Oddbins press tasting today. For those outside the UK, Oddbins were in the early 1990s a pioneering wine merchant who brought interesting wine to the masses.
Then, in the noughties, they lost their way. The interesting wines and enthusiastic staff were replaced with pap and the less enthusiastic staff (you couldn’t really be excited about the Oddbins range, after all).
Then, a couple of years ago, Oddbins gained new owners, sold off some stores, and embarked on a radical overhaul of the range. In truth, Oddbins has been well and truly back for a while. In the last year, my sporadic visits to local branches have always resulted in me finding interesting bottles.
The press tasting today was the first that I’d attended in the new era, so it was good to look at a broad sampling of the range. The good news? I found plenty of bottles that I’d love to drink. The mixed case price, at 20% off the list price, makes the pricing look very good. Single bottle price is a little on the expensive side.
The new world buying is spot on. Buying in France and Italy is patchier, with several quite poor wines, but this could reflect the difficulties in buying from these countries. Champagne is a strongpoint, as is Port and other fortifieds.
Of the many highlights, a few shout-outs. First, Chile’s best white: it’s the Anakena Confin Viognier 2009 (£9.99/£7.99), and it’s thrilling. Kuru Kuru Central Otago Pinot Noir is unfortunately named but superb (£18.99/£15.99). Tamaya Winemaker’s Selection Carmenere 2009 (£13.99/£11.19) is one of the best examples of this variety I’ve tried.
Champagne Dehu Tradition NV has 75% Pinot Meunier, and it’s brilliant (£23.99/£19.19). And I also loved the I THINK Manzanilla en Rama from Equipo Navazas (£9.99/£7.99).