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Oddbins Wine Merchants

  • California Dreamin'

    Oddbins was founded amid the swinging 60s so we’re rather well versed in hippy culture. In fact, the Beatles wrote ‘I am the Walrus’ after we told them about a Merlot induced dream we had, where we were inside the mind of Sarah Palin as she clubbed Alaskan seals with a copy of Dinesh D’Souza’s The Big Lie… Goo goo g’joob! Yep, Oddbins is terribly ‘right on,’ we just do it with better wine than your average bohemian.

    California is where it all began, with nothing but good vibes, counter cultural spirit, terminator governors and boundary shifting wine. 50 years on, we wanted to celebrate the history of this pioneering state by bringing in a host of Californian wines and making August 2018 at Oddbins the Summer of Love.

    Despite modern day Californian winemakers exuding a laissez-faire attitude that seems to have changed little since the 60s, the wine industry and the bottles they are producing are unrecognisable from those heady days. Below we examine how California became King of the New World wine industry, all while rocking a tie-dye t-shirt and humming along to Sgt Pepper.

     

    California is defined by the interaction of the Pacific Ocean in the west and coastal ranges in the east. The arid conditions in the east pulls cooling Pacific fogs through gaps in the mountain ranges, such as the San Francisco Bay, creating pockets that are perfect for quality wine growing. Get too close to the ocean, and the conditions can be too cool whereas further in land, areas such as the San Joaquin Valley are too hot to be conducive with quality wine but are hugely significant for bulk production.

     

    With any Californian modus operandi destroyed by prohibition, winemaking was pretty much a blank slate in the 20th Century. While French producers were unwilling to alter from the way their family had been making wine for the last 16 generations, Americans were much more of the “yeah, why not?” way of working. This led to massive innovation; temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks, work with oak, experiments with yeast and site and varietal matching has made California one of the bastions of high quality wine.

     

    Now a smash box office hit starring Severus Snape; you remember the scene Dumbledore’s asking him about his love for Chateau Montelena: “after all this time?” and Severus responds “Always.” Don’t, we’re going to start weeping. That’s basically the whole story but if you want a little more clarity, English wine writer Steven Spurrier organised a blind tasting, pitting Californian wines against prominent French counter parts, with Chateau Montelena winning the white category and Stag’s Leap winning the red, much to the disgust of the French wine judges. This announced the arrival of Napa Valley as a premium wine region.

     

    In the late 70s and early 80s American wine writers, most notably Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate, gained huge influence over consumers. It was regions such as Napa, that could cater to Parker’s penchant for full-bodied, ripe reds, that gained huge prestige from these reviews. It was at this time Cabernet Sauvignon ruled the roost.

     

    The American wine industry is one of polar opposites, those who do it for love and those who do it purely for business, huge operations and tiny family run wineries, what we would describe as cheap and nasty all the way to some of the world’s finest wines commanding over £100 a bottle, classic Bordeaux blends to the downright crazy, it's all here.

  • Drink Magnums for Trump!

    header-1It is a rare occurrence that the UK is united; we see it all the time while scrolling through Twitter posts, looking for videos of cats being started by cucumber infused gin. As we all hide behind our perceived online anonymity, there flows a torrent of vitriol and unrestrained abuse, directed at people who, if we had met in any other walk of life we might share some friendly discourse over a bottle of wine (except Tommy Robinson… because you can’t bring wine into prison). The problem is the trolls have been emboldened by a provocative bag of Fillet-o-Fish with Carotenosis, that appears to be leader of the free world. All the while the bag’s wife, who is yet to successfully gnaw through her own ankle to remove the electronic tag, is an ambassador for anti-Cyberbullying. It’s like the Hamburglar’s wife being an advocate of healthy eating! … Or Melania Trump being an advocate of healthy eating.

