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

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Taxman axes Oddbins

Notice of CVA meeting this morning at the Mermaid Conference Centre, London

At 4pm yesterday afternoon HMRC informed Oddbins and Deloitte that they did not support the CVA. Since HMRC are owed between 30%-33% of the £21 million total deficiency the CVA was immediately dead in the water. Deloitte did, however, continue right up to this morning's meeting at the Mermaid Conference Centre to try to win HMRC round to voting for the CVA proposal but in vain. The tax authorities could not see that the proposal was 'viable'.

I understand that one of the sticking points for HMRC was the long payment time – spread over 46 months. They may also have concluded that multiple drink retailing is a risky business given the failures of Unwins and Threshers.

Given HMRC's stance the CVA was never put to the vote. Had there been a vote, the CVA would have failed with 68% voting against by value. However, if you take out HMRC then 84% were in favour of the CVA.

There will be a hearing in the High Court (London) on Monday and, unless British Gas press their winding up order, Oddbins will enter administration. It is expected that Lee Manning, a partner in Deloitte's reorganisation services, will be appointed director. After the meeting Manning said that Oddbins' stores would continue to trade and that the remaining 400 staff would be paid. He hopes to sell the business as a going concern and that they had received two or three offers. One of these offers is from within the wine trade and one from outside. There were also some other very recent offers that Manning had not yet had time to study. His message to creditors was pretty grim. "I think it is unlikely that the payout to creditors will exceed 7.5p in the pound."

'It may, of course, be that Oddbins will be more attractive in administration than it was as a potential CVA.

I suspect that the biggest long-term implications of Oddbins going into administration, apart from staff made redundant, will be for some of the suppliers, especially those in for large sums and who may also have been hit by Threshers and Unwins. There were some very glum and grim faces leaving the CVA meeting this morning. Most gave a terse 'No comment" as they left.

However. Nick James, managing director of Pol Roger (owed £273,612), was more forthcoming. "A sad day and for smaller companies like us it's a hell of a blow. It will have implications throughout the trade. We stopped supplying Oddbins before Christmas as we had an agreed payment plan that fell into abeyance, so we refused any further supplies. Our sales manager, who lives in Wimbledon, virtually camped out in Oddbin's headquarters. On several occasions he burst in and confronted Baile."

"Baile could have communicated far better with his suppliers. We were kept in the dark. There has been a lack of clarity and information. It's been pretty poor." James also said that he along with many others in the trade didn't fully understand the relationship between Ex Cellars Investments Ltd, Nicolas UK Ltd and Castel. "

Although it must have been evident during last year that Oddbins was running into problems, a number of suppliers may have felt that they had little option but to supply. Furthermore it seems clear that some payment arrangements with Oddbins were not kept. Large importers have increasingly few large retailers to sell to and some presumably decided that they had to take the risk and they may now unfortunately pay a high price.

Also present were a number of angry ex-Oddbins staff bitter about the way they had been treated and fearful that they will not get their redundancy money.

Statement from Simon Baile, managing director of Oddbins Ltd, after the meeting. ‘Despite ongoing negotiations over the last four weeks the decision was made by HMRC not to support the CVA.

As HMRC is a significant creditor this means that the CVA cannot proceed. Oddbins is expected to go into administration on Monday 4th April following a hearing in the High Court on Monday.

I very much regret the need to make so many staff redundant and we are working diligently to find a buyer for the majority of the business so that as many jobs as possible may be saved.'

Inside the meeting, hearing the news of administration

Oddbins update

HMRC refuse DVA. Oddbins into administration. Further details later.

Brief update:

Oddbins will go into administration on Monday if application is approved in High Court, London.

The potential administrator expects that the stores will continue to trade and the staff will be paid and hopes to sell company as going concern. We were told that two or three offers have been received.

Less good news for Oddbins staff who were made redundant. I suspect that the biggest hit, apart from staff made redundant, will be some of the suppliers, especially those in for large sums and who may also have been hit by Threshers and Unwins. There were some very glum faces leaving the CVA meeting this morning.

HMRC pulled plug at 4pm yesterday.

More details shortly.

1855 buys ChateauOnLine

Yesterday it was announced that 1855 had bought ChateauOnLine, one of the first internet wine companies.

Extract from the press release:

'1855 annonce l'acquisition de ChateauOnline
    Le pionnier de la vente de vins sur internet
Paris, mercredi 30 Mars 2011 - Communiqué de presse

 1855 annonce aujourd'hui avoir réalisé l'acquisition de ChateauOnline, le pionnier de la vente de vins sur internet en France et en Europe.'

