Drinking: A day in wine world

ON BOTH the occasions I have met Tony Hodges, he has quoted an alarming statistic: 70 per cent of customers leaving Sainsbury's with a bottle of wine do not know what grapes it is made of. This is sobering news for wine writers. For Hodges, it is a cause for cautious celebration: he aims to make a packet by educating the parts of the population that wine writers do not reach.

Hodges is the guiding force behind Vinopolis, 100,000sq ft of Victorian brick vaulting near the Globe Theatre in Southwark, London (0171 940 8300). For several years he has been channelling his considerable energy - and pounds 23million of his backers' money - into creating "the world's first visitor attraction devoted to all the pleasures of wine". It opened two days ago.

I visited Vinopolis 10 days before it opened, when the air was still thick with the skull-rattling sound of drills and saws. But I saw enough to persuade me of at least one thing: there is no single word that accurately describes the place. A wine museum it ain't, though this was the original idea. "Multimedia experience" might be better, though Hodges likes "factual entertainment". Installations, an art gallery, slide shows, videos, a personal stereo with guided tour in six languages - these are just part of what you get for your pounds 10 admission fee.

Some of it is delivered with real wit. You sit on a Vespa to watch a film on Piedmont and Tuscany (pictured right), which was itself shot from a motorbike. In the Sauternes section, a huge vine feeds into a glass, to illustrate that each glass of Chateau d'Yquem contains a whole vine's worth of grapes. A "Sensibilia" machine delivers pure whiffs of many major wine flavours (including vanilla, blackcurrant, and even mould from tainted corks).

Displays such as these take us on a "Wine Odyssey", from Bordeaux to Barossa and everything in between. The personal taped guide contains four hours of site-specific commentary. You could skip most of the commentary and do the whole thing in 45 minutes, but the tape gives intellectual substance to the displays. And for those who want still more information, regional and national rooms have a quartet of touch-screen iMacs with content based on Oz Clarke's Wine Guide.

Some experts may dismiss Vinopolis as theme-park superficiality without substance - it is McWine, they'll say, rather than the solid meat and two veg found in serious books and articles. But most wine drinkers do not read books; nor do they visit vineyards and wineries, the best places to learn about wine. For those people, some of the displays will convey real enlightenment.

For many visitors, the highlight of Vinopolis may be the tasting room: 40 tables, each with six wines. Your pounds 10 buys a taste of five wines, which can come from any table in the hall, and for another pounds 2.50 you can buy another quintet. And that's the limit. "People won't be spitting," says Hodges, "and we don't want anyone getting legless." If you're still thirsty you can head to the restaurant, which opens in August. In Vinopolis itself the emphasis is on educational tasting rather than unbridled consumption.

Once you've finished tasting, you pass through the obligatory shopping opportunity. There's a huge range of wine glasses and other accessories, what's claimed to be the world's largest selection of books on wine, and a food shop. Then there's the wine shop, run by Majestic. Vinopolis hopes people will want to buy the stuff once they've learned about it.

And I hope, in turn, that their purchases will vindicate the Vinopolis vision. Most wine sold in this country costs less than pounds 4 a bottle. If Vinopolis can persuade visitors to trade up, and explore new areas, it will have done a great service to the cause of intelligent drinking.

Hodges is expecting over 400,000 paying customers in the first year. I was sceptical about the venture, but having seen the place I find that I'm of two minds. Part of me says the subject can't be explained adequately in this way. Another wants to believe that this doesn't matter. People must be persuaded to buy better wine, and to understand better the complex phenomena that make wine taste as it does. Any venture that promotes those aims is, by definition, a good thing. I won't invest in Vinopolis, but my fingers are crossed for its success.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss