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A few inspiring verses...

Maybe we’ve spent too many Sunday evenings listening to Radio 4’s Poetry Please, or maybe it’s hanging out at the monthly spoken word poetry evening at Oddbins Crouch End, Friggers of Speech, but we’ve been developing quite a poetry fixation here at Oddbins. Like most art, poems put life through a prism, revealing the myriad colours that we can’t ordinarily see. So, whilst sitting up in bed, sipping on some of Stanton & Killeen’s raisin-rich Rutherglen Muscat (don’t worry Mum, not a nightly occurrence), listening to Roger Gough’s soothing tones, we got a bit deep and thought how great it would be if our wine could be expressed through poetry and, indeed, of the parallels that exist between poetry and wine. They are both, we mused, crafted by passionate people who, on the whole, want to distil the essence – whether it be of place, a feeling, history or something else – into a concentrated and memorable final product.

Friggers of Speech at Oddbins Crouch End

Furthermore, poetry, like wine, also sometimes suffers from a misconception that it is complicated or elitist. Regular readers of our blog will know that we don’t hold this opinion when it comes to wine. But nor do we hold this view when it comes to poetry, which runs the gamut from song lyrics, limericks and nursery rhymes all the way to haiku and the works of Wilfred Owen, Carol Ann Duffy and Saul Williams. As with wine, we believe that when it comes to poetry, there is something for everyone.

Inspired to pursue this thinking, we found some uncanny resemblances between vintners and poets. Take the Domaine Le Roc, who make our stonking, aromatic and weighty yet floral red from AOC Fronton, La Folle Noir d’Ambat. It is made from the Négrette grape, which is Fronton’s speciality, is like nothing else around, and has an incredibly daft label. The Négrette grape, so the story goes, used to be considered unworthy in France so was pretty much banished to the hot southerly region of Fronton, where it positively thrives and makes for acclaimed wines (see critic Jamie Goode’s review).

La Folle Noire d'Ambat

So who would Domaine Le Roc’s literary counterpart be? We reckon the roots poet and Brixton bad boy, Linton Kwesi Johnson...

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Linton’s raw energy and triple-distilled lines have earned him his place in history – he is the second living poet, and the only black poet, to be published in the Penguin Modern Classics series – but he didn’t earn this place with iambic pentameter (a five beat rhythm commonly used in traditional poetry), oh no. We think his free, expressive lyrics are a real match to the individuality of Domaine Le Roc:

If I woz a tap-natch poet
Like Chris Okigbo
Derek Walcot
Ar T.S.Eliot

Ah woodah write a poem
Soh dam deep
Dat it bittah-sweet
Like a precious
Whe mek yu weep
Whe mek yu feel incomplete

On the other end of the spectrum, you have history-soaked, established winemakers like Olivier Sumeire, who inherited a 700-year-old family-run winery in Provence (check out the family below). Instead of doing something radically different, Olivier does exactly what you’d expect from the region: feather-light rosés, but he executes them with distinction and incredible panache (have a try of our Cabaret Rosé or Château Coussin Rosé to see what we mean).

Sumeire Family

His poetic counterpart? Well there are a few to choose from, but we’ll settle with the Undisputed Daddy of English Literature, William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare

Like Olivier, it’s the subtle masterstrokes and expert balance of elements that make his work so incredibly rewarding… especially on a summer’s day…

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

“Yes, we agree, there are some chin-scratchingly interesting comparisons to be made between poets and winemakers, but aren’t you going off on one here?” we hear you say. And we say nein. Bah non! Nope… we’ve been gearing up to this for a while…

This year, we have been using themes to help us delve deeper into the world of wine (if you want to know more about this you can catch up by reading our blog post: Wine's Best Friend) – we kicked off with Trust up to March, enjoyed Explore from May up to the beginning of August and now we’re entering the heady Inspire phase, it’s time to interpret our wines through the ‘prism’ of poetry. We’re not the first ones to be inspired to turn to poetry by wine – ever since man first stored grapes underground and discovered the joys of the resultant, fermented juice, people have been writing about it. Here’s a frivolous one by the 19th century poet Walter Parke, aka The London Hermit, called Cork Pops:

There was an old waiter at Wapping,
Drew corks for a week without stopping;

Cried he, “It’s too bad!”
The practice I’ve had!
Yet cannot prevent them from popping!

Well we popped a few corks ourselves with customers from Oddbins Crouch End’s aforementioned poetry group, Friggers of Speech, and asked three of them write poem-cum-wine reviews for our posters. You can see these in our stores up and down the country but we’ve included them here, for your viewing pleasure…

Inspire Posters

And that’s not all: our staff have taken up quill and ink and are busily scribing tasting notes in poetic form, and quoting poems that aptly sum up how they feel about our wines. But it is you, dear customer, who we really want to hear wax lyrical… so we cordially invite you to tell us, in the comments section below, about who or what inspires you, whether it’s a or a poem you’ve written about one of our wines, or just a poem you like, or something else that inspired you, like a piece of coastline or a type of telescope (you never know). If your answers, er, ‘inspire’ us, we might be moved to award prizes… Also, if you’ve ever written your own poetry about wine, we’d love to hear it. Again, just jot it down in the comments section below and, if we like it and it’s not utterly post-watershed, we’ll publish it here on our website… and there’s a prize up for grabs for our favourite Wine Rhyme of All Time. (LT)

Stanton & Killeen Rutherglen Muscat

This blog was written while drinking: Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Muscat. “But Oddblogger, a syrupy, delicious dessert wine in midsummer,” you may enquire? Ooh yes. On ice-cream! Drizzle this raisin-y, nutty, orange blossom and lavender-flavoured amber nectar on a good vanilla ice-cream and if you aren’t inspired to grab the nearest pen and write some lofty words, we’ll eat our hat – and we’re wearing a sombrero, so that’s a lot of hat. Speaking of sombreros, has anybody seen our Mexican friend Pepita? Judging by David Greene's photograph posted on Twitter, she’s a bit lost and, being a penguin, isn’t great with public transport. Hopefully she’ll turn up safe ‘n’ sound…

Lost Mexican Penguin