    Yet, days such as this, when the people of the UK seem to share a unified consciousness it is perhaps the most beautiful & exhilarating place on the planet. Our heads held high from an excellent World Cup campaign and a chance to display some disdain at the most impressive world leader in Britain, we don’t think you understand how impressive he is, very impressive, the most impressive.

    We have never been a nation of violent uprising nor lawless mobs, our approach to protests is similar to the attitude we hold towards line-cutters; sarcastic irreverence. Sure, Donnie may have allegedly colluded with the Russians, empowered racists, sexually harassed women, payed off pornstars, pushed the globe closer to climate doomsday and made Fox & Friends his chief advisor, but the British don’t get mad, we get mordant. That is why today, he will attempt to read signs declaring, “This Pussy Grabs Back,” looked down upon by a petulant Trump baby blimp, while an angry Scot tells him he’d sell well on eBay because ‘he has the colouring and sugar content of an original Irn-Bru.’

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    Of course, not everyone approves or agrees; Nigel Farage suggested that the Trump Baby Blimp is the most egregious offence ever paid to a US President. Although, John Wilks Booth may object to these claims, we see Nigel’s point; you should salute the post not the man. No doubt that was why Nigel objected and had nothing to do with him wanting another golden elevator ride, like a Brechtian remake of Willy Wonka, where all the characters are Augustus Gloop. Nevertheless, it is fair to say we should show respect to the position of POTUS, welcome the leader as a personification of our beautiful friendship with the people of America.

    Donald, we can do little, we are but a wine shop, we can’t shoot blimps out the sky, shut down CNN nor retrospectively remove your lapel mic when you were on that bus with Billy Bush. What we can do, in a small way, is protect your self-esteem. In the name of friendship and unity we ask the people of Britain; disregard your usual wine order, and instead join companions and buy a magnum together. Due to perspective it may make our hands appear small but will show our hearts are large. Let this gesture stand as a symbol of accord with our American cousins, and in doing so extend a perfectly normal sized hand of friendship out to Donald Trump.

  • The Rise of Aussie Wines

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    We believe it was the legendary southern-hemisphere winemaker LL Cool J who said of the Australian wine industry, “don’t call it a comeback!”

    Regardless of what LL Cool J reckons, Australia has seen a bit of a comeback; for much of the 90s, English consumers grew tired of over-oaked, over-ripe and over-extracted Australian wines. This led to an over-correction in the noughties; Australian winemakers started picking grapes too early in an attempt to replicate a leaner ‘old world’ style. Yet, just like that girl who burgled those charming bears, in recent years, many Australian winemakers have gotten it just right.

    A significant cause of this evolution is an increased interest in cool climate sites and better matching of grapes with vineyards in these locations. You may technically be able to grow irrigated Pinot Noir in the middle of the outback with an average summer temperature of 45C, but it’ll probably taste like a mix of fermented jam and bush fire. Nope. Quality focused, boutique wineries are finding sites at higher altitude, on the coast and further south to preserve the aromatics and acidity that define varieties like Pinot and we have no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more of these regions in the UK. Here’s the 3 regions that we think are particularly worth looking out for.

    Yarra-Valley

    The Yarra Valley, Victoria, is half an hour from Melbourne meaning wine tourism and ‘cellar door’ sales are a huge part of the regions market as is the Melbourne on-trade. In the past this has meant the most interesting Yarra wines have stayed fairly local, although today some great boutique wines can be found further afield (like in Oddbins for example.) Along with a booming sparkling wine industry, some of the finest Australian Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are made here a long with plenty of experimentation with semi-aromatic grapes such as Pinot Gris and some Italian varieties.

    Adelaide-Hills

    Plantings took off as major producers started to look for cool growing sites in southern Australia. Adelaide Hills, particularly in the sub-region of the Mt Lofty Ranges, is one of the few regions in Oz with any elevation. The best vineyards are at about 500m altitude, not particularly high but enough to significantly cool the grapes at night. This is why Shiraz grown in Adelaide Hills can be so distinctly herbal. Sauvignon Blanc & Chardonnay are also widely grown here but producers such as Longview are experimenting greatly with varieties in the hills, with increasing plantings of Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Barbera and Grüner Veltliner.

