of modern astronomy and an ancient Chinese philosopher to help us…

     

    CHRISTMAS GIFTS

    Sun Tzu was misunderstood; he was a lover, not a fighter. His first work, The Art of Christmas Shopping, was vastly overshadowed by the popularity of his later treatise; the Art of War. What many don’t realise is that the former was the inspiration for the latter. In The Art of War he said “The way of war is a way of deception. When deploying troops, appear not to be.” However, the original wording stemmed from his love of covert gift buying, as described in his first publication: “The way of Christmas Shopping is a way of deception. When shopping, do so online so as to appear not to be.” Both pieces of writing state that “Excessive rewards are a sign of desperation”, i.e. you must be cunning with your shopping, spend wisely. We’re pretty sure that, if we hadn’t made all this up, Sun Tzu would have loved shopping at Oddbins. We have followed his teaching and carefully planned our strategy: loads of giftslittle gifts, big gifts, all kinds of gift packaging, corporate gifts that can be sent to lots of different destinations, personal gift messages and a simply fantastic range of wines, spirits and fizz. As Sun Tzu famously never said: “know when to shop and when not to shop”, now is the time to shop friends.

     

    ARDBEG

    Not sure we’ve accredited that quote correctly, but we’ve already tried to claim that a Chinese military general who lived around 500 BC liked Christmas shopping, so in for a penny, in for a pound. What do you get if you fill an Oddbins warehouse with a deep, dark loch, a tumultuous whirlpool, a ferocious reptile, a dead Italian physicist and a whole load of really potent ten year olds? A health and safety nightmare? Sordid tabloid allegations? The gentle knock of a Police battering ram? Well, the answer would probably be “all of the above”, if we weren’t talking specifically about Ardbeg whiskies. We love the Uigeadail (that’s the mysterious loch), Corryvreckan (that’s the whirlpool) and classic Ardbeg 10 Year Old (that’s the… oh you get it) so much, we’ve added two newbies to the range: the Alligator and the Galileo. These are extremely limited releases, most retailers sold out long ago, but we’ve managed to secure a few just for you. If you want to find out more about our new reptilian and astronomical friends, or just crack on and buy one of these Islay delights before they all gone, just follow the links to our website or browse all our whiskies here.

     

    TOKAJI

    That’s “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” in Hungarian. To be honest, there are so many accents and unusual vowel/consonant combos; it looks like the sentence above has tumbled into the one you are endeavouring to read. If you fancy a real challenge, try saying it, you have less than a month to nail it. If you fancy something Hungarian that’s a little easier on the tongue, try some glorious sweet Tokaji. There are few wines made with so much love. It’s so good a member of the French royalty described it as “the king of wines and the wine of kings”, it was the first wine to be protected by law, it features in the Hungarian national anthem (please note: God Save the Queen does not bestow the virtues of Carling) and the Hungarians drink it at celebrations instead of Champagne. The Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos from Château Pajzos (pronounced “pie-zosh”) tastes like the festive period should: gloriously rich and syrupy with raisins, dried apricots, toffee, spices, marmalade and honey flavours. It’s the perfect partner to your Christmas pudding, mince pies or cheeseboard, or go crazy and drink it in celebration like the mighty Magyar: “Egészségedre!” (that’s "cheers" BTW).

    That’s all from us, but before we go, just remember that we love you (and we mean it properly, not in the gyrating-hips "Prince" kind of way).

