This was a tasting of all the newest lines available in Oddbins, the UK’s multi-award-winning High Street specialists. Oddbins was bought last year by a large French group who also own the Nicolas chain of wine stores. Some people feared that there would be wholesale changes to Oddbins, and fears seemed justified when early this year they announced that they were reducing the number of lines in stock by 30% or so. However, talks with the buying team here suggest that the picture is far from gloomy: they pointed out that Oddbins still has hundreds more lines than the average supermarket or high street retailer, and that they would be the first to complain if they were being constrained by the new bean-counters. Indeed, they seemed very upbeat about the current range, about new additions to it, and about continuing to offer the most eclectic choice on the high street. Hopefully these 70 notes will be a useful buying guide.
Southern French white
2001 Labeye Viognier Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d’Oc – £5.59
Lovely full, fat, peachy fruit. Quite musky. Palate is dry and really quite steely with a big core of citrus fruit and plenty of racy acidity. There is a hint of apricot richness, and a heft of alcohol in the finish. Very good/very good indeed.
2001 Etoile Filante Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d’Oc – £6.99
Elegant, creamy, lightly toasty nose. Plenty of rich, ripe honeysuckle and apple-pie aromas. Good weight on the palate of sweet-edged fruit that is bold and crunchy. Very nice balance and good length. Very good indeed.
2001 Etoile Filante Viognier, Vin de Pays d’Oc – £6.99
Lots of lush, plump, honey and fig aromas with apricot fruit. Very rich and full on the palate with full body and a decadent, pure viognier character: weighty, fat, peachy fruit though good acid balance. Very good indeed.
Southern French red
2001 Labeye Cuvée Gauthier, Minervois – £5.59
There’s a nice sense of creamy black fruit character on the nose before a savoury palate of dense, plum-skin chewiness and bitter black cherry bite. This is very attractive and has lovely quality at the price. Very good indeed.
2001 Labeye Cuvée Guilhem, Minervois – £5.59
Adds a touch more vegetal, earthy depth and complexity on the nose. Palate is dark, savoury and bittersweet with lots of biting acidity and tannin. Good length, and would be a terrific food wine. Very good indeed.
2001 Domaine du Clos des Fées Vieilles Vignes, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages – £16.99 Web/FW
My first tasting of this “super-Roussillon”. This is a much-talked about gargiste operation, run by a former Parisian wine waiter who is making tiny quantities of super-expensive wines (for this area) with extremely old vines, low yields, and painstaking effort. This has a lovely nose, packed with dense cassis and blackberry fruit, hints of chocolate and bittersweet cherry. It has a massive, chocolaty presence on the palate, with deep, ripe, plummy black fruit, grilled meat and lip-smacking savoury tannins. Very concentrated and powerful, yet with charm. Very good indeed/excellent.
2001 Domaine du Clos des Fées ‘La Petite Sibérie’, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages – £89.99 Web/FW
This is the extraordinary £90 top wine from Clos des Fées made from 100-year-old Grenache vines that had been abandoned by the previous estate owner as too difficult to work. Only 2,000 bottles are produced and Oddbins have a 100 or so to sell. It has immediately obvious super-dense concentration. It is very, very deep, sinewy and dense on the nose with thick black fruit and hints of leather and baked plum pie. Little tertiary development to speak of, with a hint of pepper and spice. It has a stunning palate; masses of sweet fruit, bitter dark chocolate, sweet, almost jammy mulberry flavours. It is densely packed with tannin in the finish, all adding up to a sensory overload. Is it unbalanced? It is a masterclass in vinous excess and will be “OTT” for some, but it has to be rated excellent. At the end of the day I’d rather have a six-pack of the previous wine.
2001 Les Amarines Lirac – £6.49
Gravelly, schisty, charcoally nose with decent fruit. Palate more attractive, with a depth of berry ripeness emerging and some raspberry. The more this develops in the mouth the meatier and more attractive it gets. Really quite fine and long. Very good indeed.
2001 Pinot Blanc Auxerrois, Albert Mann – £7.29
Attractive, honeyed, spicy straw and nutty nose with good white fruit character. Sweet, bold, fleshy peach fruit on the palate, with lots of tangerine acidity grapefruity tang. Crisp finish and drinking beautifully. This is a gorgeous little wine. Excellent, especially at the price.
