Situated in a dramatic building under Borough Market's arches, one imagines Vinopolis as a boozy Willy Wonka's; expert wine tasters poking their noses into vintage wines, crates being ferried around with the utmost care and state of the art wine dispensers trickling out myriad samples. There is a certain romance to wine, and Vinopolis embraces this whole heartedly. The Vinopolis Experience is an insight into this world; providing a half hour or so introduction to wine tasting before the guests are unleashed into the tasting rooms armed with twelve tokens and a wine glass.
Looming gracefully in the midst of Borough's food and drink central, Vinopolis is split into three sections: An extensive glass fronted wine and spirit shop, the tasting rooms and a rather swanky bar. The tasting rooms are hardly rooms, and are more like a cathedral to the grape. Ceilings are cavernous, with their brickwork domes naturally creating three or so different spaces. These are separately dedicated to red wine, white wine, champagne, spirits and even a rather perilous looking absinthe set up. A rustic restaurant serving tapas takes up it's own dome, serving up plates of cheese and charcuterie.
Perched on a bench in a lecture theatre being instructed on the basics of wine by a rather stern wine connoisseur; the atmosphere is pleasingly intense with just a touch of boozy irony. Our instructor asks us to swill a sample of wine around in our glasses, questioning us on various aspects of its flavour profile. There were perhaps twenty people in the intimate lecture theatre, and tidbits of friendly chat were being passed around. The love of wine is palpable in the room, and I picked up many an interesting fact. Pottering around the wine dispensers - contraptions that release a mouthful of wine when you slot in a token - there is a gentle hum of conversation as people involve themselves in the journey.
More than the individual drinks on offer, it is the passion for wine that makes this experience so enjoyable. In such an environment, tasting the wines takes on a certain significance and the flavours hit my tongue in ways I'd ever noticed before. It's up to you as to what you'd like to sample, with descriptions available on the dispensers. My highlights were The Goatfather, Louis Jadot Beaujolais, Loursenford Chardonnay Select, Champalou Vouvray Sec and Rubis chocolate wine.
The Vinopolis Experience is rather like going to a gallery opening, but for wine. A gently stimulating experience helped along by a liberal dose of alcohol. I couldn't finish all twelve tokens, becoming unsuitably wobbly by about the sixth for the buzzy yet tranquil environment. It was an exploration that left me with an appreciation for both the stories behind the wine and the complex tastes. I would suggest The Vinopolis experience for a novel date idea, a jaunt with a couple of friends or just for those wanting to learn a bit more about wine in a fun and interactive manner.