  • LOVE, BOTTOMS AND THE BBC

    In our last email we tried to promote some love. However, it seemed that maybe the world wasn’t listening. Barack Obama squared up to Mitt Romney, a foul-mouthed chef went toe to toe with a blogger and everyone has been taking swings at the BBC. But that isn’t going to stop us; we haven’t lost that lovin’ feelin’. To put the world to rights, we’re going to give bloggers our full support and campaign on behalf of a much maligned grape variety using the teachings of the former BBC Director General, George Entwistle. But let’s start with a real-life American ambassador of love…

    Pearl Bailey was appointed America’s “Ambassador of Love” by President Nixon in 1970, so she certainly knew a thing or two about matters of the heart. We’ve turned her philosophy into our inspiration, and have decided to remove the leg work out of spreading a little love. If you want to know how, simply head along to the glitzy new gift section of our website and peruse the beautiful array of presents available. Wine, fizz and spirits, all beautifully packaged and effortlessly delivered, you can even add a personal gift message. From an exquisite Kiwi Duo Gift Pack, £23, to a Classic Bordeaux Selection in a traditional wooden box, £250, we have something for everyone. And the added bonus, you can do this from the sanctuary of your own home and there is no paperwork, just lots of love.

    The revolutionary first edition of the Oddbins Wine Bloggers’ Case, for which we asked six of the UK’s most talented wine writers to independently choose their favourite twelve wines from our shelves, burst on to the scene like the Duchess of Cambridge and has been equally loved. So much so that it has now sadly sold out. The remaining wines are rumoured to be holidaying in the South of France, so expect to see risqué paparazzi pics of them splashed across the papers shortly. So how do we follow the first Bloggers’ Case? The answer is simple, we need a smaller, tighter package in its sister’s mould, which is perfectly formed and has the potential to steal the spotlight from its older sibling. No, we’re not talking about Pippa’s bottom (“Sorry, but yes you are.” - Ed), we’re trying to introduce the Oddbins Wine Bloggers’ Case II: Six of the Best. Our intrepid bloggers have chosen their favourite half dozen winter wines for your delectation. Six wines each with an unbeatable expert endorsement, all for under £60, and apparently one of them is just like Middleton Junior’s bottom.
    Despite our best efforts, we have not tried every Pinotage. So in order to make the following bold claim, we’re going to adopt what we are calling the “George Entwistle Approach” of assuming that someone will let us know if we’ve got it wrong: the new 2010 vintage of the Chamonix Greywacke is the best Pinotage in the world. Aged in French oak for two years and made using a proportion of partly dried grapes in a ripasso-style, there is more than “some complexity” in this wine, to paraphrase Lord Patten there’s “damned layer” upon layer of it. This is our last batch of this hedgerow berry, cherry chocolate, mulling spice and liquorice allsorts-packed winter warmer. When it’s gone, it’s gone, until the release of the 2011. Now, we’ve been making this outrageous claim about this wine for a while, and so far nobody has opposed us. However, if we’re found to be wrong after 54 days, we’ll happily admit it and accept the £450,000 pay off. Sorry did we have a John Humphrys moment there? Were we a tad harsh on George Entwistle? We didn’t mean to be, truth is we love the BBC and in all honesty who can say they really knew their job inside out after little more than a month? Great British institutions sometimes get it wrong, but with a little love they can be rebuilt, Oddbins is proof of that.

    That’s all from us, just remember love is all around, but luckily for us Wet Wet Wet don’t seem to be anymore. Toodles.

  • DR. CHARDONNAY

    Or: How Fran Evans Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Her Palate

    Fran Evans“Life is for living and wine is for drinking. It's easy to stick with what we know – we all have our favourites. But it’s good to try new things; it keeps things vibrant. With a bit of guidance from Dave and the team at Oddbins Crouch End, I have taken some small steps outside of my usual style, and I haven't looked back.” – Fran Evans, Winner of The Palate 2012

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, well, at Oddbins at least, that there are some grapes that have a seriously bad rep, for no good reason. Chardonnay is one of these. Without naming names, there are some mass-produced, heavily-oaked, simply unpleasant examples of this varietal that have taken its reputation to the edge.