2001 Muscat, Albert Mann – £8.99
Floral, musky nose with a sweet perfume. Sweetness on the palate too; a full, delicious mouthful of nectarine and tropical fruit. Juicy and delicious. Very good indeed.
2001 St Véran ‘Les Chailloux’, Domaine des Deux Roches – £9.99
Nice creamy, meally, gently vegetal quality with a tiny honeyed, toasty background. Quite dry and savoury on the palate, with full-body but restrained, quite elegant citrus and apple fruit. Very good and well-balanced.
2001 Le Big Mâcon, Jean-Luc Terrier & Christian Collovray – £8.29
I must have become distracted whilst tasting this, because all I’ve written is “dry, uncompromising style”. I remember not liking this much though.
2001 Mâcon-Fuissé, Pierre Vessigaud – £9.49
Classic, crisp, orchard fruits on the nose; very full though with a touch of minerality. Fleshy and savoury on the palate, with lip-smacking citrus fruit and really mineral core of acidity. Very good.
2000 Santenay ‘Clos de la Comme Dessus’, Domaine Borgeot – £13.49
Creamier, sweeter, more vanilla-infused nose. Punches through on the palate with bags of crisp apple fruit and plenty of zippy acidity. This is bold and confident stuff, which is fine and long. Very good indeed.
2000 Monthelie, Domaine du Château de Puligny-Montrachet – £11.99
Very attractive nose with hints of undergrowth, spices and a chocolaty richness with plenty of red fruits. Nice mouthful of fine, ripe, soft fruit. Classy texture, and ripe, sweet tannins lengthening the finish. Very good indeed.
2000 Santenay ‘Clos de la Confrerie’, Baron de la Charrière – £12.99
Made by Vincent Girardin, this has a much more mineral aspect on the nose here, with emerging depth of fruit. Some oaky background aromas of charry toast. Quite crisp and zippy raspberry fruit quality with a clean edge of acidity and crisp tannins. Very fine and very good indeed.
1999 Château Saint Léon, Bordeaux Supérieur – £5.99
A really nice fragrance here, with hints of game and decent raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. On the palate it has plenty of stuffing, good fruit and dry tannins. Balanced, and very nice drinking. Very good.
2000 Château Mirefleurs, Bordeaux Supérieur – £6.49
Lovely fruit on the nose, which is quite deep and earthy, with a little gamy note and plenty of blackcurrant. On the palate it is ripe and chewy, with a silky texture and deep, plum and blackcurrant fruit. Fine tannins and good acidity complete a balanced, delicious picture. Drink now or over the next few years. Very good/very good indeed.
2000 Château Charron, Premières Côtes de Blaye – £9.99
Elegant minerality, with fine, crisp raspberry and cherry fruit. There’s a background hint of deeper, plummier sweet black fruit and oak. Medium- to full-bodied, there’s a savoury quality of black fruit and cedar on the palate, with a nice brisk tannin and acid balance in the finish. Very good.
1997 Château Tronquoy-Lalande, Saint Estèphe – £13.99
Big, bold, beefy meat-stock aromas, with vegetal notes and black fruit. This is quite complex on the nose. Bloody, savoury blackcurrant palate drinks well; plenty of sleek, ripe black fruit and moderate tannic support. Very good/very good indeed.
2001 Lamura Grillo, Sicilia – £3.99
Lemony and zesty, with a touch of honeyed, almost humbuggy sweetness. Very crisp palate with plenty of weight and a waxy, lemon-zest quality. Stylish, and very good.
2002 Piana del Sole Chardonnay Salento – £5.49*
Big, sweet, confectionery nose with attractive floral notes. This has a delicious, lively, vivid pear and ripe melon palate with plenty of racy citrus acidity the freshen. It is fleshy and mouthfilling, and very good indeed.
2001 Feudi di San Gregorio Falaghina, Sannio – £8.99
A favourite producer of mine, this has an attractively honeyed nose with notes of straw, almond and apricot kernel. The palate is big and dry, with a juicy, mouthwatering focus of melon and fat, oily lemon fruit. Lovely style and balance, though I prefer the Fiano from the same producer. Very good indeed.
