Drunk and Single (Wine Tasting at Vinopolis)

It’s probably no coincidence that the two dates I’ve drunk more than one glass of wine on (Date 12 – The Enigma & Date 18 – The Fresh Prince), also happen to be the two dates which ended with a kiss. Even if you’re a happy, confident person when you’re sober, a couple of glasses of wine can help to lower your inhibitions, and make you more forward than you might normally be … And with that in mind, bearing in mind how awkward the majority of the singles events I’ve trialled for this challenge have been so far, The Guardian Soulmates Wine Tasting at Vinopolis seemed like a promising idea for a singles event.

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As part of this challenge I’ve signed up for a variety of different Dating websites and apps, and one of them is Guardian Soulmates. As far as dating sites go, it sells itself as a more high-brow site. An educated, mature source of genuine matches. Each profile includes a section telling you your percentage match for the other person, and theirs for you – for example, if you have stated that you’re looking for someone over 6 foot, and the guy is 5’10, he will come up as a 0% match. If he’s looking for someone with a phd, and you only have an undergraduate degree, this will affect your % match for him. These two figures are then averaged out to find a mutual match percentage, based on the answers to a few basic questions.

I’d heard about Guardian Soulmates before – whereas sites like Plenty of Fish and Zoosk are notorious for being sites where you look for a bit of fun, the purpose of Soulmates is to find just that … a soulmate.

The profiles have a very grown-up, CV-like feel to them, and if I’m honest it’s the first time any online dating site has really made me feel like I’m trying to market myself, as opposed to simply putting together a basic profile, making contact and then deciding if there’s any connection or potential once we’ve actually met in person.

Interestingly, even as someone who is quite admittedly picky when it comes to guys, I’m not convinced by the match percentages used on the site. They seem based on odd questions, and often there isn’t a clear explanation as to why someone definitely isn’t a match for you. As I discussed a few days ago, sometimes you might not be a match for someone for very practical reasons, however sometimes, when asked a pointed question, you might give an answer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a deal breaking issue … For example, whilst I would prefer to not date a smoker, and when asked would answer that, if I met someone I got on with well, and they happened to smoke, it wouldn’t be a complete deal breaker for me.

For such a well-known and well-publicised site, there seem to be a lot less new users than on sites like POF and Tinder. In order to fully use the site, members are expected to pay – which may be one reason for the limited clientele – and obviously there is the very CV-like dating profile, which might also put singletons off. It’s also not overly user-friendly in the age of smart phones, as it doesn’t have an app – something which is a growing staple of online dating options.

Scanning the under-35s on the site, there seem to be very few eligible guys, and the ‘new matches’ very rarely change. Reading the profiles of my ‘suggested matches’, I struggled to see why they were better matches for me than some of the guys flagged up as 0% matches.

Also, a number of the most normal-seeming guys appear to have been trialling the site for free, as they can only reply with standard text messages from the website, explaining they do not have a full subscription and can’t reply properly.

The site tells you when profiles were last updated, and if your messages have been read by the other person. Of the ten or so guys I’ve sent initial messages to, half of them turned out to not have even used the site for several months. Obviously Soulmates isn’t a site where you’re likely to get attempted mailshots, like some of the repeat messages I’ve received on Plenty of Fish, and people are more discerning about who they contact, so there is a lot less communicational traffic, however all the messages I’ve received so far have been pretty odd, and rather painful attempts to ‘make an impression’ – dwelling on obscure aspects of my profile, like something in the background of a photograph, or the way I phrased something in my nowhere-near-well-enough-prepared self-marketting spiel.

