Newest Review: ... is possibly quite early for drinking! As we waited for our tasting session we were able to take in many of the signs and charts aroun... more
A paradise for wine lovers!
Vinopolis - City of Wine (London)
Member Name: Wickedinrock
Vinopolis - City of Wine (London)
Advantages: Fun night out, great for parties and big group outings, variety and quantity of wines
Disadvantages: Can be expensive
Being the flakey person that I am, there is always the chance that I will spend lots of money on something to decide a week later than I'm not interested anymore so for this reason decided that a wine tasting course was probably not the best option. I've heard lots of people talk about Vinopolis, a wine tasting experience down near London Bridge so decided to look into it as a taster.
=== Booking Vinopolis ===
I always book online if I'm given the chance as it's much easier than in person or holding on the telephone and it's often cheaper. This is certainly the case with Vinopolis as there is also the option of buying an off peak ticket online which is £5 cheaper than the regular price (the only restriction is that you can't use it on a Saturday). There are four main wine tasting tours available which all include
- "how to taste wine" session
- 6 wine tastings of your choice
- a Bombay Sapphire cocktail
- a tasting notebook to write down any comments.
"Vinopolis Grapevine" £26 (£21 off peak): the basic tour including all of the above.
"Vinopolis Vineyard" £31 (£26 off peak): all of the above plus three extra premium wine tastings.
"Spirit of Vinopolis" £33.50 (£28.50 off peak): all of the above plus two rum tastings, two beer tastings, two whisky tastings and two absinthe tastings.
"Vinopolis Celebration" £38.50 (£33.50 off peak): all of the above plus three extra premium wine tastings, two whisky tastings, two beer tastings and three Champagne tastings.
=== Our experience at Vinopolis ===
As complete novices to the art of wine tasting we decided on the basic Vinopolis Grapevine tour as we knew we would have the option to purchase further wine tasting vouchers on the night. I booked us in for 6.00 p.m. on a Thursday night after work so we turned up on time and walked in to the reception where we handed in our booking form in and were each given a tasting notebook. We were then handed a piece of card which contained our vouchers, including 6 wine tasting tokens, a 'how to taste wine session and free Bombay Sapphire cocktail. The receptionist pointed us towards the very quiet entrance where we could wait for the 'how to taste wine' session with one of their experts. I thought it was a little strange that there didn't seem to be many people around but 6.00 p.m. is possibly quite early for drinking!
As we waited for our tasting session we were able to take in many of the signs and charts around us containing information on the origins of different wines and the countries in which they were produced. There were around six people waiting and as the group ahead finished they immediately ushered us through for our own session. We were given a small glass of white wine as we entered the small theatre type area which in fact was around 6 large steps with cushions to sit on! Our wine tasting expert was very camp and over the top as he took a glass of the same wine and proceeded to talk to us about the colour, smell and taste of the wine. We must have looked hilarious sticking our noses right into the glass and slurping it between our teeth to really take in the aroma and taste. Apparently you need to take a huge sniff with your nose right in to be able to identify wines and to take in the taste fully an unpleasant slurpy noise as you suck the wine between your teeth is necessary! I can just see myself doing that in a nice restaurant next time I'm asked to taste the wine!
From there we made our way into the main wine tasting area which is divided by sections which represent the main wine producing regions of the world. Within these rooms the wines are divided by country and there is a description alongside every wine describing where it comes from, the grapes used to produce it, the year and alcohol volume. The wine tables are set up like a bar with a waiter for each section to advise on wines, answer any questions and pour any that you would like to taste. As I have little to no knowledge of wine other than I order the standard "house white, please" I took the opportunity to ask a few questions and to ask for advice on which to taste. The first table I went to was one of the quieter ones with fewer people stood round where I was recommended an easy drinking Greek wine. It was quite average so I decided that the others in the room probably knew that Greek wine wasn't the best! I wandered into 'Brazil' where I told the bar man that my favourite wine was sparkling wine. He gave me a sparkling Chardonnay which was much nicer than the first but still nothing special. The next wine, an Argentinean Sauvignon Blanc 'Trapiche Broquel Torrontes 2009' was my favourite of the evening ( according to my tasting book I gave it 9 out of 10!)
The amount of wine served per tasting varied depending on the bar person but they were all decent sizes. I started to feel drunk after my third and the notes in my book get slightly less legible and also more brief after this point. There is absolutely no way that I could have tried more than six and my earlier ideas of purchasing more vouchers possibly for the Champagne section were quickly abandoned! Vinopolis was much busier by 7.00-8.00 p.m. and I felt there was much less opportunity to speak to the experts about the wines and instead spent more time waiting to be served while others were choosing their next wines.
