* Prices may differ from that shown
Oddbins are a chain of Off Licences that can be found across the country and they are a great place to buy a range of wines and alcohol as theyare specialists in this field and generally the stores I have been to are large with a big choice, unfortunately the big one in Northampton has either closed or moved location recently as it has disappeared from its original location.
This is a shame as I used to find the service to be really good as they had some knowledgable staff in the store, now I'm a bit of a wine heathen so it was always useful to be able to get some advice and they were particularly good in my local store at recommending something different to try based upon what you usually purchase.
They have an excellent range and the prices do vary, I do not find them as cheap as the supermarkets can be but they have a much wider range to choose from and I guess in a way you are paying for the knowledge and advice they have over some shelf stacker in Tesco.
If you do have one local then they aredefinitely worth checking out as they have a good range and also sell other alcoholic drinks and some confectionary.
I must admit that a few months ago, I had no idea that there was a wine chain called Oddbins. I found out about them after meeting my girlfriend, whose dad used to manage one of the big stores. I since rely on them if I ever have to buy luxury wines as presents, because they have unparalleled customer service and aren't as elitist and snobbish as so many of these stores tend to be.
What's most impressive when you enter the store is that, given the generally small store space, the have a LOT of different types of wine. I am in no way a man with refined wine tastes, so I generally will ask the staff to help me pick one out, and in my experience they are very polite and helpful, offering up a mid-range and more expensive choice and then helping you pick one of the two. Also, they offer free gift wrapping upon request, which looks lovely and really helps it presentation-wise if you're taking one to a wedding (as I did) or a party.
Despite stocking plenty of specialist ranges and offering great deals for bundle buyers, Oddbins are very welcoming to wine newbies, unlike another wine emporium I can think of *cough* Majestic *cough* who don't even allow you to buy single bottles - you have to buy six at a time! Also, they are one of the few shops I know to offer zero hour work, wherein you aren't officially contracted and they can just call you up to see if you want to work. Just pop in and ask!
Sadly, though, the recession has hit them quite hard and some of the bigger branches have been shutting recently. I totally get why people use supermarkets more, but it's a shame given how personal the service feels.
I did want to write a specific review of an oddbin store as they all vary, but this is based on my experiences of the OddBins at Headingly, Leeds and on Abbydale Rd in Sheffield.
*Why didn't you write this in the oddbins online?*
Well because Oddbins stores offer a compeletly different (and in my opion better) service than online. Unlike many shops where it doesn't appear to matter which one you shopped at. I would use online if I was in a rush and knew what I wanted. Or wanted to send a case of wine somewhere else. The actual shop, however is nothing like the online store as it has one important difference: People.
*What's so good about the people?*
What sets Odd Bins apart from other offlicences/wine shops is their knowledge. Yes everyone can be friendly or go around their shop and read the labels, but at Oddbins they really know what they are talking about, and not just the managers. I will give you some examples. Firstly in Headingly, Leeds. I think the manager is the tall skinny Australian chap. He is always so friendly and holds regular wine tasting at the weekend so you can trip before you buy. He will always say hello and doesn't mind when we just go in to browse (I love good wines, but can't afford them :(.
On one particular occasion I went in on a cold winters day and told him that I was after a hearty warming red. He suggested that I might want to try a Chillian Syrah. He showed me different wines in different price ranges and even pointed out the ones on special. In the end he helped me choose one which I addored and subsequently bought a case of.
Another time I went in and asked the assistant if they had any tequila. They had sold out but he reccomended a competitor just up the road. (Shops always get a big plus from me when they do this). He was also the same assistant which helped me select a port for under £10 which was ready to drink now. Like I said these people know what they are talking about.
I also had positive experiences at the Abbydale Rd shop, where I asked for a summer red and the guy helped pick out tasters (all bottels under £8), which were all nice, although I have discovered that I don't like cold reds.
*What's there range like?*
They mainly deal in wines and champaigns, which includes ports and fortified wines. This is where their expertise lie. Both of these stores also do good beer (Eg. they have the original budwiser). And I think the Headingly one also has some largers (due to the demographic). The headingly one also has a small selection of spirits and cigars.
*What are there prices like?*
These are specialised wine places, and I have never picked up a horrible wine from them, some I don't like but you can tell when it is due to your taste or due to a bad quality. With that in mind don't be shocked when you won't find a wine for under £5. With some getting very pricy and they also stock vintage champagins. The majority of their wines are under £10, so a good place to go if you have the money or need something special. They also do a special mixed dozen where you get 20% off the total, not too shabby. And they advertise the prices per bottle and as part of a mixed dozen so you don't have to go around doing sums in your head.
*What is the range like?*
Very good. They stock all of the major new countries and old ones. EG. Aus, NZ, S. Africa, France, Italy, Chile... etc). I havn't found any English ones, but I was shopping in the North and the english vineyards are in the south. They also appear only to do the bigger vineyards so if there is a specific one then it probably pays to go their your self. They also import a good deal of it them selves, which helps keep the prices down by cutting out middel men.
*What's your problems with them?*
Differences. As the shops are managed individually then your favorite wine may not be avalible in another one. They would probably order in a large volume for you, but not for anything less than a case.
Also I do think they are a little pricy as compared to places like Sainsbury's, but then on some wines they can't be compared.