More details later.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Result of 2011 Cantonale election: Alain Kerbriand-Postic elected

Alain Kerbriand-Postic

The overall result of the election in the canton of Bléré saw the Socialist Party's Alain Kerbriand-Postic elected. He was the sitting member and won, in the second tour, a total of 4004 votes (51.4%) against Jocelyne Cochin (UMP) with 3786 votes (48.6%). Only 45% of the electorate voted. The canton of Bléré comprises the following communes:

The result in Epeigné-les-Bois was a little different, although it was a close race. Here Cochin came out on top with 86 votes (50.6%) with Kerbriand-Postic close behind on 84 votes (49.4%) – just two votes in it.  58.02% of the electorate voted.   

Oddbins: administration pay out estimate drops from 13.6p to 7.5p

See report in The Drinks Business:

'Oddbins lowers administration payout forecast
Oddbins creditors face receiving just 7.5 pence in the pound should the Company Voluntary Arrangement not be accepted at tomorrow’s creditors meeting in London, after forecasts for payouts should the retailer enter administration were downgraded.'

Does this mean that Oddbins is in an even worst state than was initially thought?
Furthermore if this is
the case shouldn't the estimated pay out through the CVA also be cut by a similar amount?

Comment from a spokesperson:
The amount payable under Administration is only ever a forecast. Threshers payout is now down to 2 pence but the creditors haven't actually received anything yet.

The amount payable under the CVA remains at 21 pence, plus 50% of any outcome from the court case. A payment schedule appears within the CVA documentation (

Although Simon Baile continues to have discussions with investors it is still too early for anything to be announced. The reduction is a reflection of the fact that no purchasers have come forward.'

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Oddbins: the questions as a creditor I would want answered

This is the list of questions I submitted on Monday morning to Simon Baile, managing director of Oddbins, as yet I have had no replies. Not entirely surprising as he is doubtless very busy but if I was a creditor I would want answers to these questions before Thursday's meeting.

Questions for Simon Baile

Acquisition of Oddbins Limited
 1. Could you clarify the total payable to Nicolas UK Limited for the acquisition of Oddbins Ltd in 2008? I see from Companies House records that a loan of £22, 077,042 was agreed between Ex Cellars Investments Ltd and Oddbins Ltd on 1st August 2008.

2) How much has been repaid and how much remains outstanding? 

3) How much capital has Ex Cellars Investments Ltd, its shareholders and directors put into Oddbins UK Ltd to the present date?

4) Will Ex Cellars Investments Ltd, its shareholders and directors be making any contribution towards funding the CVA or will the £4.7 million due to be paid into the CVA’s over its duration be funded entirely by sales etc. generated by Oddbins Ltd?   

5) The list of creditors includes some 140 + employees or ex–employees who appear to be owed approximately £686,232.  This figure is approximate as it is not always clear who among the creditors are staff/ex-staff. There are also a number of individuals whose claims are to be confirmed. What is the correct figure please?

6) What is the total amount of redundancy monies owed to ex-staff? Is this a preferential debt or are they unsecured creditors? Are they too due to receive 21p in the £? 

7) Is it correct that last November HMRC insisted on ‘immediate payment’ of duty on leaving bond?

8) Do you expect HMRC to impose any conditions if they vote for the CVA?

Trading following the CVA
9) If the CVA is accepted it is expected that most suppliers would operate on a cash-with-order policy and if HMRC is demanding immediate payment of duty, then how will Oddbins Ltd manage to trade at a profit? The company’s accounts to 31.12.2009 shows that average payment trade creditors was 75 days and still Oddbins Ltd racked up losses of over £20 million? 

British Gas
10) What is the estimated debt owed to British Gas?

Dispute with Castel
11) When the court case expected to be settled?

Debt owed to Oddbins Ltd by Ex Cellar Investments Ltd
12) If the CVA is accepted what will happen to this £17.53 million debt?


£8,116,042 million debenture – a question I might have asked
I did not ask about the current status of the £8.1 million debenture between Oddbins Ltd and Nicolas UK Ltd 'supplemental to an acquisition agreement between 1) Nicolas UK Ltd, 2) Ex Cellars Investments Ltd, 3) Simon Baile and Henry Young' on 1st August 2008. A number of Oddbins shops, including some in Aberdeen, Dunfermline and Old Coulsdon and mortgaged against this debenture.    