When we had finished with our tasting it was time for our Bombay Sapphire cocktail in 'Bar Blue' which is conveniently located at the end of the wine tasting area. The bar was very quiet with only two other people in there, but it meant that we could go straight to the bar to choose from one of three cocktails and watch them being made. It was a nice touch at the end of the experience to sit in the bar which had bright blue and white lights - it looked like an ice bar.
=== Special Experiences at Vinopolis ===
Vinopolis would be an amazing place to host a party or go with a huge group and they are very well geared up for this sort of occasion. They offer many different deals for hen parties which are good value starting at £30 per person. The '''Vinopolis Hen Party''' package includes a Prosecco reception for all guests on arrival, a private 'how to taste wine' session, 5 wine tasting vouchers each with an extra blind tasting for the bride-to-be. Also included is a cocktail making session with a Vinopolis cocktail expert and the bride-to-be will receive Suzy Atkins' 'Girls Guide to Wine' as a memento. The experience lasts around 1.5 hours with half of that time accompanied by a wine expert. There is also the option of taking the hen party one step further with a 'Butler in the Buff' during the reception or adding beauty treats to the experience.
Vinopolis also offer celebrity wine tasting experiences including a yearly session with Oz Clarke. For £59 per person you can meet one of the world's leading wine tasting experts (or at least one of the most famous) as he focuses on of the wines he identifies in his top 250 wines for 2011 (I have the book!). His session educates everyone from novices to wine enthusiasts how to tell apart wines by appearance, smell and taste. Oz Clarke also runs a VIP session where he answers questions from the audience and all attendees will leave with an autographed signed copy of his book. The VIP session costs £99 per person.
=== Eating at Vinopolis ===
Vinopolis offer several dining experiences for guests, although I had a reservation at another restaurant later that evening so was unable to take advantage. The Cantina Vinopolis is an award winning restaurant which serves modern dishes with a Mediterranean influence. The food is quite pricey with a la carte starters around £7.95 each and mains from £11.50 to £22.50 with most towards the upper end. Their daily set menu is better value with two courses for £24.95 and three courses £29.95 per person.
Vinopolis also has two bar-restaurants in Brew Wharf and Wine Wharf which serve a huge selection of beer and wines as well as their own extensive menus. One of the offers at Vinopolis at the moment is "Tour and Tapas" where you can break up your wine-tasting experience with a tapas meal. This offer starts at £40 per person with the food served at Wine Wharf. I should also add that both Beer Wharf and Wine Wharf are a few minutes walk from Vinopolis close to Borough Market.
=== Location and details ===
Under a former railway Viaduct near London Bridge, Vinopolis is within easy access of most of London and its major train stations. London Bridge rail and underground station is only five minutes walk away from Vinopolis with Southwark, Borough, Cannon Street, Mansion House, Monument and Bank tube stations also within walking distance. Located on the south bank of the river Thames, Vinopolis is close to many of London's big attractions including Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, The Golden Hindle, London Dungeons and many restaurants and pubs which makes it one of the most vibrant areas of the city. I find that the South Bank is the perfect place to spend the evening in London. I often meet friends for a meal in one of the restaurants and have a drink in one of the pubs along the waterfront so Vinopolis is a great location for a fun night out.
Address: 1 Bank End, City of London, SE1 9BU
Tel: 020 7940 3000
=== Was it any good ===
Vinopolis by far exceeded my expectations. I assumed it would be a more interactive experience like a museum with more information to look at and activities to encourage participation but instead I found it more like an interesting bar which was more to our tastes! It was great to go early before it got busy as it meant that we were able to ask more questions of the bar staff and experts, but next time I think it would be fun to go later with a large group of friends to make it into a fun night out. I had a fantastic time and I came away with a desire to further my knowledge of wines, but am not sure that I'm more of an expert for the experience. I would recommend Vinopolis to anyone over the age of 18 but only as a fun evening out and a taster to wine testing. Anyone who really wants to further their knowledge of wines and alcohol would benefit more from a wine tasting course or a vineyard tour.
A visit to Vinopolis can be expensive, but a couple of weeks after our evening there I got an email offering 2 for 1 for my next visit. I believe offers like this come up regularly so it's worth looking out for them if you are interested!
Summary: A fantastic night out in London
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