2001 Lamura Nero d’Avola, Sicilia – £3.99
This has a very nice, ripe berry and chocolaty quality on the nose. Quite vegetal, with some lifted aromatics hints of violets. It is fine and juicy on the palate, with sweet, focused fruit, good texture and lovely length with fine tannins in the finish. Very good indeed.
2001 Dorio Primitivo/Aglianico – £5.99*
Super-sweet, super-concentrated on the nose, with violet-tinged black fruits and a very dense aromatic quality (Malbec-like). Lovely sweet, creamy fruit on the palate which is dense and smooth, with a leathery concentration and grippy finish. Balanced tannins and acids complete a fine picture. Very good indeed.
2000 San Fereolo Dolcetto Dogliani Superiore – £10.49
Quite delicate this, with very alluring black fruits hinting at chocolate and damson depth. Fine quality on the palate with plenty of vivid, precise, black fruit and silky tannins. I’d take two of the Dorio at half the price, but a lovely wine. Very good indeed.
2001 Cusumano Sàgana Nero d’Avola, Sicilia – £12.99 OB
This has quite a schisty, light, vaguely gravelly quality and fine black fruit. It is very sweet and concentrated on the palate, with beautifully delineated black fruit that is svelte, dense and silky. Polished tannins and good length too. Very good indeed.
2001 Cusumano Noà Nero d’Avola/Cabernet/Merlot – £14.49 OB
Similarly bright, unoaked, slightly leafy quality with plenty of ripe black fruit. Terrifically vibrant and deep, with shimmering quality of blackcurrant fruit. Really bright and confident stuff, with silky depths. Very good indeed/excellent.
1998 Musella Amarone della Valpolicella – £21.49 OB
Very intense, with hints of raisined, black, glossy dried cherries and a lovely suggestion of ripe, plump black fruit beneath. The palate is gorgeous, with great sweetness and intensity, real chocolaty depth and great concentration. This is cool, sweet and long, with good balance. Very good indeed/excellent.
2002 El Furioso Albillo, Castilla y León – £3.99
Very fresh, with herbs, lemon and a hint of white peach. Good fruit on the palate; whistle-clean stuff with citrussy flavours and good balancing acidity. A nice summer drink. Very good.
2001 Cosme Palacio y Hermanos Blanco, Rioja – £6.39
Full, buttery, ripe ogen melon and guava fruit. Very tropical and lush. The palate has plenty of ripe peachy fruit. It is perhaps a little hollow in the mid-palate, but it finishes cleanly and is very tasty. Very good/very good indeed.
2001 Casa de la Ermita (Organic), Jumilla – £6.29
Big, black-fruited nose with intense concentration and hints of black olive and lead pencil. Quite tarry and rich, the palate again has good black fruit, prune and liquorice, with that blue/black concentration of plummy fruit. Big bittersweet tannins and balanced acidity complete a very convincing picture. Very good indeed.
1999 Conde de Valdemar Crianza, Rioja – £7.09
Bright, focused, attractive fruit with some creamy vanillin overlay. Nice quality of fruit on the palate and good length. Very good.
1997 Conde de Valdemar Reserva, Rioja – £9.19
Much more obvious sweet, custardy oak on the nose, backed up by a jammy depth of thick black fruit, a touch of tobacco and roasted chestnut. Lovely sweetness of fruit on the palate; loads of tobacco and leafy, undergrowth quality, but then that muscular, lithe fruit and fine tannic background reasserts. Good length, and very good indeed/excellent.
2001 Corelli’s Robola Gentilini, Cephalonia – £7.49
Quite a leafy, nettly nose, with lemon and herbs and a little salty tang. The palate has lovely ripe fruit sweetness, with a real core of grapefruit and citrus acidity. Fine quality. Very good/very good indeed.
2001 Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia, Epanomi – £8.39
Big, herbal, vegetal nose loaded with nettle and sour gooseberry and greengage fruit. The palate is tangy and savoury, and is densely packed with citrus and a weighty supporting depth of apricot. This is powerful stuff, with concentration and cut in the finish. Very good indeed.
2001 Gaia Thalassitis – £9.59
There’s an almondy edge to pear and white peach fruit. Lots of crunch on the palate, with a lemon-sherbet vivacity and some pear. Clean and focused, this has lovely purity and length. Very good indeed.
2001 Gaia Thalassitis Barrel – £11.19
Oak-aged version, with only subtle nutty and vanillin notes, and a slightly honeyed quality. Oak has a background effect of broadening the palate, but I do not necessarily prefer this to the unoaked wine. Very good/very good indeed.