Oddbins: time to pull the plug!

On Thursday morning at the Mermaid in Blackfriars, London Oddbins' many creditors (owed more than £20 million) – ex-staff, suppliers and HMRC (Her Majesty Revenue and Customs) – will be asked to approve the CVA (Creditors Voluntary Arrangement).

Time surely to put sentiment aside and vote against the CVA. Thus forcing Oddbins into administration.

Oddbins is in terminal decline. Even if the CVA is passed where is the finance to retock the increasing empty shelves? What conditions are HMRC imposing on duty payment? Where is the staff morale after 120 were made redundant to chop Oddbins back to its 'profitable core'?

On Friday in Harpers wine & spirit Graham Holter raised some very pertinent issues:

'Oddbins suppliers are effectively being asked to finance the rescue of the business, some trade observers say – and helping to write off a £17.5 million bill for owners Simon Baile and Henry Young.'

Putting your money where your mouth is
Despite racking up debts of £20 million Simon Baile still maintains that Oddbins is a very good, solid business'. If this is the case why hasn't the parent company – Ex Cellars Investments Ltd – its shareholders and directors – Simon Baile and Henry Young – put finance into Oddbins Ltd? Are they contributing any finance now in its hour of need?

Rather than finance going into Oddbins the company has had to pay off installments on the debt incurred by Ex Cellars Investments Ltd when they bought Oddbins Ltd in August 2008. In April 2007 Oddbins had already given Nicolas UK Ltd an unsecured loan of £17.7 million as asistance to buy shares.

Keeping your suppliers in the picture?
From: an interview with Baile in The Drinks Business yesterday:
When asked why he had not communicated the chain’s problems to suppliers in January, Baile said: “At that point we had a strategy in place that would allow the business to improve. However, once it became clear that this was not going to happen, we had to make a decision.”

Baile doesn't spell out what the improving 'strategy in place' was, but it might have been to just gloss over the mounting debts. It would be very interesting to know what concerned suppliers have been told and promised over the past few months.

In early December 2010 Richard Verney, Oddbins respected head buyer, quit the company to 'pursue new challenges outside of the company' according to the official press release. Four months later we have heard nothing of these 'new challenges'.

Isn't there perhaps another explanation for Verney's decision to quit Oddbins. Aware of the company's increasingly parlous financial state and concerned that Oddbins might be unable to pay their suppliers for orders placed, Verney decided that enough was enough and that he could not honourably continue. 

Des Cross the finance director/commercial director also left Oddbins in December.

Ex-staff as creditors: £686,231
Understandably there has been a focus on wine trade debtors as well as the £8.571 million (£3.04 m in PAYE/VAT and £5.529 m in duty) owed to the tax authorities. Less attention has been paid to Oddbins staff who have been made redundant. There are at least 140 individuals on the 18 pages of debtors. If all of them are staff or ex-staff they are owed £686,231.The sums owed to individuals vary from a few pounds up to over £40,000 for some long-serving staff. At 21p to the £ they will receive £144,108 assuming the CVA proposal works.

Under the terms of the CVA Oddbins' directors have agreed not to take any bonus payment until 2013 and to freeze their pay (£151,000 for highest paid director according to last set of filed accounts and a total of £301,000) for 18 months and only award increases in line with RPI until beginning of 2013.

Shrinking Oddbins
2008 Oddbins: 158 shops. March 2011: 89 shops. August 2011: ?

2008 Ex Cellars: 2 shops. 2011: 4 shops.

The vote
With no apparent new investment going into the business accepting the CVA is surely only a short-term measure that may just build up further debt. Better to vote against and go into administration while there are still some assets left? It might also allow part/parts of the business to be sold as a going concern with some Oddbins jobs saved.

Updated 30th March 10.50am
It appears that the estimated pay out of 13.6p cited in the CVA proposal has now been cut to 7.5p. Does this means that Oddbins is in an even more precarious state than that portayed in the CVA or is tomorrow's vote looking tight and this reduction is to help persuade creditors to vote for the CVA?


Over the weekend I was offered the opportunity to put some qustions to Simon Baile and I duly sent them in on Monday morning. As of this evening I'm still awaiting a reply.

Please see next post for the list of questions I would want answered if I was an unfortunate Oddbins' creditor.

Over 200 entries for first Born Digital Awards

Pleased to see that these awards have taken off, attracting entries from a number of countries and hope that the entries will be of high quality. 

Press release:

'The inaugural Born Digital Wine Awards 2011 have proved an immediate success, with in excess of 200 submissions, coming from 16 different countries across the world.

