A city chic wine tasting experience in London
I’d love to refer to myself as a bonafide wine expert, but the reality is that despite my father owning a wine business, (vision of him slapping my hand here springs to mind) I’m a little dense when it comes to identifying a snazzy bouquet. Don’t get me wrong, I love a decent bottle of plonk. Malbec is the usual, favourite tipple but generally, I tend to get distracted by the discount deals in Waitrose or whichever I deem has the most artistically striking label (cue father gasping in despair).
I’m even more hopeless when it comes to identifying flavours in wines, which as a self-confessed food fanatic, I’m at loss to understand why. I can only whittle it down to the fact I haven’t (before now) ever really tried. With every slurp of Shiraz I’m probably more immersed in singing Fleetwood Mac and dancing around my kitchen than recognizing heady accents of smoky wood (another disappointing sigh from dad).
Having said that, I wholeheartedly would love to know more about wine, if anything to make a decent choice in the supermarket, and of course to impress my friends with my fountain of wine knowledge at the next dinner soirée. So naturally, when invited to sample the wines at London’s Vinopolis, I jumped at the chance.
Tucked away beneath the railway arches of London Bridge, a not-so-secret wine tasting lair awaits eager wine enthusiasts to challenge their tasting notes, (or in my case learn from scratch) by sampling their vast selection of vintages. It’s a striking building, steeped in history and oozing character. Softly lit with a calming atmosphere, we’re more than ready to get sampling as soon as we walk through the towering glass doors.
The wine tour begins with a brief introduction, revealing expert tips on how to slurp wine. Drawing in a large gulp and really slurping around the back of the mouth releases the wine’s various flavours, so in theory, you should be able to identify some key ingredients. In truth, I found the art of slurping hard to master, culminating in an embarrassing choking fit in front of the whole class (much to my friend’s amusement). Fallen at the first hurdle. This did not bode well! Despite persevering, I couldn’t quite master the slurping technique, but I did mange to successfully identify a few key flavours, leaving me to feel less of a hopeless failure before the start of the tour.
With my student hat on, I carefully memorise the tasting notes, and how to distinguish a sweet, floral bouquet or a dry, citrus aroma. Frankly, as soon as we enter into the tasting realm, most of the student tips and notes diminish into thin air as we slurp and guzzle our way through the maze of tasting rooms. We indulge in sample after sample of Argentinian Malbec, French Bordeaux and refreshingly crisp Sancerre. With 12 tokens of samples, you can really get your teeth stuck into some delicious vintages. For those who also find it hard to identify flavours, the bottles are accompanied by in-depth descriptions to help you along the way, as well as the friendly, helpful staff who are on hand to assist throughout the whole tour.
There’s a decadent Champagne lounge, which I’d highly recommend starting the tour with, as well as a tapas station serving up olives, bread and cured meats, if you feel a little peckish along the way.
Despite my hopeless slurping attempts, and the fact that I’m still unable to identify an exceptional bottle of plonk, the whole evening was thoroughly enjoyable. With a great selection of delicious wines to sample, you’d be hard pushed not to have a good time, but the beautiful surroundings and eager wine aficionados just add to the whole experience. Whether you’re a total wine buff or complete novice, Vinopolis will add the fun factor to an evening of unashamed wine guzzling.
Vinopolis is located at No.1 Bank End, London, SE1 9BU. Packages range from £32 – £42 with the option of 7, 12 or 16 tokens. For further information and bookings visit: vinopolis.co.uk