Oddbins is championing German Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Viognier, Hungarian reds and other quirky wines as it aims to broaden the nation’s vinous horizons.

The retailer has launched a scheme called The Odyssey, which targets shoppers with three mystery boxes – Enthusiast (£25), Adventurer (£35) and Trailblazer (£45) – each containing three bottles.

Buyer Ana Sapungiu MW told DRN: “They are handpicked by us buyers, with the idea of pushing the boundaries in terms of styles.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about the range. We really put our necks on the line as buyers. I don’t know if people would go into the store and buy a Hungarian red or a Sauvignon Blanc from Germany or a Viognier from Spain. It’s trying to get them to try new things.”

The boxes will change on a regular basis, but the initial Enthusiast pack features a Shiraz/Merlot blend from South Africa, a Romanian Pinot Noir and a Spanish Viognier.

The first Adventurer box contains a Côtes du Rhône white, a Hungarian red and a German Sauvignon Blanc, while the first Trailblazer pack includes a Grenache from the south of France, a German Riesling and a Pinot Noir from New Zealand.

“There are no mainstream wines,” said Sapungiu. “We try to educate. There are personalised tasting notes from us and you get 10% off the retail price. That encourages people to buy three bottles when they have no idea what it is. If they don’t like it they can bring it back.”

There are now 48 Oddbins stores and the average selling price has risen to around £10 per bottle. The buying team said wine sales are up 8%, but the £30 and above fine wine segment has grown by 35% in the past year.

“There’s a clear demand for those wines, but we have to be commercially attractive too,” said Sapungiu.

Odbbins has focused on Australia and California this year in the wake of harvest pressures in various European regions.

Sapungiu said: “In Adelaide Hills and Yarra I found the most innovation in grape varieties, pushing the boundaries of style and packaging. They have stopped worrying about making a more European style and they are just staying true to Australia. Some of the winemakers come over and visit the stores. That reminds people of the characters behind the wine.”

While Sapungiu was Down Under, fellow buyer Jenny Smith went to California and found plenty of middle-tier gems. 

“With California in the UK it’s all super-premium or Gallo, and nothing’s reflecting what California is doing,” she said. “It’s high residual sugar reds, such as Apothic and Dark Horse. Our new Californian wines start at £11.50, which is difficult to get from California, and go up. There’s a chunky sub-£20 sector.

“Fine wine has grown quite a bit. We wouldn’t have looked at a £60 Napa a few years ago, but we can now.”

Natural wine is also a focus for Oddbins and the buyers have travelled across the country to train store staff on the movement.

“The people in store are really excited about it,” said Sapungiu. “You have to listen to them. They know what customers want. Customers who like natural wine are more quirky gin and craft beer customers, and we attract them, so it’s a natural fit.”