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Wharf Life Mar 28-Apr 11, 2019

how Vita and Paul Keturakis have created Champagne Route in Wapping to showcase the work of small producers of top fizz

14 days later

plan your life from Apr 11-25

By James Drury

where? Troxy Limehouse

MARTIAL ARTS | 10K Karate Clash See competitors battle it out for the top prize of £10,000. A wide variety of seating options are available from which to watch the matches. Apr 21, 6pm, from £22, where? Wilton’s Music Hall Wapping

GIG | Carradine’s Cockney Sing-a-long Tom’s tinkling the ivories for an evening of uproarious classics belted out to the rafters of the world’s oldest working music hall. Knees up. Apr 23, 7.45pm, from £7, where? Jamboree Limehouse (27 Three Colt Street)

GIG | Buffo’s Wake Performing for the venue’s Helter Skelter night, this band promise “an avalanche of accordions, violins, horns and a bucket full of Gypsy gusto”. Plus guests. Apr 20, 7pm, £8,

to do before Apr 11

Highwaymen, jailors, prostitutes – it must be the One Penny Opera presented by The Tiger Lillies at Wilton’s from April 2-6. Tickets for the show, which blends John Gay with Brecht and Weill, start at £10.50

spot check worth a visit Sup on the delights of Emilia’s Crafted Pasta at St Katharine Docks want more? @wharflifelive


rtisanal Champagne is hard to get hold of outside of France. But just a popping cork’s distance from St Katharine Docks is Champagne Route, where visitors can discover a fascinating world of fi . The UK is the largest export market for Champagne, quaffing an extraordinary 28million bottles in 2017 (the second largest market was the USA, at 23m). Despite this popularity, the vast majority of what we get here is from the handful of major houses. In fact, there are 16,000 winegrowers in the Champagne region, of which about 5,000 make their own sparkling wine. The problem is that more than 80% of what they produce is drunk in France, meaning bubble-loving Brits find it hard to get hold of anything other than the global giants. So-called “grower Champagne” is different from that made by the wellknown names. Each bottle tastes different, depending on the location of its terroir, the year’s harvest, the way it’s been stored, and many other variables. Dipping a toe into this world I quickly realised the diversity on offer was vast. This is what hooked Paul Keturakis and his wife Vita, the founders of Champagne Route in Wapping’s Gauging Square. The couple first encountered the delights of small producer French sparkling wines on a trip to the Champagne region in 2016, since when they returned almost every other month to meet the growers, sample the products, and immerse themselves in their passion. And immersed they have been. Sitting amid the marble tables and clean lines of the classic modern

Even the venue’s light fittings recall the bubbles in Champagne

interior, Paul tells me he’s tried more than 2,500 Champagnes. “We fell in love with these small growers on our travels, but found it frustrating how hard it was to find their produce in London,” he said. “So we decided to launch our own business. We even named it after the 700km trail through the region’s vineyards.” From the thousands of Champagnes he’s sampled, Paul created a list of 65 for Champagne Route, which guests can drink in the bar, its restaurant, or take home from the boutique by the bottle. But his ambition doesn’t stop there. “We’d love to expand out range to 200 or more,” he said. “One of our reasons for opening this place is we want to introduce more and more people to these wines. The more we stock, the more we can share.” One of the ways aul is sharing his passion with east Londoners is through regular tasting sessions, where participants can meet the growers and find out more about the fi they produce. “Each tasting session we aim to have different wines to try, so people can come back time and again and expand their knowledge,” he said. “You can really taste the difference between each bottle, even if you don’t have any experience.” It’s not just about the world’s most famous sparkling wine. Paul also stocks a wide range of Crémants – French sparkling wine made using the same method of secondary fermentation in the bottle, but not from the specific Champagne region. This is a very good alternative to its more famous cousin and is frequently less expensive. “ eople tend to think of Cr mant as the cheaper Champagne, and maybe look down on it a little for that, but these products have their own uniqueness and depth,” said aul.

Sat in the window of Champagne Route, you can see into his impressive-looking, temperature-controlled storage room. Floor-to-ceiling, it’s packed with bottles in racks, kept in perfect conditions. Paul says it holds the UK’s widest selection of artisanal Champagnes and visitors can find all sorts, from biodynamic to vegan, organic to terra vitis (wine produced using social, environmental and economically-sustainable methods). There’s only one strict rule – it all has to be French. “There’s so much fantastic Champagne and Crémant to explore that there’s no reason to look to places such as Italy for Prosecco, or Spain for Cava.” There is an exception that proves the rule, he confesses – Paul has made room for just one English fi , from Ambriel in West Sussex.


he food in the restaurant was created to match the drinks, and it’s clear from the menu that the wine still plays an important role. Naturally, there are oysters (served with Champagne vinegar, what else), but there are also sharer plates of charcuterie and cheeses, plus light bites of meat or seafood sticks, and salads served with Champagne dressing. Mains include duck breast with Champagne-preserved plums, a vegetarian Thai green curry, and guinea fowl with caramelised red cabbage and salt-seared Champagne-preserved oranges. “I’m always happy to recommend Champagnes to drink with each dish,” said Paul. One of the surprising things about this Champagne Route is how affordable the wine is. The most expensive bottle on the menu is £85, and drinkers can start for as little as £7 a glass for a Crémant. “I want to make these wines accessible for people, so I can share my passion with them,” said aul, adding that the couple plans to add some more pricey options in the future, for connoisseurs. This really is a place for Champagne fans. Looking out of the full-height windows, the leaping water feature of Gauging Square looks like the froth from an agitated bottle, while inside even the glass light fittings recall bubbles in a glass. Whether you are an oenophile, want to discover new types of Champagne, or – like Paul – believe that life just isn’t as fun without a bit of fi , Champagne Route is Wapping’s one-stop tour of France’s most famous tipple. It’s open every day from noon-11pm, except Sundays when it closes at 8pm. Go to for more information

Profile for wharf-life

Wharf Life Mar 28  

The fourth issue of the publication for Canary Wharf, Docklands and the new east London

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