In the beginning, long before the site became Vinopolis, there was a Roman wine store here. Down by the Thames, wine had flowed right through this red light district, since Chaucer’s day. Later, Victorians built a bonded warehouse here, under vast railway arches of mellow London stock. Yet no-one saw the beauty of that old brick, until the millennium drew to a close and Vinopolis opened.
The site was discovered by an old entrepreneur who tried selling it as a year round wine trade venue, under the improbable name “Theme Museum of Wine”, but it only secured funding with new management, a new story, and its new brand name. Now it attracted proper investors and revealed its potential – 10,000 square metres of great stone vaults – as Vinopolis, City of Wine.
The new team saw that its design needed to attract explorers beyond wine trade and wine buffs – a new generation whose wine drinking at home now outstripped beer. It would need to offer all the pleasures of wine to make the most of these great spaces: a tasting tour of the world’s wine regions, restaurants with more wines by the glass than anywhere else, bars and shops, gifts, books and art, and hospitality venues with a built-in plus: interesting wines.
The enterprise cost more than expected and took longer to pay out but, whilst other wine centres in Australia and California failed, Vinopolis weathered management changes and recessions alike. As the London Olympics approached, some fifteen years after the old Roman wine store had been uncovered, the original stakeholders saw returns on their investments.
For most of them, however, Vinopolis was about more than money and for the man behind the brand much, much more. Some time before founding brandstory, he affirmed here his belief in the role of provenance and story, in genius loci as the genesis of wine and destinations alike. In creating Vinopolis – with many who remained friends, designers, publishers, wine gurus, fellow investors* – he rediscovered the power of stories: for brands, for people and for life.
When he wrote “the more you explore, the more you taste, the more you enjoy”, he was writing about more than wine. Here in Vinopolis he was writing the genesis of brandstory.
*As investors wave farewell to Vinopolis, the chairman of brandstory would like to put on record his own respect for those whose contributions to its story may not have been properly remembered, including: Dan Anderson, Paul Bowker, Michael Broadbent, Michael Carey, Oz Clarke, Nicholas Faith, Sophia Gilliatt, Chris Harvey, Robert Herber, Donald Hess, Tim How, Ben Howkins, Jasper Jacob, Hugh Johnson, Sarah Kemp, Mary Lewis, Kathie Merriman, Robert Moberly, Ed Newton, Roger Nokes, Francoise Peretti, Uli Prager, Michel Roux, Patsy Saben, William Salomon, Steven Spurrier, Richard Tibbott, Anthony Townsend, Adrian Webster....and others too many to credit. Whatever the future for Vinopolis, they all made a difference at its genesis.