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...

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Cline ’06 Ancient Vines Mouvedre – The video tasting

The other night, after we closed up the shop, I persuaded my colleague Ayesha to go halfsies with me on the Cline ’06 Ancient Vines Mouvedre.  I even talked her into doing a video tasting but she chickened out in the end so all you see is her hand. The Brixchicks out in Nor Cal  recommended this wine on their blog. Technically, the vineyard is in Contra Costa  County appellation and the price is £12.99 NOT £13.99. Click to see what I thought of it. [viddler id=ddb63858&w=437&h=333] Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Pertaringa Undercover Shiraz ’05 & Mendel Malbec ’06

One of the advantages of working in a wine shop has got to be customer tastings. Not only do we get to try the wines but it’s also a great opportunity to talk with our customers,  to get an understanding of what consumers are looking for in their weekly wine shop. I also love the look on people’s faces when they try a wine for the first time and discover something new. I definitely get a sense of satisfaction when they enjoy one of my recommendations. What if they like the wine and I don’t? Well,  I’ve learned to be quite diplomatic in my critiques and of course, if they don’t like it, then I let rip and steer them to wines I think they’d like. We had two wines on tasting the other day, one I loved and the other? Meh. What surprised me the most was the wine I liked was an Australian shiraz and the wine I wasn’t crazy about was an Argentine malbec. Usually my tastes run the exact opposite so it’s always eye-opening to revisit a style or grape I thought I knew and discover something totally different. I do like Australian wines but when I actually buy wine, Australia is not my go-to place. That is until the Pertaringa ’05 Undercover Shiraz came around. Pertaringa is a small boutique vineyard in the McLaren Vale in South Australia and most of their shiraz is used as a blending grape for other wineries in the McLaren Vale, hence the name “Undercover” since it’s an unbilled player in those blends. The Undercover is 100% shiraz, they’re not pullling any punches here. The first thing that hit me was ripe, red raspberries! Loads of  them mixed up with a heady creamy scent. An image of raspberry ice cream jumped into my head. Very fruity nose, I was loving the aromas coming up from the bottom of the glass. On the palate more of those ripe, raspberries but not jammy which I detest in New World...

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Ch. de Brague ’05 – 70 cl vs. Magnum!

What is it about a magnum? There is something very seductive about a magnum to me. Maybe it’s the pure heft of the bottle, the size of it (although I’m not a size queen) or maybe it’s just because it’s not something you see everyday.  Whatever it is, my eyes light up whenever I come across a magnum. Magnums hold the equivalent of 2 bottles of wine and many think that the larger size allows the wine to mature not just slower but also differently. My plan was to compare a wine, bottled in a 70cl and in a magnum, and put those theories to the test.  Imagine my delight when I found the ’05 Ch. de Brague magnum on the shelves right before Christmas. I snapped it up and scurried home with my prize. Obviously more than two people are needed to down this baby so when my friend El invited me over for a dinner party at hers, I hauled over the magnum. I stopped by Oddbins on the way over and picked up a regular 70cl size bottle for comparison, same wine, same vintage. Got to El’s, opened both wines, poured and then, disaster! The 70 cl was corked! So much for my taste comparison of magnums vs. 70cls. Oh well, the Ch. de Brague is an ’05 Bordeaux superieur, primarily merlot with cabernet sauvignon and a dash of cabernet franc. The ’05 is a bit young but it had a lovely tannic structure, smooth and velvety with a black cherry fruit character and leather notes. Neil made mushroom risotto which was a great choice for this particular Bordeaux. I was disappointed that I couldn’t compare the two bottle sizes but there’s always next time. 70 cl – £7.99 Magnum – £15.99 Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Cuvee Anna ’07, Costieres de Nimes

Sometimes I forget that I live in Europe. England can be so very familiar, what with the same language, McD and Gap on the corner, American shows on tv . But this morning I was feeling particularly Continental. Not English, Continental.   I think it  had to do with the tram I took to work. I usually take the train but I stayed over at a friends last night and the quickest way to get to work was the tramlink from Wimbledon to Beckenham Jnc. It was overcast, grey, wet and misty this morning. Riding the tram through the foggy, empty suburban streets, concrete towers interspersed with local shops, a glimpse of an Olde English church amongst the tower blocks, passing by a cemetery full of crooked, weathered tombstones and stone crosses that have probably been there since the 17th century. The tram and tram stops look just like the ones they have in Prague or Berlin or any of those Continental cities. If I needed any reminder that I wasn’t in America anymore, that tramride did it. Which is a good thing because I don’t know if wines from the Costières de Nîmes are as readily available there as they are here. Last night we had a 100% syrah, the Cuvee Anna ’07 by Ch. Saint-Cyrgues. Costières de Nîmes is in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of southern France and is known for their syrahs, grenaches and carignans  among others. The Cuvee Anna ’07 is a new wine in the shop so I didn’t know what to expect but it was a pleasant surprise.   Profound purple colour with a very fresh raspberry/blackberry but not intense, nose.    On the palate it was all understated red and black berries – raspberry, blackberry, black currant, velvety smooth tannins coating my mouth. There was also a nice toastiness shining thru, probably from the aging in oak casks that it underwent. The wine finished off with plenty of black licorice and bitter dark chocolate notes, nice and long.  Overall, a lovely balance of fruit and oak with fresh...

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