    McLaren-Vale

    Is 45-minutes’ drive to the south of Adelaide, on the coast. This proximity to the ocean means there is considerable variation in climate depending on how exposed the vineyards are to the maritime influences. One of the major challenges for the region is, like much of Australia, a lack of water and restrictions on irrigation. It is because of this that the virtues of old vine Grenache, that have roots deep enough not to require irrigation, have been discovered. It is for these wines that McLaren Vale has garnered most international attention, both as a single variety and in blends with Shiraz and Mourvedre, which many consider to be Australia’s best Rhone style reds.

  • World Cup

    Before we begin what is sure to be one of the most engaging wine blogs you have ever read, we must warn you, there is going to be some football references early on. Don’t worry, this is just a framing device to begin a discussion about Chilean and Italian wine, so if you’re not interested in the approaching World Cup, feel free to sing Red, Red Wine for the next few lines and by sentence 6 we’ll probably be back on track (Oddbins – Popping bottles and breaking fourth walls since 1963).

    You may be aware the Russian World Cup starts in a month and with it false hope, fleeting patriotism and over 8 million tabloid headlines that read “From Russia with Love,” que photo of Harry Kane kissing the England badge, after scoring in a 1-0 victory over Panama. When contemplating the approaching summer of sport, we thought, what about all the footballers who aren’t going to the World Cup, what are their lives like? Perhaps, Alexis will spend much of June holding back tears while he picnics in the park with his dogs, sipping on a Chilean Carménère. Maybe Buffon will holiday on an isolated island, where football conversation is punishable by exile, via an 18 – 30s club cruise.

    These harrowing vignettes prompted us to focus on wine that won’t be going to the World Cup and the people who have far better things to do than watch Gareth Southgate manage to miss another World Cup penalty (we have no idea why the manager will be required to take a penalty but there is literally no way that isn’t happening). Thus, this month let’s all ignore any kick ball build up by going to the beach, complaining when it’s unseasonably hot or unseasonably cold, feeling a bit sad for Buffon and learning all about Chile & Italian wine (and of course sampling a few bottles).

    Chilean-Wine

    Chile is maybe the most perfect country in the world for making wine in. There’s lots of space, a great diversity of geography and climate, an abundance of sunshine, relatively cheap labour, low rainfall and the Pacific Ocean and Andes Mountains, which stop it getting too hot and seem to keep the pests and bugs away. Renowned for great value wines, your Pesos go further when you’re buying Chilean wine. That’s not all they’re known for however, Chile have a rapidly increasing reputation for high quality wines from classic grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and particularly Carménère.

    Italian-Wine

    Italy’s not the easiest country to get your head round; there’s 20 regions and over 2500 indigenous grapes. Yeah right, good luck learning all their names! It does mean, however, it’s rather hard to run out of wonderful new wines to try. Pinot Grigio and Prosecco will ease you in with the country’s characteristic friendly warmth. Looking to explore something a little more complex? The likes of Gavi and Sicilian Nero d’Avola will take you gently by the hand, as you foray a little further.

    Want to go for the top-end, old-school, age-worthy big boys? Pick up a Barolo or a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and gawp in wonderment like a tourist in the Sistine Chapel. There are so many weird and wonderful grape varieties and regions, that there is always something new to discover.

    But, just because they have it all, the Italians are no strangers to innovation. They are constantly promoting lesser-known grapes, like Nero Mascalese grown on Mount Etna in Sicily, (one delicious example of which is the Tenuta delle Terre Nerrelo Mascalese - coming soon) and are also having fun with the ‘noble’ grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay et al.)

  • Summer Gin Cocktails

    What with social media, internet broadsheets (Showbiz section of the Mail) and 24-hour BBC World, the news cycle feels like it’s moving faster than a Tour D’ France athlete after a visit to a special Russian ‘doctor.’ The trouble with this, is any good news can easily get swept away in a storm of imminent economic collapse and the start of Cold War 2: This Time it’s Chillier.

