Oddbins – back on track?
Like many in the UK wine trade, I started off in my wine career at Oddbins. I came to
Odd after it’s heyday but it was still a great place to learn about wine both for us employees and the customers. Sadly, Oddbins couldn’t keep up with the times and due to years of neglect and mismanagement, went the way of the Dodo, or so we thought.
Like a phoenix risen from the ashes, they’re back - streamlined and with a new core range. Due to the unfortunate circumstances of it’s demise, there is still quite a bit of caution surrounding the chain but after a recent visit to the Northcote Road branch where Head Buyer, Emma Nichols, had a load of wines open to taste, I think that Oddbins may be on the pathway to regaining it’s reputation as a fun place to not only encounter new wines but also learn a bit while you’re there.
Emma and Oddbins’s other buyer Ana Sapungiu, are building the core range around what Oddbins sees as relatively familiar wines but also wines that are dynamic and of interest to the range. Those wines will come from the select and limited parcels of wine. Parcels will be ongoing across the range and once they are gone, they’re gone. They now have a core range of 350 -400 wines and on top of that will have special parcels of between 100- 150 different wines.
Their new philosophy encompasses not only the range of interesting parcels but also the idea that if the consumer is looking for a Rioja, Sauvignon blanc or any other “usual suspect”, they’ll find one at a certain price point. They built the range over what are the key price points and regions that wine shops should have. When they visited a region, they started with a price in mind but once they arrived, if they found that it was impossible to get a good quality wine at that price point, they went up on price rather then compromise on quality.
Oddbins also wants to involve the consumer in their wine buying options and are going to crowd source their wines but with a bit of a twist. Instead of a large, random number of wines to choose from, customers will be given a choice between carefully selected wines and narrow down the options. For example, they are currently running a campaign to pick the 12 wines of Christmas. For the next few weekends there will be a taste-off amongst the wines they thing are the best for the holidays. The customer gets to vote for what wine they thing should be included and the winning wines amongst all the stores will be put into the case. A nifty way of letting the customer decide while still keeping a check on quality control.
I always liked the selection of wines that Oddbins carried and fingers crossed, the new and improved Oddbins catches on with the wine consuming public. It’s a completely different marketplace now to when they first started, let’s see how it goes. There are now 38 branches in the UK, most in London but it is possible to find Oddbins further afield. Check their website, which should be up in the very near future, for more information.
Below are my brief jottings from a few of the wines I sampled on my visit – there are some crackers in here, wines that make you sit up and take notice, and fairly priced as well.
Vinum – chenin blanc 2010, refreshing and a quite body on it, spent time on the lees, very expressive with fleshy fruit. Surprisingly good for South Africa £9.50
Casa lluch – verdil variety, indigenous to Valencia deep intense nose, full of fruit, gorgeous wine, great acidity, well integrated, the fruit doesn’t overwhelm the palate – Great wine! £8
Huynawihr 2010 – if a gewurztraminer can be subtle, this would be it, no bitter finish or too much alcohol, ripe fruit but good acidity and ends on a fresh note £11, off piste Chrismas dinner wine, fab wine to drink on it’s own as well
Green Fish – verdejo –good citrus notes, easy drinking great for summer
Paseo – blend of indigenous grapes and chardonnay from Lisbon, sweet notes with a bit of lanolin, fresh apple notes, lemony – better then pinot grigio, easy drinker – costs a fiver
2010 Chablis – Jules Billaud producer – exclusive to Oddbins – they also do a premier cru, this one is a grand vin, excellent minerality and crispiness but still quite rounded with excellent fruit, good as an aperitif while the turkey is cooking,or with shellfish, oysters, or a turkey sandwich the next day – a cracking good wine for £12 down from £14. Samuel Billaud is the winemake, and the Jules is made for Oddbins exclusively.
2010 Fred – zweigelt Ok, who wouldn’t like a wine named Fred? A good example of zweigelt, crunchy, cherries, quite refreshing – a good pick with or without food £12, tannins are there but not in your face, great acidity – really like this wine
2010 Vinoquotidiano –vino rosso from Barolo– sweet nose, bit herbal , fresh, red fruits, nebbiolo, barbera and dolcetto great blend, silky, very expressive of the fruit £10 juicy!
McHenry Hohnen shiraz – full, fleshy, great fruit not overly jammy, smooth, a great example of Oz shiraz, not over the top
Mitolo – Jester cab 2010 – rich, intense fruit, chocolate dried fruits but still fresh, another winner from Australia
Le Clos 2010 Languedoc,a blend of carignan, grenache and syrah – A wine that buyer, Ana Sapungiu, found last year at the annual Languedoc tasting, savoury, garrigue,spicy, – smooth, dark black fruits, great round tannins, bitter chocolate, good acidity made for food,good fruit notes
L’engarran 2009- very herby, dark and deep, savoury, meaty – Female winemaker, undertones of dark fruit, spicy, very fresh, anise, herby, another very good wine from the south of France.