The Born Digital Wine Awards (BDWA) are the brain-child of Vrazon, a company specialising in Social Media in the drinks industry and a fusion of Catavino (Ryan and Gabriella Opaz) and Thirstforwine (Robert McIntosh).

The aim of the awards is to give value to writers and videographers who are most successful at creating wine content online – it must be “born digital” to qualify – ie be published first online.  The Awards are international, with entries welcome from around the world and in any language. The criteria for entry are straightforward and the categories are as follows:

Best Investigative Wine Piece
Best Editorial Wine Writing
Best Wine Tourism Feature
Best Wine Themed Video
Best Winery Self-Produced Content

The content must have been published during 2010; the maximum for written pieces is 3,000 words and for videos, 10 minutes.  The winner of each category receives 1,000 Euros. While in future years there will be a fee to enter in order to cover administration costs, Vrazon has elected to waive this fee in the inaugural year. 

The panel of judges comprises of leading figures both in wine journalism and general publishing, renowned here in the UK and internationally:

Jancis Robinson MW
Evan Schnittman
Elin McCoy
Patrick Schmitt
Robert Joseph
Hervé Lalau

“Online publishing of wine content, whether it be it video, blogging, twitter, or one of many other platforms, is exploding right now. We feel that the combination of having such a high number of quality entries in our first year and the support of such high calibre judges shows that there is a real need to recognise wine journalism which uses different platforms,” explains Gabriella Opaz.

The short list will be announced on 1st May, with the winners being announced on 18th May on The Access Zone at the London International Wine Fair.

For further information, please contact:

Monday, 28 March 2011

Oddbins High Holborn: false alarm

Oddbins branch@3007/308 High Holborn, London WC1

When staff turned up at 9am this morning they found that their landlord's bailiffs had taken control of this Oddbins and padlocked the door. Given that Oddbins applied to go into administration on Friday and is awaiting a vote this coming Thursday on the proposed CVA, the landlord may have acted hastily and jumped the gun. Anyway some six hours later the shop was open again, although it is clear that they are struggling with a lack of stock. The shop, however, looks better stocked than the Dulwich Village branch.

Oops! Companies House issued a First Gazette against Ex Cellar Ltd for failing to file documents on time. The necessary documents were duly filed and the company dissolution notice withdrawn. Ex Cellar Ltd is the company that owns the four Ex Cellar wine merchant branches and is a separate company from Ex Cellars Investments Ltd.

Good post from Château Bauduc in Bordeaux about their neighbour's hit for £120,000 in the Oddbins debacle.

Bernard Baudry and Jean-Marie Renvoisé: some good reading

Matthieu Baudry of Domaine Bernard Baudry

Two recent posts on Loire producers – firstly by Dr Vino (Tyler Colman) on Domaine Baudry and then on Bertrand Celce's wine terroirs on Jean-Marie Renvoisé of Jasnières.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

2010 Pineau d'Aunis Rosé, Jean-Marc Villemaine

2010 Pineau d'Aunis Rosé, Jean-Marc Villemaine, Thesée

Delicate. lightly spicy Pineau d'Aunis Rosé is something of a speciality in eastern Touraine. Often the grapes are pressed very soon after they picked with little or no maceration on the skins giving a delicate pale pink colour. This 2010 example from Jean-Marc Villemaine in Thesée in the Cher Valley, where he has some 20 hectares, was sent to me by Charles Hawkins & Partners Ltd. This is certainly an attractive, easy drinking rosé ideal for spring and summer apéros.

Unfortunately pure Pineau d'Aunis will soon not be entitled to the Touraine appellation. Under the proposed vinously illiterate reforms Touraine rosé will have to be a blend. Utterly idiotic when Pineau d'Aunis works here so well as a light, refreshing and distinctive rosé and there is both an established tradition and a market for these wines.

Across the Layon to Château du Breuil

Looking across the Layon Valley northwards towards Château du Breuil (white building on top of ridge)

Clocks forward an hour – a reminder

A reminder that the clocks in Europe, at least, went forward an hour early this morning. The photo is of the clock of the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, Suth London, which incidentally is still on the old time. Pic was taken from about 350 yards away with Canon's PowerShot 210 IS, which has a remarkable zoom for a small, slim camera.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

2011 Sauvignon Blanc Ambassadors

L–R: Lucy Clements, Charles Metcalfe, Christine Parkinson, Tim Atkin MW, Cat Lomax, Sam Harrop, Jonathan Butt

Here is the list of the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Ambassadors selected in London on 16th-17th March from those domaines involved in the Sauvignon Blanc project. I understand that that the Cabernet Franc project is no longer running.