    For example, while you were trying to figure out the difference between a single market and a customs union, you may well have missed the news that Snoop Doggy Dogg made the largest ever glass of Gin ‘N’ Juice last month. That’s right; 180 bottles of gin, 154 bottles of apricot brandy and 38 jugs of orange juice, went into make the 500-litre paradise cocktail, which was topped with a pink umbrella-sized umbrella, a giant drinking straw and a garnish of melons and pineapples on a sword.

    The D-O-double-G knows how to live. While most of us didn’t rediscover G&Ts until sometime around the turn of the decade, Snoop has been a bastion of the botanicals. A General of the juniper. He is truly gin gentry; having been waxing lyrical about the spirit since 1994. We sincerely hope that you’ll join us in honouring the great man’s most recent achievement and sip on some Gin ‘N’ Juice this summer.

    Edinburgh GinKing of Soho GinSaffron GinGordon's Sloe Gin

  • Chardonnay Day or Chardoday if you Prefer

    You’re not sure you like Chardonnay, right? We’ve heard it all before, “It’s too oaky, it’s too sharp, it burns my eyes when you spray me with that Chardonnay super soaker!” Babies. Poor Chardonnay it’s had an undeservedly rough ride, we blame Bridget Jones. She tainted Aussie Chardonnay’s with her whimsically uncool escapades. It also didn’t help, that those Australian wines so widely available and favoured by dear Bridget were questionable at best. Over-ripe, over-extracted and far too oaky; so, all in all, we totally understand why you may have had reservations, we all did. Thankfully, those days are well and truly behind us, Chardonnay is one of the most versatile and high performing white grapes out there. Do you like Chablis? That’s all Chardonnay folks! At times it can be voluptuous and buttery, at times citric and minerally. Chardonnay is the secret genius behind White Burgundy, a key partner in Champagne and has made its name all over the old and new world alike. It does well when matured in oak or bottled o-natural and its happy fermenting solo or blending with other grapes like Viognier, Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc.

    It’s official gang. Chardonnay’s cool again!

     What is Chardonnay?

    Chardonnay is a versatile white grape, grown all over the world but its home is undoubtedly in Burgundy.

    Is Chardonnay Called Anything Else?

    Due to the worldwide recognition of the name Chardonnay, mainly because of new world varietal labelling in the 80s most synonyms have fallen out of use but some wines maybe labelled as Aubaine, Beaunois, Gamay blanc and Melon blanc but these are rare and unlikely to be found exported to the UK.

    Where is Chardonnay From?

    Where do we begin? Anywhere it is possible to grow grapes some sod has planted Chardonnay vines, we can guarantee. This is because it performs well in almost any climate; steely and citric in cool climates, intense and tropical in the warm. However, it is best known for being the white variety of Burgundy (that is if you don’t include Aligoté… which no one does because Aligoté is the Ringo Star of Burgundy). In Burgundy, arguably, the finest white wines in the world are made, in villages like Meursault and Montrachet wines tend to be aged in oak to deliver an intense and rounded flavour profile of stone fruit and buttery brioche. Whereas in Chablis, Chardonnay tends to be unoaked, crisp, fresh and razor sharp. Despite its French heritage, Chardonnay’s fame was refreshed in the new world; particularly in California and Australia where rich fruit forward wines and varietal labelling raised Chardonnay’s reputation above any other wine. It is also possibly the most important grape for sparkling wine production, it is the key white grape in Champagne blends and this is adopted all over the world.

    What Does Chardonnay Taste Like?

