Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Loire selection – Oddbins v Waitrose

The bogof (buy one, get one free) culture: buy 3, get 3 free on Eurotunnel

There has been an interesting discussion today on the wine forum of Tom Cannavan’s Wine-Pages on supermarkets and the current state of Oddbins, once the UK’s brightest national wine merchant chain. This prompted me to compare the range of Loire wines offered on-line by Oddbins and by Waitrose, a relatively small UK supermarket chain but certainly the one offering the most interesting range.

The comparison shows that Waitrose wins by a mile. Furthermore the number of wines on the Oddbins site listed as unavailable suggests a company with perhaps a serious supply problem.

Nick Room (2nd from left) is Waitrose's Loire wine buyer. At Charles & Philippa Sydney's annual salon party February 2009

Oddbins 2 choices
Chenin Blanc: an Anjou Blanc from Bougrier and a Vouvray from Philippe de Sivray – perhaps a Bougrier brand name. Bougrier is a négociant based in Saint-Georges-sur-Cher with several wine-making facilities in different parts of the Loire.

Waitrose: Chenin Blanc: 13 choices inc several from Huet inc 1995 Le Mont sec and 2002 demi-sec le Mont and a Savennières + some more basic Chenins

Oddbins Muscadet: 2 listed none currently available

Waitrose: Muscadet: One listed from Domaine des Herbauges. Reflecting currently shortage of Muscadet but also continued supply due to Waitrose's long-term relationship with this producer.

Oddbins: Sauvignon Blanc - 9 listed - 5 currently unavailable
Those available: own label Sancerre and PF, Christian Salmon (decent grower in Bué) Sancerre and a cave-coop wine for an eye-watering £18.99 a bottle.

Waitrose: Sauvignon Blanc: 15 listed inc Chatelain and Masson Blondelet (PF), Vacheron and Fouassier (Sancerre), Pellé (Menetou-Salon) and Ampelidae from Haut-Poitou - the sort of wine Oddbins might well have once listed.

Oddbins Cabernet Franc: none listed

Waitrose: Cabernet Franc: 7 listed inc Joguet, Frédéric Mabileau (Saint-Nick and Bourgueil), Ch la Varière (Anjou Villages Brissac)

Oddbins: Pinot Noir – 3 listed Tinel-Blondelet 2006 available but other two – rosé (Cave de Sancerre) and red (Hubert Brocard) not available.

Waitrose: Pinot Noir: One listed – 2005 Belle Dame, Sancerre Rouge from Vacheron.

Nothing wrong with Oddbins' Loire suppliers, although never the most exciting but the selection actually available is pretty threadbare. Waitrose's selection, in comparison, includes some of the best producers.

Looking further at the Oddbins site, the number of wines that are 'currently unavailable' is rather alarming, unless the company has just had a very successful weekend or has a technical glitch.

Of the 72 Champagnes listed – 27 are available.
Of 20 Australian Cabernet Sauvignons listed – 3 are available.
Of 32 Australian Shiraz listed – just 2 are available.

In addition Oddbins own label red is unavailable until 3rd March 2009 and there is no red Burgundy and no Chablis available.

Oddbins has failed to file its annual return on time – overdue since 25th January 2009.


Added: 12.30 pm 16th February
I have just spoken to Westbury Communications, who have the PR account for Oddbins,and I understand that the core range of 500 wines should be up on line with a further 400 parcels and bin-ends to be added later.

It is possible that there is a glitch and Westbury have promised to come back to me asap.

Added: 3.20 pm 16th February
I'm very pleased that Oddbins has responded to this post here.

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