Wapping wine bar with a difference celebrates first birthday
Heading to a Wapping venue with a very different selection of wines behind its bar, I assumed getting my head around the natural, organic and biodynamic varieties would be the major challenge of the evening. But, in fact, it was the bar's name - Victualler.
Tentatively pronouncing it vic-chu-alll-er silently in my head, followed by an attempt with a French twist - vic-tu-all-eh - owner and director Daniil Vashchilov smiled as he said the name prompted much confusion.
Victualler, correctly pronounced vitler, describes those people who first came to Wapping and were purveyors of spirits and innkeepers.
"It's everything we do, there couldn't be a better name for our place," said the Russian, who founded his specialist bar last year.
His enthusiasm for his premises, Wapping itself, which he describes as a "hidden gem", and his organic selection of wines, brings a genuine feel-good atmosphere to the project.
"There are three sommeliers who work here. Everyone has qualifications in wine and spirits, and this is our passion," he said.
"We call ourselves professional alcoholics as we enjoy what we do. We drink the wine ourselves and we think that's very important."
The 31-year-old said he was careful to select wines from his seven suppliers that "truly show" their place of origin.
The wines fall into three categories - organic, biodynamic and natural.
Daniil calls the last of these "unusual and very funky", with producers using only indigenous yeast and eschewing sulphur dioxide.
Organic varieties centre on what has happened in the vineyard and the elimination of chemicals and pesticides on site.
There is method behind an apparent madness when it comes to the biodynamic versions, he stresses, which centres on the relationship between the moon and stars to generate a healthy vine.
These also have low levels of sulphur dioxide - a chemical found in ordinary wines that is believed to cause headaches and migraines.
"We want to show organic wines don't necessarily have to be more expensive," said Daniil.
"It's much easier to convert people when you drink the wine side-by-side, so in the shop we have up to 10 per cent conventional wine too.
"The main reason we do have them is that we want to give some examples and some comparisons of taste.
"We enjoy explaining them and we are not snobbish about wine.
"We like educating people and providing knowledge and experience - we don't try to make a show out of people."
And that shows in Victualler's generosity - staff will offer up samples of wine as well as explanations, before you plump for a glass in the bar.
I tried orange wines, white biodynamic and organic varieties before settling on a fruity red for the night.
Victualler's first birthday is on August 17 and, with a party arranged for September 14 (with free entry), Daniil said: "I feel very comfortable in Wapping. It's a great place to do business and we are doing something new.
"The bar has got more popular and we've had good feedback from locals and I think we have become a part of the community. I think Wapping is going to change and it's going to happen quite soon - it would be nice to be at the beginning of something."
Victualler, at 69 Garnet Street, is open every day from 2pm to 11pm (10.30pm on Sundays). Go to victualler.co.uk.