Appellation Touraine
Domaine Joël Delaunay  41110 Pouillé
Château de Quincay Ante Vinum 41130 Meusnes
Domaine de L'aumonier Domaine Aumonier 41110 Couffy
Confrerie des Vignerons de Oisly et Thésée Domaine Chervignon 41700 Oisly
Domaine de Fontenay  37150 Bléré
Vignoble Gibault  41130 Meusnes
Domaine Pre Baron L'Elégante 41700 Oisly
Cellier du Beaujardin Moulin des Aigremonts 37150 Bléré
Confrerie des Vignerons de Oisly et Thesée Vallée des Rois 41700 Oisly
Domaine Beauséjour Les Grenettes 41140 Noyers sur Cher
Domaine des Pierrettes Element Terre 41150 Rilly sur Loire
Domaine Mesliand la Pindorgerie 37530 Limeray
Domaine Guy Allion  41140 Thésée
Domaine des Souterrains  41130 Chatillon sur Cher
Vignoble des Vendeignes  41700 Oisly
SA Bougrier Famille Bougrier 41400 St Georges sur Cher
Jean-Christophe Mandard Cépage Sauvignon 41110 Mareuil sur Cher
SAS Pierre Chainier Première 37400 Amboise
SA Paul Buisse Cristal Buisse 41400 Montrichard
Alpha Loire Domaine Roche de Lune 37400 Amboise
Domaine de Cray  37400 Lussault sur loire

SCEA Rethore Davy  49110 St Rémy en Mauges
Sarl Les Vins Henry Brochard Les Carisannes 18300 Sancerre
Cave de La Cresle Le Bouquet 18300 Saint Satur 
Sa Bougrier  41400 St Georges sur Cher
SCEV Cogne Claude  49270 St Christophe la Couperie
Ampelidae Marigny Neuf 86 380 Marigny Brizay
SA Bougrier Abbesse de Loire 41400 St Georges sur Cher

Liste des ambassadeurs, millésime 2010

The tasting panel headed by Sam Harrop MW:
Charles Metcalfe, journaliste
Christine Parkinson, acheteuse des restaurants « Hakassan »
Cat Lomax, acheteuse pour Direct Wines
Lucy Clements, oenologue pour Sainsbury's
Jonathan Butt, importateur, ex acheteur off trade.
Tim Atkin, journaliste

Sauvignon Blanc de Loire Project in a nutshell

Sauvignon Blanc de Loire Project is a technical and commercial project carried out by a group of Loire producers, of both AOC and Vins de Pays Sauvignon Blanc wines from the Touraine region in the Loire Valley.  The Project is managed by a local oenological technical team, and has employed Sam Harrop MW as its international consultant, following the success of his intervention in the Cabernet Franc project. The main purpose of this project is to give a stronger identification to Sauvignon Blanc de Loire - to increase the region’s image in order to increase the perception and value of its wines.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc arriving@a winery


Friday, 25 March 2011

Comments from Westbury Communications who handle PR for Oddbins

Following my post ( I received the following comments from Westbury:

The stock in Oddbins is severely depleted as they have not been able to buy any new stock since January. If the CVA is approved then this will change.

Deloittes has ratified the CVA proposal on the basis that the core business left after the restructure has a solid footing. The 89 shops remaining were all significantly profitable up until stock became tight – shops that have been closed may just have been in the wrong area or also suffer from high rates. The CVA, if approved, also allows Simon to deal with some of the issues which form the basis of the high court claim Oddbins has against Nicolas. It also seems that Oddbins has met every payment due for the deferred consideration but Nicolas owes Oddbins £1.4m pounds under the indemnities.

If the CVA goes through, the business should be able to gradually re-attain the footing it had in the summer of 2010 whereby the footfall had increased and the average transaction price had gone up 4.4% over previous year. The main suppliers are supporting the cva. Several analysts (not Oddbins) have said that, although we cannot second guess them, the HMRC, who are owed 8.4m, are likely to ratify the cva rather than see all Oddbins employees without work, and the landlords are facing a grim prospect as the retail high street is not currently buoyant.