    However, Chardonnay has recently been thrown a life-line from a very unlikely quarter. But, in the best cinematic tradition, having begun with the dramatic climax, we need to turn the clocks back and start from the beginning…

    Wine’s not hard. But ever since our former beer-swilling nation was introduced to the marvels of wine, it seems to have been written in stone that you have to talk about wine simultaneously down your nose and out of your bottom. Hurumph. It’s like the wine world has been building a wall made of elitist bricks and pretentious cement to keep the world from seeing that, behind that wall, anyone can ‘do’ wine. So our little fantasy at Oddbins is that we get to drive a massive metaphorical bulldozer straight through this damnable wall, laughing maniacally whilst listening to “Take the Power Back” by Rage Against the Machine. OK, OK, maybe that’s overegging it a teensy weensy bit, but we would really like to cut through the rubbish and make wine more accessible and, therefore, more enjoyable.

    So, back in June, we launched The Palate 2012, a nationwide competition to find the UK’s finest taste buds. Over the course of three gruelling blind tastings, 5,000 entrants were whittled down to a final 10, who slogged it out at a climactic final last month, hosted by our Head of Buying, Emma Nichols, with TV’s Peter Richards MW and Susie Barrie MW. The eventual winner of The Palate 2012 was Crouch End resident Fran Evans, who scooped the prestigious title of The Palate 2012, a holiday for two to Tuscany's Frescobaldi Wine Estate and a magnum of Champagne. You can watch a video of the final here...

    Fran was an interesting winner because she has a passion for wine but not the encyclopaedic knowledge that she was worried she might need. She really needn’t have worried. Because the thing about blind tastings, is that they are great levellers. "Connoisseurs" can often find themselves knocked into a cocked hat by the raw talent of "amateurs", because blind tastings are just that: they are blind – to knowledge, experience and, happily, ego.

    la Closerie des Lys ChardonnayAnd now we return to that cliff-edge and the mysterious saviour of Chardonnay… who do you think the hero was, but our very own Fran. After she was crowned the winner, we invited her to pick a wine from a blind tasting line-up for us to stock in our stores. Whether what happened next surprised her more or less than winning The Palate, we don’t know, but she picked a Chardonnay; a grape that she had, shall we say, professed not to admire. In fact she said she couldn’t stand it. But Chardonnay is a cunning thing, a master of disguise. It is the shape-shifting David Bowie or Kylie of the wine world. Sometimes it appears as a big, buttery, oaky goliath and other times it pops up as a restrained, minerally Chablis; Chilean Chardonnay, left unoaked, can be clean and tropical, while Burgundian versions are frequently delicate, orchard-scented little things.

    So, while Fran was recovering from her surprise at choosing a Chardonnay, we were mentally fist-punching the air, because it gave us a valid excuse to extoll the virtues of this much-maligned grape. Although we’d happily bang on about it all day, we’re sure you’d rather hear it from Fran, so this is what she said:

    View from Collovray et Terrier's vineyard“Of the four wines, la Closerie des Lys really stood out. I'm not a fan of oaked whites therefore usually steer clear of Chardonnays, however this was unoaked and was a lot lighter on the palate than the new world Chardonnays I have tasted in the past.”

    In fact, with its minimal intervention philosophy, natural pest controls and low-carbon footprint, having only come from across the Channel, la Closerie des Lys is a natural match for Sustainability Officer Fran. Looks like it was a match made in heaven.

    Collovray et Terrier TeamThe grapes used in la Closerie des Lys make for a beautifully subtle wine because they benefit from a long, slow growing period. This is made possible by the relatively cool climate in Limoux, which benefits from fresh winds from the Pyrenees. The winemakers (the Collovray and Terrier families) established a sound reputation for making Chardonnay in their home region of Mâconnais in Southern Burgundy. When these Chardonnay experts set up shop in Limoux, they opted to classify their wine as a more basic Vin de Pays, instead of Limoux’s Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC), so they didn’t have to include the sometimes unpopular Mauzac grape, which is a prerequisite of the appellation. The results are pretty stunning: pale yellow in colour, with hints of green, it’s a clean, fresh style of Chardonnay, with a complex nose of white fruits and flowers. The palate is full, fresh and tropical, while the finish is crisp and refreshing.