2000 Ktima Kir Yianni Syrah, Vin de Pays Imathia – £10.99
Fine, creamy, solid nose of focused black fruit. Masses of ripe, sweet concentrated blackberry on the palate, with chocolate and damsony darkness, and a good tannic structure. This has plenty of power and concentration and is very good indeed.
1999 Ktima Kir Yianni Xinomavro, Naoussa – £9.09
Fantastic ripeness here; lush mulberry and mint aromas verging on being a little volatile. Attractive palate, with sweet fruit and a little herb and raspberry pertness. A bit odd overall, but good.
South African white
2002 Obikwa Chenin Blanc, Western Cape – £ 3.69
Crisp and elegant, a touch tanky and confected at present, with pear-drop aromas and a fresh, fruity palate. Good.
2002 Oracle Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape – £4.99
Nettly nose, quite herbal and vivid with lots of zippy citrus. The palate is fine, with a lip-smacking drive of citrus and hints of a tropical sweetness suggesting guava and mango. Real fruit salad stuff, with a tangerine element to the acidity. Great fun, and very good/very good indeed.
2002 Raats Original Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region – £6.99
Rather tanky, with pear-drop aromas and apple fruit. Dry and correct, but not terribly exciting. Good.
2002 Fairview ‘Terroir Trail’ Sauvignon Blanc, Paarl – £7.99*OB
There is a definite schisty, gravel and flint quality here with quite pungent herbal fruit. Really quite pouilly-fumé-like, with lots of green-bean and gooseberry herbaceous fruit pushing through. Quite punchy on the palate, this has good firm fruit and a tight, structured finish. Very good indeed.
2002 The Berrio Sauvignon Blanc, Elim – £9.99
Rather delicate, precise, passion fruit and gooseberry-edged nose. Greengage and lemon dominate the palate, and though this is poised and fine, it perhaps lacks some character at the price. Very good.
South African red
2001 Oracle Pinotage, Western Cape – £4.99
Smoky and ripe, with rich, deep berry fruit that is velvety and dense. Really ripe and sweet on the palate, with glimpses of bitter dark chocolate depth, but what a glorious mouthful of smoky and ripe fruit. Delicious and very good indeed, possibly excellent at the price.
2001 Oracle Shiraz, Western Cape – £4.99
Nice quality evident again, with lots of creamy berry fruit that is ripe and glossy. Thick, yet elegant fruit on the palate, with notes of briar and chocolaty, spicy depth. Very fine, and another very good effort indeed.
2002 Goats d’Afrique Indigenous Red, Olifants River – £6.99
Despite the “indigenous” tag, this is 100% syrah, organically grown by maverick Charles Back of Fairview Estate. Intense, peppery aromas with fine black fruit and a meaty edge. Good quality on the palate, with a broad tannic backbone, plenty of spice and a leathery grip. Lovely stuff and long too. Very good indeed/excellent.
2002 Tokolosh Cabernet Franc Shiraz, Stellenbosch – £7.99*
deliciously creamy, with a layering of sweet vanillin oak over ripe autumnal berry fruit. Good quality here, with plenty of fruit and a nice support from balanced tannins and acids. Very good/very good indeed.
2001 Scali Syrah, Malmsbury – £15.99* OB
Schisty, charcoally quality, though finely-wrought fruit emerges. There’s a fudge-like depth lying just beneath the surface here, with some gamy qualities and a peppery quality. Very good fruit on the palate; thick, sweet and glossy, with brightness and concentration, allied to good structure. Impressive, and very good indeed/excellent.
2000 De Toren Fusion V, Coastal Region – £15.99 OB
A perennial favourite, this is a typically cedary, leafy, sweet-fruited effort, with a lithe quality on the palate showing lots of fine blackcurrant fruit and balanced tannins and acidity. Quite long, and should also cellar well. Very good indeed/excellent.
2000 The Observatory Syrah, Swartland – £19.99 Web/FW
Dense, Rhône-like concentration of sumptuous fruit edged with a crisp, clean, pepper and mineral character. Quite aromatic, with little floral nuances, this flows onto the palate with good fruit quality and a sheen of ripe tannin. Very good indeed/excellent.