I hope that gives you a bit of a snapshot. I apologise that we have not spoken in detail to wine writers – it was always our intention to do so. However, a leak three weeks ago has meant that we have been dealing on a daily basis with huge media interest from tv and radio as well as all the nationals and major regionals. This was during the time the strategic review was going on and the CVA had yet to be announced so it has been a huge balancing act of responding fairly to media enquiries without jeopardising staff and supplier relationships.

In response I asked Westbury: A crucial question is on what terms will suppliers continue to sell wine to Oddbins following agreement on the CVA? Will small to medium sized producers want cash up front to avoid racking up further potential losses?’

Westbury's response
It will be cash on delivery.*
The stores that remain are ‘significantly profitable’ and Oddbins was trading successfully in these stores until late last year – the figures for the first half of last year show increased footfall and an increased average price per transactions. The company has 3.5 million customers. The strategic review has involved considerable external expertise and the future of the business, on the basis that a significant amount of base cost has been shaved off, is considered to be on a solid footing.

An extra point that has been missed in a lot of the reporting is that creditors will receive 21p in the pound, plus 50% of any potential outcome of the court case with Nicolas. The claim is in the High Court (Queen’s Bench) and has been brought by Oddbins against Nicolas – it is pretty extensive and covers many areas, most of which have affected Oddbins' ability to restructure the business and trade successfully. Simon is bound by confidentiality so is unable to talk in any detail.

See post on Oddbins in administration.

* As suppliers will be wanting cash on delivery, will HMRC (UK tax authorities) who are owed £8.6 million also want duty and tax paid on the nail?

Oddbins applies for administration

Oddbins applies for administration

Oddbins has applied to go into administration to protect it from creditors applying for winding up orders.

Going into administration gives Oddbins ten days of protection from its creditors. The company voluntary arrangement (CVA) put together by Deloitte will be voted on at a meeting in London on Thursday 31 March.

British Gas, which is owed £57.65, is known to have issued a winding up order. It is not known if they are the only creditor to issue a winding up order.

A spokesperson for Oddbins told ‘It is a precautionary measure to allow the CVA to go through'

'The application gives Oddbins a moratorium over any claims of 10 days and the CVA vote is on 31st March. These creditors will be bound by the terms of the CVA although they can appeal if they feel the situation is unjust.’ understands that Oddbins became aware of the claim by British Gas last night, and had initially believed claims could not be processed once a CVA had been announced.

Although the British Gas winding up order may possibly have been generated by a computer controlled account it doesn’t explain how British Gas could have applied for a winding up order on a debt of just £57.65 as a debt has to be £750 or more to be eligible to issue one. Late flash: explanation is that the amount listed as owed to British Gas excludes estimates.

Presumably there must be other creditors who have opted for winding up orders.

See also: 'Suppliers being 'asked to fund Oddbins rescue' Graham Holter in Harpers Wine & Spirit

Oddbins: traffic passing them by? Tom Cannavan's poll

As I have already mentioned in a previous post Tom Cannavan has been running an interesting poll – Do you shop in Oddbins stores? – on his wine pages this week.

Results so far:

No - I could, but tend not to:  60% (140 Votes)

Yes, occasionally:  21.4% (50 Votes)

No - only because there are no stores near me:  14.1% (33 Votes)

Yes, frequently: 3.8% (9 Votes)

Not in stores, but I shop with them online: 0.4% (1 Votes)
As Tom explains: 'wine-pages polls are for fun - they are not meant to be rigorous scientific research. They do, however, offer an insight into the wine attitudes of our visitors.'

Accepting Tom's caveats that this is not a scientific poll, it does offer a pretty grisly insight into the problems facing Oddbins. If Oddbins is to survive it has to attract wine-page devotees or their like. 

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Luc Charlier: no need for the ear trumpet!

I'm delighted to post a recent photo of Luc Charlier demonstrating that the ear trumpet is surplus to requirements. I have no doubt that the bottle of rare malt whisky from Ian Macleod Distillers' The Chieftain range played its part. As well as being the proprietor of Domaine de la Coume Majou in the Roussillon, Luc is doing to wine blog comments what Charlie Parker did for jazz music in the 1940s.

Oddbins@Dulwich Village – emptying shelves

A sign of the times – but for how long?

Shadows gather over Oddbins

I took a walk down to the Oddbins branch in Dulwich Village yesterday. In Oddbins' glory days the shop was busy and full of interesting wines. Yesterday was a sad contrast with just one person in a shop with little stock. What little stock there was had been creatively stretched to make it look as if most of the shelves had bottles on them with some wooden cases – empty? – used to cover up the remaining shelves. Walking around it was strangely echoey – reflecting its essential near emptiness. To be fair this shop was not as empty as the Unwins stores were just before the closure but Oddbins seems to be clearly heading that way.