    That’s all from us for now. We’ll give the delightful Fran the last word:

    “Winning The Palate 2012 was a really nice surprise and, as well as boosting my confidence in my own palate, it has swung me on to a wine that I had previously ruled out. I will definitely be perusing the Burgundy section for more Chardonnay from now on!” (LT)

    Raimat Abadia WhiteThis post was written while drinking: Raimat Abadia White 2010. Chardonnay, the little hussy, makes a superb bedfellow for a number of other grapes. So if, *mopping our brow*, we haven’t convinced you of its merits, then you could always stick a tentative toe in the water with a blend, like this Spanish beauty. 75% Chardonnay and 25% Albariño, it is a tropical, citrusy little number that would really shine served alongside a spicy paella with chicken, chorizo, clams and mussels.

    To ‘change the record’, so to speak, check out the incredible dance moves displayed by Mick Jagger and David Bowie in the video for their 1985 collaboration: Dancing in the Street. For every person who we manage to convert into a Chardonnay-lover, we promise to dance like this. Now that’s service, ain’t it?

  • WAR, FISH AND WINE BUYERS

    For the last couple of months we’ve been exploring the relationship between wine and words. You may have noticed all the unusual quotes on our posters and emails (for the record we promise we weren’t condoning cannibalism with our Hannibal Lecter poster, unless you get really hungry). Well we have a new theme for the next few months, and that theme is “love”. To find out why, have a read of The Love Manifesto (no that isn’t a new Barry White tribute album) on our blog. Although we have a new theme, we’ve become quite fond of the quotes, so they are sticking around but with a little added lovin’…

    The quote above is from Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. For those who haven’t read it, it’s a complex and fishy tale of man meets fish, man falls in love with fish, man kills fish, other fish eat fish, man kills the other fish, man goes home to sleep and dreams of lions, weirdly not fish. We can’t imagine how excited the old man would have been if he’d met our Green Fish. At £6 and hailing from Rueda in Spain, the peachy Green Fish Verdejo has been our bestselling white wine this year. Bad news: we sold out. Good news: we’ve got a little back. Not much though, so it’s currently a web exclusive, you can buy it here. But fear not, it will be back in our shops; in fact it will begin wending its way across the ocean very soon. Let’s hope it doesn’t get eaten by other fish. Right, time for a kip(per) and maybe some big cat based dreams.
    We have no intention of stopping love, but we would dearly love to stop war. So, to do our bit, Oddbins has teamed up with a master Rhône winemaker and a very worthy charity to bring you the exclusive Wine Not War Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Available in all our shops and on our website, for every bottle sold of this limited edition wine, we will be donating £1 to the charity War Child. The invaluable work of this charity offers hope to children whose lives have been torn apart by war. Here in the UK £1 might not sound like a lot, but it can make a massive difference in countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Uganda, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. To put it into perspective, 71p can send a child in the Central African Republic to school for a year, War Child’s programmes can be run for 22p per child per day and 1.4 billion of the world’s people live on less than £1 per day. We’ve sent bottles to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, to see if we can get them to make peace over a glass of wine, work as a team and help War Child with their sterling efforts. We’ll update you when/if we hear back from on them, but until then, why not grab yourself a bottle of this dark, spicy delight. It's a small gesture that spreads a lot of love.
    Here at Oddbins we love our Wine Buyers. They are without shadow of a doubt two of the finest in the industry, but you know that already because you’ve tried our wines. We thought you might like to properly meet them though and find out what Wine Buyers really drink (it isn’t all Krug, Dom Perignon and Cristal, you know). Therefore, with great pride and loads of love we’d like to introduce Emma and Ana. They’ve put together for our website their Wine of the Month and three web exclusive Buyers at Home cases (6 or 12 bottles). The first is what they drink at home “Everydayers Case”, the second is the special treats “Weekenders Case” and the last is the no budget, enough of all the recession doom and gloom, enough Robert Peston already, time to treat yourself “Unlimited Case”. Browse at your leisure.That’s all from us. Time to go and turn the Barry White vinyl over so the loving can continue. We’ll just leave you with one last quote…

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