Thursday, January 24, 2013
When I moved to London, an American friend told me that I needed to do three things: live in Hampstead, shop at Borough Market, and drink wine at Vinopolis. The first two were accomplished in weeks, but the last eluded me for years.
Last month I finally got a chance to visit Vinopolis. As it turns out, I waited so long to go there that the place went through an extensive renovation in the interim. When it was finished, I was invited to take a tour. The concept was simple: teach people about wine tasting and then let them do it.
I arrived with a friend and entered a screening room where we watched a video about Vinopolis and each of its tasting rooms. From red to white, Champagne to spirits, the offerings covered all of the grapes and most of the globe.
After the screening, our guide led us through a wine tasting, pointing out important factors like smell, color, and—of course—taste. She then took us on a short tour of Vinopolis, from a large room with information about the winemaking process to areas with stations for different kinds of wines. There was even a Champagne room.
At the end of the tour, we were shown a special room with a rotating featured wine. When our guide left us, we started there and tried a selection of Georgian wines. The one I had was distinct in flavor and tasted heavy like ripe apples. From there we moved into the white wine room, where we sampled light, bright Sauvignon Blancs, and then to the red room, where we drank jammy Pinot Noirs and velvety Cabernet Sauvignons.
After that we went to the dessert wine corner, where we sipped a sweet Sancerre. From there we proceeded to the cafe, where special mulled wine and mince pies were offered to all guests in honor of the Christmas season. It was a nice way to finish off the evening.
The experience at Vinopolis was positive on the whole, despite a rather rude staff member who snapped at us when one of the bottles we tried to get a taste from was empty. The wines were generally good, the presentation was informative, and the evening was entertaining.
But the best part about Vinopolis was that despite being housed in an old Victorian warehouse, the place was all about the new. Technology. There was an interactive touch-screen with a quiz to find out what kind of wines best matched our culinary preferences, and smart cards that we touched to a sensor to produce each of our tastings. The combination of wine and tech made my Californian heart feel right at home. No wonder my friend told me to go there.