From a recent report on it seems that the CVA will be approved on 31st March but I fear that this is just going to stave off briefly the inevitable administration. Gone within six months perhaps?

Oddbins@Dulwich Village

Loire Chenin Blanc from Bougrier who are owed £27,439

See here and here for earlier posts on Oddbins plight.

See also Leon Stolarski:

Les vins de Saint-Pourçain fêtent le printemps: 16th April

Vines and the town of Saint-Pourçain (pic from press release)

If you are in the Saint-Pourçain area on Saturday 16th April there's an opportunity to meet the producers and taste their wines at a wine fair in the centre of the town.

The press release:
 'SAINT-POURCAIN S/SIOULE  (Allier) - Les vins de Saint-Pourçain font leur printemps. Grâce à une nouvelle formule festive élaborée par le syndicat des viticulteurs, les vignerons indépendants et coopérateurs veulent faire découvrir leurs cuvées AOC le 16 avril. Une occasion pour le public de faire connaissance avec cette jeune appellation qui possède la fraîcheur des beaux jours. Présentation.

Exit la foire des vins, place au « printemps du Saint-Pourçain ». Telle est la nouvelle formule que les vignerons ont retenu pour présenter leur cuvée le 16 avril prochain. Une manifestation plus tardive dans l’année certes mais pour offrir une dégustation  de plus grande qualité. « Autrefois, il fallait attendre que les vins aient  "fait leurs pâques " avant d'être dégustés, que les froids et gelées d'hiver assurent la finition des vins. Finalement on revient aux coutumes et usages de l'élevage des vins avec patience »  explique Jean Michel Ferrier, président.

Il est vrai les vignerons ont unanimement plébiscité cette période printanière car la plupart des vins sont arrivés à maturité et peuvent donc s’apprécier pleinement. Motivés par l’AOC obtenu en 2009, ils veulent aussi faire souffler un vent de nouveauté et innover en matière de rencontres avec les consommateurs.

Le matin, dès 9h, le concours général des vins sera organisé afin de primer le millésime 2010 et les antérieurs. Les résultats seront proclamés en fin de matinée, en plein air, en présence des confréries.

Toute la journée, amateurs et passionnés, touristes et gens du pays pourront prendre le temps de rencontrer les professionnels du vin, de vivre et goûter à ce terroir où la notion de gourmandise est érigée en valeur. Une journée qui sera clôturée par un repas composé de produits régionaux et de Saint-Pourçain à déguster  bien sûr avec modération, mais conviction.'

Wines of Saint-Pourçain website

Some producers:

Corinne Laurent

Julien Nebout

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Dulwich Park – great early Spring day

2011 Magnolia

Glorious Spring day in London, so I took a walk through Dulwich Park to the Oddbins branch, which is in Dulwich Village. Oddbins pics to be posted tomorrow but here are two from the park.

Daffs and the park

1964 Saumur Blanc, Clos de l'Abbaye

Here is proof, if it were needed, that dry Loire Chenin Blanc ages wonderfully well. Although it is unlikely to last as long as the sweet wines, well made wines can last decades. On Sunday I opened this 1964 Saumur from the late Henri Aupy's Clos de l'Abbaye on the northern edge of Le Puy Notre Dame. Henri Aupy established the domaine in 1962. His 1964 is now mid-gold with a touch of aged maderisation along with dry honey on the nose. This touch of maderisation adds extra complexity to this still quite austere wine preserved by its backbone of vibrant acidity. No reason to doubt that this 1964 will last at least another decade or two. The weak point is likely to prove to be the cork.

I was born in 1964 ....

The domaine is now run by Henri's son, Jean-François. I visited the domaine on at least a couple of occasions during the 1990s but haven't been back for years. Not a criticism of the wines but a question of time. I must try and go back.

Henri Aupy was one of the architects of the recently recognised (October 2009) AC Saumur Le Puy Notre Dame, which is for red wines only. Aupy started the campaign in 1975. Whether he envisaged that the new appellation would cover not just Le Puy Notre Dame but 16 other communes as well is another matter.

Oddbins: do you shop there?

Tom Cannavan: assured Scottish TV star and golden eagle handler

Tom Cannavan is running a very interesting poll on his wine pages site on who shops in Oddbins.

