Friday, December 4, 2009

Wine tasting in Paris, London, & leave a review for Tuscany Wine Events

If you are reading this blog, there's a probability that you might be a little bit like me...
Where ever I travel I try to weave in a couple of wine related experiences - just to get a flavor for the place that I'm visiting.
Lately, I had the opportunity to revisit Paris and London, and I'll tell you about my best experiences (and worst), and finally I would like to encourage any one of you to help me create a
- Tuscany wine FORUM -
for travelers who are headed to one of Italy's most accredited wine regions. So if you have any experiences to share, or a review of a hotel, an event, a tour or anything else, please take a few minutes out of your day to share it with others on the forum "WINEINTUSCANY" http://wineintuscany.forumattivo.com/forum.htm

Paris
Since I started to do wine tours in 2004, I have followed fellow initiater Olivier Magny's start-up in Paris through his excellent web-site and blogs. Finally, a few months ago, I had the opportunity to try one of the classes offered, the "Tour de France". The class takes place in a historical cellar underneath the busy Paris streets, in a very central location and is very easy to find (once you locate the right door within the courtyard).
We sit down in a medieval cave, scarcely lit, at class tables already set up with glasses, spittoons and crunchy French bread. About 20 people from different nations show up for the tasting, and the class begins on time. With just a map as a reference, our wine professor, a fluent English speaking French Canadian wine maker, starts explaining the regions of France, and the educational entertainment carries on for about 2 and a half hrs. Each region is demonstrated with a tasting of a typical wine of the area, starting with Champagne and covering both the East, the West and the South of France. The class was interactive with comments and questions always welcomed by our "wine professor".
All in all, I can highly recommend the experience. Here's the link to the class we did: http://www.o-chateau.com/select-your-tasting.php#TDF
Sorry, I forgot to take photos of this event...

London
Ok, so you might be bewildered by the fact that I wanted to do a wine event in London... The UK is not really famous for wine making - at least not yet! But the Brits are big wine affacinados, so the culture of wine has been present in their own culture for hundreds of years.
In going to London, I had heard of Vinopolis, a huge exposition building on the South bank, close to the renowned Tate museum. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but in retrospect I thought it would be a series of halls of quite interactive and informational activities and tastings related to the World of wines and wines of the World. In fact, I was hoping to have fun and learn something - perhaps by having an expert of the museum show us around or something like that. But, on the contrary, the experience was quite the opposit of expected. The base ticket was around 20 pounds per person, to include a 20 minute tasting session (of 1 obviously sponsored wine) with a lady who sounded more like a tape than a person (!), a free tasting of 5 wines to choose from either Old World or New World to be done at tasting tables served by personnel who didn't have a clue of what the wines were (no kidding!), and a general walk through (not accompanied) the halls, each dedicated to a different wine producing area of the World, but with very scarce information if any.
I kept thinking all the way through, "had I known nothing about wine when I had entered, I would probably have exited even more confused!", so how insignificant and confusing the whole experience would have been. Perhaps I'm penalized by not being very easily impressed, but the whole setup seemed to me much more commercial and only beneficient to the few commercial producers actually publicizing their products there - than actually a true educational experience for the visitor. At the end of the visit (we stayed no more than an hour, because it was agonizing), it was obligatory to pass through the wine shop which I'm sure is placed to tempt the unaware visitor with the wines for tasting in the museum part - providing that the visitor might comprehend what he or she has been tasting...

So, my question is, what is the London Vinopolis really about??? I thought that nowadays the matter of wine was to be demystified with endless information to the consumer in an educative way, not just made more fashionable through cool images and so forth...
I suspect that Vinopolis is about something else...
And so, in disappointment of having spent a few hrs of the holidays, we went to a recommended wine bar, Gordons.
This time around I was pleasantly surprised. Lots of wines by the glass, no explanations here either, but at least you don't expect it to be more than what it is. We did a flight of whites and reds by the glass, had a sit down and talk about them in a great location, and ended up getting a fabulous buffet lunch at a quite reasonable price inclusive of a British cheese plate (very intriguing to me - and ended up being one of my favourite dishes during the trip) http://www.gordonswinebar.com/
Definitely recommend this wine bar in London.
Happy travels, fellow winos!

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