    As we’ve established it sort of depends on where its grown and how it’s made. In places like Chablis, Carneros, Tasmania and Germany, Chardonnay will have striking acidity with plenty of tree fruit characters such as green apple, and citrus notes. In slightly warmer climates, like southern Burgundy and parts of South Africa, you can expect more stone fruit characters particularly white peach and apricot. In warm-hot climates like much of Australia there will be a decided tropical character; pineapple and melon in particular. Unlike more aromatic grapes, Chardonnay does well with new oak and if used the wine will have a marked vanilla, toasty, nutty aroma to the wine, which can either be subtle or distinct depending on the winemaker’s style.

    What Food Goes with Chardonnay?

    With wines like Chablis think Oysters, Scallops and other shellfish. If the wines are richer like a new world Chardonnay or an oaked Burgundy, it pairs beautifully with herby roast chicken even some pork dishes.

    What Other Wines are Similar to Chardonnay?

    We’d Recommend a dry Chenin from either the Loire or South Africa; these wines have a refreshing acidity have a similar weight and fruit flavour profile although Chenin can develop an interesting waxy note you won’t find in Chardonnay.

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  • Sauvignon Blanc Day

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    Today is May the 4th or as more of you will know it by; Star-vignon Blanc Wars Day!... That’s a bit clunky, Star Wines Day? The Fermented Menace? Sky Walker-Bay Day? Like the work of George Lucas, those were of a very mixed quality. May the 4th is the day we celebrate the return of Sauvignon Blanc.

    A long time ago (the 80s), in a Galaxy known as France…

    (If this is going to work you’re going to have to start humming the Star Wars sound track and imagining the following text flying through space.)

    The full-bodied-side had won, through a ruthless points-based rating system Emperor Robert Parketine Jr convinced all the wine buyers in the galaxy that the light-side was weak and short lived. Parketine even turned nuanced Anakin Burgundy into Darth Chardonnay; uncompromisingly alcoholic, dominatingly oaky, together they conquered every wine list and off-licence throughout the Empire. There was but one hope for the light-side, Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon lay unknown & relatively insignificant in the Loire. When all seemed lost and everyone appeared destined to only have access to wines that could be drunk with a knife and fork. Obi Wine Kenobi of Cloud(y Bay) City, found troubled Sauvignon Blanc and told him to travel to the forest moon of New Zealand. There, with a focus on intensely aromatic, fruity wine the resistance was formed. Now, Sauvignon Blanc is known throughout the galaxy and the light wines of the galaxy have a new hope…

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          Yoda - It's Green.                       Rey - The next Generation.                Princess Leia - Classy!

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      Admiral Akbar – Not a Trap!                  Chewy - AGGGGHH                 Han Solo - Sharp as a whip!

     

     

  • Wines That Unite!

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    Once again, we sit down to write a blog that is going to be so full of joy and wine facts, that all our lovely readers would’ve inevitably spent the rest of the day in a glow of cheer and incredibly well-informed oenophilia. Yet, as so often is the case, we’ve been distracted by stuff that’s neither been distilled nor fermented and feel it is only right to address it…

    Who is telling Tories to do the power pose!? We thought it was dead, we thought it was gone like New Labour or common decency, but then, like a phoenix from the ashes, rises the majesty of Sajid Javid. Striding towards his shiny new Westminster offices, he turns to face the press, rapturous in the knowledge it is almost impossible for him to do a worse job than his predecessor.  Screw what the PR guys have said. Just because literarily no one has responded well to it, doesn’t mean it won’t work for him. This is his time. He’s worked hard for this moment. He’s doing the Tory power pose! “This is strong & stable,” he thinks “not even my past voting record could knock me off this pedestal, with my feet planted like this!” We kid Sajid! It’s a solid look.

    The point is, just like the legs of protrusive politicians, this country feels a little divided. We think it is important to remember there is far more that unites us than pushes us apart. Therefore, no matter your opinions on politics, football or the appropriate distance of leg separation, let’s all come together this bank holiday and share some common ground and of course some delicious wine!

