When it comes to wine, I'm used to feeling like a clueless person who only knows one thing: how to drink it. Marrying into a French family has only enhanced this evident ignorance - watching them swish their glasses and sniff the stuff like a pro, and copying their gestures to pretend to know what I'm doing is as close as I get.
So on Friday evening, when E suggested we go to The Sampler which was recommended to him by a friend, I was equal parts curious and intimidated. I imagined wine tasting to be a stuffy, scary experience, with mustasched men swirling around their Chardonnay and writing notes in a leather-bound notebook.
Sometimes my imagination takes me a little too far.
Anyway, it could not have been more different. Located right by South Kensington tube station (there is also one in Islington), it's a small shop/bar covered in wine bottles. Funnily enough, we bumped into the friends who recommended this place to us, so they showed us around and taught us how it was done.
It's a simple and fun system, which E likened to "Disneyland for adults". I would have to disagree, since a) it's not quite as exciting, and b) Disneyland is for adults, but you get the idea. You put as much money as you like on your "The Sampler" card, and simply go to town on the snazzy wine machines.
I would say that the prices are quite reasonable. You get a choice of a 25ml, 50ml or 75ml sample, and many 25ml samples were under a pound, although the special wines were up to around 5 pounds.
Such as these, in the "Icons" selection.
Downstairs there is a seating area, with a cosy wine cellar atmosphere, where you can sit down with some fromage or charcuterie.
The cheese comes from a nearby delicatessen, La Cave, and it was all very delicious.
I think that if you let go of the stigma you might have about wine tasting, it can be a very relaxed, fun and interesting activity, especially in a place like this. Even for someone like me, I tried a few samples and knew immediately which ones were my favourite.
They change over the wines every two weeks or so, which means that regular goers will always have something new to try. They sell a lot of wine by the bottle at good prices, which is great if you try something that you fall in love with and want to hoard bottles of.
We've got money left over on our card, so no doubt we will be back (and probably topping it up, too...). As a bonus, we ended our evening on a sweet note with frozen yogurts from Snog across the street.
It's a lovely alternative to your usual dinner date, or just a quick pit-stop before a night in. It's well worth it, I feel like an amateur sommelier already.