London Uncorks A City Of Wine

Tucked beneath a railroad bridge on the south side of London lies BritainÂ's newest tourist attraction, reports CBS News Correspondent Tom Rivers.
CBS News Correspondent Tom Rivers uses an interactive wine sniffer to sample the scents of finer wines.
At two-acre Vinopolis, a small indoor city dedicated entirely to wine, dozens of rooms chart the history of the ancient drink and each major region is represented. Interactive touch-screen computer kiosks and on-demand video take visitors on a sensory voyage through the world of wine.

Â"IÂ've been working on it, really, for the last 11 years full time,Â" says founder Duncan Vaughan-Arbuckle.

In a room dedicated to GreeceÂ's contribution to the grape, guide Teresa Thompson explains that visitors have entered Â"the cradle of wine.Â"

Â"ItÂ's the history, the origins of wine," she says near a statue of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. "From here, the vine was introduced all around the world,Â" she adds before heading into Bordeaux, the next room.

From there, visitors are free to browse exhibits that explore the wine country of California, Chile and New Zealand -- to name but a few.

An interactive touch-screen educates visitors about wine.
Visitors can also sniff the great wines of the world and take a virtual jet through Australia's wine country. There are even stationary Vespa scooters with video screens that take users through the most famous vineyards in the world -- without the jet lag.

The timing for the theme park couldnÂ't be better.

Â"This is the first year that home consumption of wine has outstripped beer in Britain. That is a stunning statistic,Â" said Simon Wood, chief executive of Wineworld London Plc.

"It has doubled in 10 years and is forecast to double again in the next five years," said Wood at the launch of the $35.7 million project.

A statue of Dionysus, Greek god of Wine
Even the much-mocked British wine is featured in the displays, which shepherd visitors toward a tasting at the end of the tour. At that point, their 10-pound ($15.50) admission ticket offers the chance to sample five wines from around the world.

Vinopolis plans a stock market flotation next year which could value the company at up to $109 million. Â"There are 500 private investors who include evry one of the 105 members of staff,Â" Wood said.

Â"In Britain we consume the widest portfolio of wines in the world. We are very much more cosmopolitan. London, from a wine trading point of view, is also the crossroads of the world.Â"

But Vinopolis, which expects up to 400,000 wine lovers a year, may be just the beginning. If the concept catches on, Vaughan-Arbuckle plans to export the Â"wine odysseyÂ" elsewhere around the world.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Reuters contributed to this report