I have always tried to go for the simple approach of starting a conversation on a dating website with a very quick introduction. Realistically, even if you simply say ‘hello’ and introduce yourself with your real first name, I am of the opinion that you’re showing an interest and allowing them to look at your profile and decide if they’re interested too. I don’t see the point of a contrived conversation starter as an opener. Realistically a reply will only come if they like what they see in your photos and (probably more often on Soulmates) your profile. However, of the few men to read my messages and reply on Guardian Soulmates, I was quite taken aback to have one guy actively challenging me because I had simply said ‘hello’ and told him my real name. ‘Does that ever actually work for you?’ he asked rather sarcastically. Hmm … Does affronting girls who are approaching you actually work?
Interestingly his profile name even had the word ‘jerk’ in! Obviously it’s a lot easier to be rude to someone online, because you can’t see them, however I try to treat online conversations like everyday ones. What’s so bad about saying ‘Hello’?!!

So, whilst the idea of Wine Tasting at a singles event seemed promising, the idea that the crowd of singletons might be picked from the offerings on Guardian Soulmates was less promising – though I did notice the event was open to non-members too.

Miss32 agreed to accompany me to Vinopolis – an amazing wine, champagne and spirits tasting venue near London Bridge. The venue itself is beautiful, huge high vaulted ceilings, and walls full of wine tucked away beneath elegant stone arches. I hadn’t quite prepared myself for how big the singles event would be. Tickets were £27 a head, and they included a welcome drink, ‘tapas’, and 3 wine tasters.

The venue was absolutely packed with singletons, casting doubts on my theory that not many people activitely use Soulmates, however Miss32 quickly worked out the reason there are so few eligible guys on the website. I had been running late, and when Miss32 arrived ahead of me, her text said it all – ‘They’re all really old!”. Whilst the majority of the women at the event were in their late twenties or thirties, the average age of the men was at least late forties, if not fifties.

As a date venue, on a normal night I think Vinopolis would work really well. Aside from being beautiful and picturesque, Miss32 mentioned that she had wine tasted there before, and that the normal atmosphere is great for getting to know someone. It’s normally very quiet and chilled, and you can trial the various wines, providing an easy source of conversation with your date.

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However, as a Singles venue, it felt like an awkward corporate event. There were no staged mingling aspects to force you to talk to one another, so people stood in pockets with their friends, and the only singletons talking to members of the opposite sex appeared to have come with them. The atmosphere was all rather awkward, and the huge crowds fighting for pre-poured glasses of wine, meant we didn’t really enjoy the wine-tasting aspect of the evening. It felt more like collecting pre-made drinks from a snack table at a crowded school disco, just minus the plastic cups and with a more alcoholic contents! I learned nothing about wine, and just ended up drinking four glasses of wine which I would never normally have chosen at a bar (no they didn’t do any rose, and the guy looked really upset when I asked for some lemonade to be added to my welcome drink!).

Our tickets included ‘tapas’ (which after my trip to Madrid, I know were not real tapas!). I was given a plate of cold meat with a token corner of bread and oil on it. Miss32, a vegetarian, literally had just the option of the corner of bread!

After the event I checked out the Vinopolis website, and for the same price, minus the other singles, you can get a far more expansive wine tasting experience. Rather than just getting 3 wine tasting tokens, they offer 7, and you can benefit from ‘buy one, get one half price offers’ (so a date for less than £45), or a two course meal added on, for a price of just £30 per head including 7 tasters. Given the choice, I would definitely have preferred to do a one-on-one date at the venue, rather than the rather awkward meat-market-like singles event, and will definitely consider going back once I’ve finished the 30 Dates challenge.

So a good date venue … but a rubbish Singles Event (unless you’re looking for someone over 40?).

As for Guardian Soulmates – I think I still have a few weeks left of my one-month membership, so will try to find a Blind Date for the challenge using it (mainly just so I can tell you how accurate the percentage ‘match’ algorithm was!!), but with a 50% success rate of the guy even logging on to open any message I send, I wouldn’t go holding out for a blog post about a date called ‘The Soulmate’!!

Miss32 and I will be off to two more singles events this week in London, so fingers crossed they’re a bit more fun! On the plus side, I had a very nice catch-up with Miss32, and saw some of the very picturesque sides of Southwark (which is the setting for Date 22 on Sunday) so the evening wasn’t a complete flop!

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

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