2000 Columella, Swartland – £25.99 Web/FW
One of the most expensive South African wines I’ve seen, from Eben Sadie, the former winemaker at the excellent Spice Route. This is immediately concentrated and rich on the nose; a big, svelte, black velvet aroma of crushed blackberry and damson. There is a creamy background of lightly-toasty oak too, which is a little disjointed at present. Muscular and dense in the mouth, this is an impressively brawny style of syrah, with plenty of stuffing and good balance. I think this will improve with time, but it is very good indeed now, with obvious potential.
2002 Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough – £7.49
In screwcap. There is bags of asparagus and green-bean pungency here, with soaring vegetal notes and an underlying depth of tropical fruit. Very attractive on the palate too, with fine weight and bold, juicy fruit. Shimmering acidity and good length. Very good indeed.
2000 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Riesling, Marlborough – £8.99
Absolutely delightful nose. It is one of those wines where half the pleasure is in slowly allowing the aromas to unfold; fine, waxy, faintly petrolly notes, lots of vivid lime and complex hints of honey and ground almonds, then a suggestion of lush tropical fruit emerges. Very attractive. On the palate it has lovely richness, with bold, juicy, penetratingly precise citrus fruit and terrific balancing acidity. Excellent.
2001 Wither Hills Chardonnay, Marlborough – £8.99
In screwcap. Big and Burgundian, with a slightly stinky vegetal quality hinting at leesy complexity and an overripe character. It delivers great fruit sweetness, packed with tropical fruit and a hint of vanilla rounding out the finish. Good length, and just gorgeous drinking. Excellent.
2001 Terrunyo Chardonnay, Casablanca – £7.99
Big and Burgundian too, with some vegetal quality, plenty of charry oak and a big reserve of orchard fruits. Forward, sweet and powerful on the palate, this is luscious and hedonistic stuff, and very good indeed.
2000 Vina Pargua Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo – £6.99
There’s a delicious bittersweet, jammy black fruitedness here that is very attractive. Lots of density and purity of fruit on the palate, with a glossy sheen of ripeness and dry, but fine tannins. Bags of character and fruit, and very good indeed.
2001 Los Perros Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo – £9.99
Ripe and rich, there is plenty of vibrant, crunchy cassis and a suggestion of cedary finesse. Fine quality on the palate, lots of layered flavours of blackcurrant, plum and leathery undertones. Fleshy-textured and long, this is stylish and very good indeed/excellent.
2002 Mitchelton Marsanne, South Eastern Australia – £5.19
An old favourite that I haven’t tasted for a couple of vintages, this is fat and attractive on the nose, with plenty of ripe, peachy fruit. On the palate a tropical unctuousness, with guava and ripe melon. Acidity is good, but somehow this is a little disjointed and awkward I think. Good.
2002 Ferngrove Cossack Riesling, Frankland River – £6.79*
Pure minerality here, with a really clamped-down nose at present of concentrated aromas. Delivers a shock of whistle-clean, sherbetty fruit with a big lime core and decisive acidity. Long, must have great cellaring potential, and very good indeed.
2002 Nepenthe Tryst Semillon Sauvignon, Adelaide Hills – £7.29
In screwcap. Very pungent, with savoury herbaceous character and plenty of gooseberry zip, then a weight of more tropical fruit. Aromatic and floral nuances add to a complex picture. Lovely ripe fruit quality on the palate too, and a lot of style and length with good balance. Very good indeed.
2002 Bleasdale Verdelho, Langhorne Creek – £7.39
In screwcap. Big, sweet, appealing nose of pears and peaches. Clean and poised on the palate, with weighty texture and a good fruit sweetness. Quite powerfully built, with plenty of alcohol and acidity. Very good indeed.
2000 Scotchmans Hill Chardonnay, Geelong – £9.99
Another great big, overripe vegetal and buttery Chardonnay, with tangerine fruit and a leesy, slightly waxy richness. Plenty of interest here, and a satisfying mouthful of wine. Very good/very good indeed.
2001 Voyager Estate Chardonnay, Margaret River – £12.99
Immediately fine nose, with sweet toastiness of oak and a real nectarine juiciness and sweetness of fruit. Lovely quality on the palate too; more of that fleshy nectarine and peach-skin quality, firm acids and full-body. Good length too. Very good indeed/excellent.