     

     

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  • St George's Day

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    Welcome, to what may be the greatest St George’s Day in the history of canonization! Firstly, Kate has birthed a child that we can be certain won’t be named George (they jumped the gun on that one a bit, ay). Still, a royal born on St George’s Day, if this kid doesn’t slay a komodo dragon intent on spreading jam on scones before the clotted cream, with a union jack, then this country has frankly been short-changed. Also, old Jezza Corbyn has pledged to make St George’s Day a bank holiday! Even, if like most people you feel rather sickened by Jeremy’s choice of ill-fitting casual beige suits, you must agree that is solid policy. In fact, we’d give him a boob-5 for that idea!

    It’s a very odd holiday, though isn’t it? The symbol of this fine nation is a Roman man, whose father was from Palestine, his mother from Iran and who never set foot in Britain. Yet, for some reason it emboldens troglodytes in EDL t-shirts to stand outside a Gurdwara complaining about ‘Muslamic Law.’ We, here at Oddbins, say poppycock to that. Let’s not let our national holiday be hijacked by people that think mosque is spelled with a ‘k.’ Let’s celebrate the things English people should genuinely be proud of; multiculturalism, the work of William Shakespeare, sarcasm, umm… putting cucumber in drinks and most importantly gin!

    Let us all, come together and refuse to go to work, referencing Jeremy Corbyn’s attire as a cause for our absence. Instead, choose to sit around with our friends, family and neighbours, drinking delicious gin and sarcastically undermine each other’s analysis of Hamlet. “O, you think Hamlet might be imagining the ghost, that’s an original thought!”

    God bless you England!

     

  • World Malbec Day

    We started this year full of optimism; we were confident we’d achieve our fitness and financial goals without sacrificing the quality of our wine consumption (there are some lines you don’t cross). We were certain Elon Musk would find a way of transfiguring ocean plastic into young and virile white rhinos and that the Arctic Monkeys would go on tour, releasing a readily available and reasonably priced allocation of tickets… Guess what, now were on the brink of WW3, are you happy with yourself Mr Turner? We would’ve looked good on the dance floor but now it’s nothing but a radioactive desolate discotech and frankly we’re not even in the mood for dancing!

    With the destruction of humanity pencilled in for some time next Tuesday, we implore you to leave no celebration unobserved. Thus, it is with great festive fervour that we wish you all a happy World Malbec Day! In honour of the occasion we thought we’d answer a few frequently asked questions about Malbec (if you’d rather just get straight into drinking Malbec we completely understand… time is short.)

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    What is Malbec?

    Malbec is a full bodied red wine that is mostly produced in Argentina.

    Is Malbec Called anything else?

    Cot, Auxerrois & Pressac

    Where is Malbec from?

    Originally Malbec came from France where it was one of the 5 key Bordeaux varietals however after the outbreak of Phylloxera (a troublesome tree bug) in the late 1850s that ravaged French grape vines, plantings of Malbec became much less significant in Bordeaux. There is a growing trend for Malbec produced in Cahors (south of Bordeaux) but by far the most important place for Malbec is Argentina. You have probably seen Malbec from the Argentinian region of Mendoza where it is most densely planted and particularly at higher altitudes the grape does exceptionally well. However other regions in Argentina such as Patagonia and Salta are becoming increasingly significant.

    What does Malbec taste like?

    Typically, Malbec will taste of blackberry, bramble and plum if it is from warmer climates like Mendoza or it will have more of a tart dark cherry character if it’s grown in a cooler region like Cahors. This fruit profile will usually be balanced with a varying amount of mocha, coffee, blackpepper and sweet spice depending on the amount of time the wine was aged in new oak.

    What food does Malbec go with?

    Due to the Argentinian link, most wine & food types would recommend a nice juicy steak and we whole heartedly agree. However, it will also pair really nicely with barbequed meats with plenty of herbs and spices, blue cheese and Portobello mushrooms.

    What other wines are similar to Malbec?

    If you like Malbec, give Australian Shiraz a chance as it’s similarly full-bodied with an equally appealing dark fruit profile and a typically spicy undertone.

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