Written on: 08/12/2009 by degbert (120 reviews written)
Vinopolis is the wine tasting 'event' everyone should go on. Its well-presented location near London Bridge tube has a smart, cosmopolitan appeal and doubtlessly favours the urban yuppie types that it is clearly targeting.
However there is function behind the good form, and the staff, the guides and the self-guide tour rooms, not to mention the wine itself, do a pretty top rate job of presenting the world of viticulture and wine tasting to the novice and intermediate alike. I think you might feel a little patronized if you have a more in-depth knowledge though, so keep that in mind.
The tasting itself depends on the package you buy, but a standard ticket gets you a good handful of half decent different tasters (a minimal but sufficient drop of each), plus you can get the option of sampling a couple of fine wines too. Worth a couple of quid for sure.
You also have the option of a cocktail sample, a rum tasting, a whisky tasting, even absynthe if you are mad enough. But these are clearly bolt-ons and feel slighly incongruous, turning the whole thing into a bit of a drinkathon. They even offer beer tasting, but with only two varieties on offer it seems like an appendage to a bolt on and utterly pointless (though I was grateful for a smooth bitter after a rasping, searing single malt).
What put me off a little was that a clearly knowledgeable tour guide struggled even with basic English vocabulary, which I think was made worse by so much background noise (piped musak, people wheeling trolleys through the guide rooms, staff chatting off to one side) making the whole thing too troubling to focus the ear on to make it enjoyable. Doubtlessly well versed in all aspects of the industry, the guide struggled with even rudimentary adjectives and being heard above the din; it was still difficult to ascertain even some of the grapes being was described due to the distractions. What a pity.
Secondly, the choice of wines on offer - well ok this is subjective in the extreme - to me did not provide a suitable cross-section. New World got a bit of a battering in terms of 'reputation', yet there was nothing from the Loire Valley save I think a passing reference to Chenin Blanc. I'm sure a little further up the river they'd be beside themselves. Similarly, an entire 'room' is devoted to Beaujolais, a truly celebrated area, and yet the only Burgundy Red was a forgettable Pinot Noir; a grape which seemed to command an unrepresentatively high fraction of what was on offer. Finally the real stinker was - even in the guide's own words - one of "the most popular" grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, I think was demonstrated by one South African and one Chilean example. I'm sure they were nice, but nothing from France, Australia or New Zealand? Surely an oversight. Finally, no mention of Semillon (or the Hunter Valley) aside one blend... shame. Elsewhere some great little tastes on offer... a couple of belters from Italy and a great Reisling.
So, a few missing elements for me, and some work to do to make it a truly authentic experience, but still a highly enjoyable way to spend the day and something I would recommend to anyone.
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