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Wine, wine everywhere - and all of it you can drink!
Member Name: lakeyboy
Advantages: Very informative, strong varierty of wines, highly educational
Disadvantages: Not for everyone, if you don't like wine it's a waste of time
First: the boring, informative part. I recently visited Vinopolis in a party of six, each of us paying £27.50 to do the 'Spirit of Vinopolis' tour, which allowed us to taste five wines (six if you include the one in the tutorial), three rums, two beers, two whiskeys, two absinthes and a Bombay Sapphire gin cocktail. You can buy stamps for extra drinks on your way around, but we found this was more than enough.
The booking procedure was very simple and straightforward and the place itself is dead easy to find - a simple stroll through Borough Market after alighting at London Bridge will take you straight there. I booked on the web site, and accidentally booked twice. The money was very quickly refunded to me. Top marks for this.
We were on the first 'tour' of the day (11am), which kicked off with a very friendly wine expert conducting a quick 15-minute session on 'how to taste wine'. I'm not wine buff so I found this very informative, and very well structured. We were also given tasting notebooks to jot down any observations on the wine we sampled, which I thought was a nice touch.
From here, it's into the 'tour', which I have put in parenthesis because it is not a tour in the traditional, guided sense, but one that you undertake yourself. You can taste wines from all around the world, including some from unexpected corners of the globe - when we were there, red wines from Lebanon and Thailand were on offer. Each bottle has a tag which tells you the flavours you should be spotting if you paid attention during the tutorial! This provided a bit of entertainment among our group, and certainly separated the experts from the greenhorns.
Each section has exhibits from that particular drink's history, plus the kind of informative and entertaining snapshots of information you would see in a museum. Did you know, for example, that port became popular in England because the war with France reduced the availability of red wine, and that the standard of freely-imported Portuguese wine was so low that it was necessary to 'fortify' it with brandy?
The whiskey table was pretty good as the two selections were polar opposites on the 'taste table' and neatly illustrated the wide range of flavours within that particular drink. The differences between the two absinthes were harder to make out, but the exhibit was still worthwhile, providing as it did some interesting information on the 'green fairy'.
We completed our tour with a Bombay Sapphire cocktail - there are three to choose from, I opted for the coconut-based one, which tasted just like a pina colada - in the futuristic gin lounge.
There was a wine shop attached to the building but we did not visit this. Presumably this is where you can purchase any wines you have enjoyed on the tour.
All in all, I would heartily recommend a trip to Vinopolis, but I would say the tour we did was quite 'heavy' and left us all slightly on the tipsy side once it had been completed. There is something for everyone but this venue is best suited for wine lovers, and I don't think it has any pretensions that it is aimed at any audience but that.
Summary: History and fine wine - what more could you want?
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