I had mixed feelings about visiting Vinopolis, London’s three-acre temple of booze sprawled beneath the railway arches of London Bridge. It was bound to be very touristy, especially given its proximity to Borough Market, but I’d also heard excellent reviews from locals.
Upon arrival we were ushered into a small lecture theatre with a sample of white wine for a crash course in appreciating the grape. We learnt how to hold the glass (by the stem, apparently, so you don’t warm it up), how to determine its age and strength just by looking, and how to properly taste the stuff by ‘slurping’. Instead of just throwing it down the hatch, you’re supposed to get some in your mouth and sort of suck on it, which produces a disgusting wet camel noise but actually lets everyone know what a sophisticated motherfucker you are.
After we dropped our coats off at the (free) cloakroom, we took our sampling cards through to the tasting rooms to get started. Vinopolis has recently installed the same sort of enomatic machines they have at The Sampler, though on a much grander scale. These work with NFC cards loaded with credits you use to pay for your samples. Proper wine connoisseurs will probably miss the personal touch, but the place is swarming with cheerful ‘wine guides’ who are more than happy to advise or answer questions. There are also wall displays and interactive tables if you fancy a bit of self-directed learning.
There are over 100 wines to try, including champagne, but they also have a ‘spirits lounge’ with a small selection of gins and vodkas on offer. I did try one, even though the only time I usually drink that shit neat is in the last ten minutes of pre-drinks when someone invariably cries, “wait! I don’t think we’re drunk enough. Where are the shot glasses?” It was called Bloodshot, a vodka claiming to roll all the delicious flavours of a Bloody Mary into one, highly concentrated shot. It was so disgusting I nearly threw up all over my shoes, but at least I know now what salty alcoholic Worchester sauce tastes like.
There’s also an absinthe bar, which is quite fun. They have both French and Swiss variations, and a lady on stand-by mashing up sugar cubes. I don’t know a whole lot about absinthe so just picked the greenest one.
Overall, it was a fun place to spend an afternoon, even though it was a Saturday and absolutely rammed with couples and the classier kind of hen party. Good crack though; the staff are excellent and we were pleasantly tiddly by the time we got out. They also have on-site shops where you can purchase any wines that particularly tickled your pickle. My only criticism is that there was no way to get replacement glasses without flagging down a wine guide, which was a bit of a drag. There are water fountains stationed throughout though for rinsing, and I guess they’re trying to be environmentally friendly and shit, so fair play to them really.
Vinopolis offer three packages, which all include the introductory talk. The only difference between the tiers is the number of tokens loaded on to your NFC card. We had the sixteen token Quintessential package, which we got on offer at £28.50 each. I’d say this was good value, but the full £38 would have been a bit steep. They seem to run promotions regularly though, so keep an eye out if you fancy it.
You can book your place on their website or on 020 7940 8300.
Address: No.1 Bank End, London, SE1 9BU
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.