It seems incredible that Oddbins will be 50 next year. Since its creation by entrepreneur Ahmed Pochee back in 1963, it has had a somewhat rocky history with six different owners.
Yet it still exists – with ten Oddbins shops open in Scotland – and I decided it was time to check out what this famous high street chain can now offer the wine lover.
Eighteen months ago, Oddbins went into administration. Last April, the brand name, shop stock and 37 stores across the UK were snapped up by cash-and-carry food wholesaler, European Food Brokers, who are now attempting to revive the Oddbins passion.
Though the chain is a shadow of its former self, which in its heyday under Seagram had 278 shops, (there are now 35 as two closed after purchase) the new owners believe the consumer still has good associations of Oddbins, which they are now trying to revive. Head of wine buying is Emma Nichols and she aims to re-establish the company as a specialist wine retailer with a core range of 350 wines focusing on the £7-£15 bracket. “There will be no cut-price promotions, no heavy case discounting and no own label,” says Nichols.
Oddbins’ best selling wine is prosecco (60,000 bottles last year), with three different examples at £10, £14 and £15. Now Nichols hopes customers will try something new – her current focus is Portugal, Spain, Italy and Chile where she feels the best value wines are emerging. She also hopes to expand their English range with Gusbourne sparkling wines and more.
I tried 15 different wines chosen by Nichols for the new range. Some were very good value – particularly those wines sourced in Portugal and Southern France – while others were not so good. My advice is to choose carefully.
ODDBINS TASTE TEST
Champagne, France DRAPPIER PREMIER CRU NV
A rich toasty style with 90 per cent red fruit – would suit Bolly lovers.
Maule, Chile OVEJA NEGRA SAUVIGNON BLANC/CARMENERE 2011
A new take on Chilean sauvignon – more texture and intensity with the red grape carmenere in the blend.
Bairrada, Portugal FP WHITE 2011 Filipa Pato
Wonderfully honeyed, lemony, creamy palate – I loved this blend of native Portuguese bical and arinto grapes.
Marlborough, New Zealand MACROCARPA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011
A little oaked sauvignon adds good depth and mouthfeel.
Ribatejo, Portugal PORTAL DA AGUIA 2009 Quinta da Aloma
A delicious fruity glugger with succulent fruits and smooth tannins. best buy
Costieres de Nimes, Southern France CHATEAU D’OR ET DE GUEULES 2009
Earthy savoury notes and impressive length.