A Vine Sunday at Vinopolis

Peter Morrell enjoys the food, the architecture, the ambience and of course the wine at London’s foremost venue for the appreciation of the fruit of the vine

A friendly welcome with a Bloodshot Bloody Mary

A friendly welcome with a Bloodshot Bloody Mary

The Stylish Bar at Vinopolis

The Stylish Bar at Vinopolis

The Vinopolis Wine Hosts

The Vinopolis Wine Hosts

Party Time at Vinopolis

Party Time at Vinopolis

Canard Duchene champagne

Canard Duchene champagne

Sampling the Wine from the Enomatic Dispenser

Sampling the Wine from the Enomatic Dispenser

The arches underneath the viaduct that carry trains between London Bridge and Cannon Street stations have a cathedral like quality to them. The huge vaulted ceilings cover an incredible three acres, and this grand space is home to the highly successful wine themed experience company Vinopolis.

My wife and I recently spent an enjoyable Sunday afternoon not just eating and drinking but exploring and discovering all sorts of things about wine. The visit started with a drink before lunch, which includes a glass of wine, and then moves on to the wine experience, more of which later.

The Bloodshot Bloody Mary

The fun starts at 12:30 in the stylish cocktail bar with a Bloody Mary. But this is no ordinary Bloody Mary, the spirit base is Bloodshot vodka which is pre-blended with 20 spicy and aromatic ingredients through a process of maceration and distillation. This really is a drink with a kick and really whets the appetite.

While enjoying our pre-prandial cocktail a friendly wine host talked us through the red and white wines which will be served with lunch. In fact friendliness is the keyword of the entire experience, from the jolly Bloody Mary dispensers to the serving staff.

Lunch

Lunch is in the Cantina restaurant and two courses from a multi-choice menu is part of the package. You can upgrade to an extra course for £4.95. The dining space itself was light and airy and as it was busy. There was an upbeat atmosphere, with 21st birthday balloon on one table showing that people were in party mood.

The starter menu had some very inventive options like shredded oxtail croquette and a chorizo and squid stew. Despite the attraction of these I chose the duck rillette with a petite salad and Melba toast while my wife had the black tiger prawns with a chilli butter sauce and grilled ciabatta.

The portions were generous, my duck had lots of taste and the chilli in my wife’s prawns gave the dish an uplifting kick. The mains were three roasts, beef, honey glazed gammon and stuffed roast turkey breast. Vegetarians were also well catered for with the options of a mushroom pappardelle and panko crumb fried goats cheese with roasted beets.

We both went for the beef, a 3-4 week aged roast rib of Galloway beef from the Lake District. The meat was rare, meltingly tender and all wrapped up in a traditional package. A pillowy Yorkshire pudding, crispy roast potatoes, a selection of parsnips, carrots and beets all covered in a rich bone marrow and onion gravy which had tremendous depth of flavour.

A glass of wine was included with the meal, the red was the Napier 2000 from South Africa. This was a blend of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc and some Merlot. Its 13 year maturation showed in its roundness, with lots of fruit and spice on the palate. The white was a Chardonnay, also from South Africa, the Sutherland 2010. This had toasty oak on the palate combined with orange citrus and tropical fruit notes, the finish was long and buttery.

Extra glasses of the matched wines are available and there is a good wine list which includes some bin ends with prices from the low £20s.

Resisting the temptation of having a third course, which featured desserts like Bakewell tart, sticky date pudding and cheese for savoury lovers we moved into the wine experience area.

The Wine Tasting Experience

The tasting sections are themed so that you can concentrate on particular types of wine. We started with the whites, and as the experience was not just about tasting but learning, there is lots of information. You can discover how and where grapes are grown, the methods of production and the characteristics of different wines.

There was a very clever interactive touch screen pod in the middle of the main sections and by answering questions like salt or sugar on your porridge and do you like marmite you are given suggestions about what sort of wine you would like.

The wines are grouped by type like fruity and aromatic, and robust and full bodied. They are kept in temperature controlled Enomatic cabinets which keep the wines fresh. You can sample any of them by using a card with seven credits on it. Put the card in slot on the front of the cabinet, press a button and a measure of wine is delivered to your glass. My wife started with a Sauvignon Blanc while I had the Chablis.

60% of the wines are between 1 and 2 credits and sparking is 3-4, so we continued with a glass of Canard Duchene champagne. After that it was discovery time, a wine from Georgia, the cradle of winemaking, made with the red Saperavi grape was a find as was the altitude grown white Torrontes from Argentina. I went off to the spirit section where there is a range of Absinthe but tried the Bloodshot vodka neat, this was a sinus clearing experience.

With our final credit my wife made the discovery of the day in the dessert wine section. The Rubis fortified Tempranillo with chocolate was intense and indulgent, and a fitting end.

The whole experience had taken about three and a half hours and had been thoroughly enjoyable. Our fellow tasters who comprised couples, hen parties and families celebrating special occasions were all in a relaxed and happy mood which added to the ambience and if you wanted any advice the friendly Vinopolis team were on hand to help

The Sunday lunch package is very good value for money at £30.00 per person and it would make an ideal gift for both the gastronaut and for the wine novice who wants to learn more.

On the way out was a shop which sold the wines that feature in the experience, the Rubis Chocolate Tempranillo was just too tempting.

For more information, to book the Sunday lunch and other wine experience packages, and to buy gift vouchers go to www.vinopolis.co.uk

Share