Vote here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Salon des Vins de la Vallée du Loir du 07/05/2011 au 08/05/2011

Jasnières: vines and sunflowers

Salon des Vins de la Vallée du Loir

Pour la 7ème année, les vignerons de Jasnières et Coteaux du Loir tiennent salon au centre-ville du Mans. Ils sont 20 vignerons de la vallée du Loir à venir à la rencontre du grand-public.

Au programme : informations touristiques et dégustation du millésime 2010 bien sûr !

Lieu: Le Mans. The 2010 edition was in La Place du Jet d’Eau, so I assume the 2011 edition will be too.
Renseignements :
Antenne viticole
02 43 44 00 72

Foire aux vins d'Amboise du 23/04/2011 au 25/04/2011

2009 Foire aux vins d'Amboise

Dans les caves du magnifique château d'Amboise, dans un cadre chaleureux, venez goûter les vins de l'appellation Touraine Amboise et les produits du terroir tourangeau.
Une vingtaine de producteurs vous font découvrir leurs différents millésimes.
A l'extérieur, des artisans, métiers de bouche et restaurateurs vous font également découvrir leur savoir-faire.

Lieu :

Renseignements :
Serge Bonnigal
02 47 30 11 02

Antoine Simoneau: portes ouvertes le dimanche 17 avril

Winery shop@Antoine Simoneau

'Dégusterz nos vins dans une ambiance champêtre, pique-nique dans les vignes, marché paysan, découverte du vignoble en calèche.'

Le dimanche le 17 avril 9h-19h.

20 Rue des Vendanges, 41400 Saint Georges sur Cher

Monday, 21 March 2011

Yannick Amirault: the Loire star@Thorman Hunt

Although further confirmation wasn't really required the six wines from Yannick Amirault shown at last week's Thorman Hunt tasting demonstrated once again the quality of these wines and that Yannick is one of the Loire's top wine producers. Unfortunately Yannick wasn't over this year for the tasting but his wines spoke for him.

2008 Les Quartiers, Bourgueil
There were three wines from each appellation starting with the 2008 Les Quartiers Bourgueil (£11.17 ex VAT) with soft, juicy fruit. From vines planted on clay and limestone this is delicious to drink now. The silky and charming 2008 La Coudraye (£8.67 ex VAT) has a little more structure with a slightly longer finish. La Coudraye comes from vines planted on clay-flint and sand.

2008 Le Grand Clos, Bourgueil

Certainly the most concentrated and structured of the three Bourgueils from clay and flint vineyards on the limestone coteau. Although it can be drunk now especially if decanted in advance, Le Grand Clos (£11.50 ex VAT) would be best cellared for another three or four years.

On to the Saint-Nicolas with the youthful 2009 La Source (£9.17 ex VAT) with its aromas of violets and flavours a mix of sweet red and black fruits from vines planted on sand and gravel. Next was the 2008 La Mine (£10.63), which is more edgy and less opulent than the 2008 Bourgueils. It may just need some more time. Then back to the 2009 Malgagnes (showing all the rich, opulent, silky fruit usually associated with the 2009 vintage. This comes from vines on clay and flint on the limestone coteaux. Some of the vines here were planted in 1936 with the rest being planted in 1973 and 1994. 

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Walnut press from 1870

La Nouvelle République reports on a demonstration last weekend in Chenillé of a restored walnut press from 1870:

'Les amoureux du patrimoine et des produits du terroir sont venus le week-end dernier rencontrer les bénévoles de la Poule Couasse qui faisaient gratuitement des démonstrations de fabrication d'huile de noix : les cerneaux étant écrasés et broyés sous une meule pour obtenir une pâte épaisse puis cuits doucement dans un chaudron chauffé au bois, avant d'être pressés. Les visiteurs ont ainsi pu admirer la superbe presse des années 1870 mais aussi la machine à vapeur qui entraînait toute l'huilerie et dont le sifflet a retenti plusieurs fois dans la campagne environnante.'

Read the rest here.

The production of walnut oil has a long tradition in the Loire, although most of the production tends to be in the eastern part of the valley, particularly in the Berry. 

A pheasant Sunday morning

Hen pheasant close by the house this morning – content to sit in the sun and clean herself.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Hawkhurst views inc Sponden Lane

View over orchard towards walled garden St Ronan's

Some views around Hawkhurst, Kent. Photos taken early this morning with a mixture of sunshine and mist.

Orchard, walled garden and glimpse of St Ronan's

Mist and St Ronan's

Old Tudor house in Sponden Lane

Lovely old gate@above property