Hedonism: a wine shop like no other
Hedonism, a glitzy new wine shop in Mayfair, caters for all tastes – especially if you have an extremely deep purse.
Hedonism: the doctrine that moral value can be defined in terms of pleasure, says the Oxford English Dictionary. Also, sensual indulgence. The OED does not mention, of course it doesn’t, that Hedonism is also the name of a new wine shop in Mayfair, just down the road from Claridges and Vera Wang, which opened last month. I say wine shop. This is a wine shop like the Candy brothers are people who do up flats. Super-bling barely begins to describe it.
It contains an entire gleaming wall of bottles of Château d’Yquem, Hannibal Lecter’s favourite pudding wine, glowing amber, gold and tawny. It sells Krug, Cristal and Château Lafite off the shelf — you can stand there and touch it, if you’re into that sort of thing — £4,996.80 for the 1982 (don’t ask me where the 80 pence comes in).
If Tutankhamen had been into booze and died in the 21st century, this is what his tomb might have looked like, a wealth of rums, gins (I count 39, not including those flavoured with sloe or saffron), champagne, burgundy and so on.
There are about 3,500 different wines and spirits in all, though with prices starting at around £15 a bottle this place is only likely to become your regular Offy if you run a hedge fund. Or if you happen to have founded Yevroset, Russia’s largest mobile retailer, like Evgeny Chichvarkin, the man who set this place up — and lured Alistair Viner, Harrods buyer of 16 years, to spend 18 months buying from producers, agents and at auction to fill it up.
“Alistair says I have terrible taste in wine,” says Chichvarkin with a grin. “I like big wines from California, Australia. Malbec. Spanish tempranillo. But my taste is not reflected here.”
We are standing on the ground floor of Hedonism by a display of beautiful glassware. Chichvarkin is wearing red jeans and white shoes. We are both wearing fluffy cream throws, as if we are chichi sofas, provided to take off the chill of a room so ferociously air-conditioned as to keep all that wine in good nick.
Chichvarkin fled to London from Russia in 2008 after being accused of extortion and kidnapping (he says the charges were fake, and they have since been dropped) and spent six months trying to work out what to do.
“I was just walking, drinking, eating. My previous life was retail – Yevroset and Vertu,” he says.
I look at him blankly. Vertu?
“Luxury mobile phones.”
Luxury mobile phones?
“Mobile phones. With gold. And diamonds.”
As he talks, we wander downstairs, pausing at an extraordinary display of enormous bottles, lying like ships in a harbour – a Primat (27-litre bottle) of 2003 Flaccianello, anyone? – and an iPad-equipped soft play area to keep the children of big spenders happy.
Anyway, Chichvarkin continues, in those first six months of gourmandising, during which he spent a lot of time in his three favourite types of shop – perfume, music and wine – and put on 20kg, he began to feel there was something missing. “People would tell me strange things, such as I would have to wait six weeks for delivery.”
The key moment came when he was looking for a bottle of Roda Cirsion, a cult rioja.
“I tried Berry Brothers. And they just said, 'No’.”
He allows a pause to open up and fill with disdain. “I asked in Harrods, they said no. Harvey Nichols said no, Fortnum & Mason said no, Selfridges said no. After that I tried a lot of different wine shops and began to understand that some people need a different type of service to the type that you usually get here.”
And so Hedonism was born. It is certainly quite a spectacle. It has a “Mouton” room, a basement cell containing a full vertical – every vintage – of Château Mouton-Rothschild from 1945 to 2004. Why Mouton? For the artwork of course; the illustration on the labels is commissioned from a different contemporary artist every year, from Picasso to Marc Chagall to Andy Warhol to the Prince of Wales. This is a mini-art, as well as a wine, collection, on sale only as a single lot, for £131,000. The oldest bottle is an Yquem from 1811, kept along with other special bottles in a padlocked room. The most expensive is one of the Penfolds ampoules.
Only a dozen of these very flash designer bottles were made. Filled with Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – the liquid sells for a few hundred pounds in a normal bottle – you’re paying not so much for the wine but the design and the experience – when you want to open one, a Penfolds winemaker will jet over from Australia to do it for you. Price: £120,000.
To my surprise some of the wines closer to my personal price range, for example Coates & Seely sparkling rosé (£31.90 here, £29.95 if you buy a single bottle at Lea & Sandeman) aren’t as pricey as I’d expected. And Isole e Olena Cepparello 2007 is £50 in Majestic and £37.10 here – though perhaps that has something to do with the Majestic version being under cork and the Hedonism one under screw cap.
But all-in-all, what I will probably come here to do in future is to sit downstairs for half an hour, listening to music (“We play vinyl,” points out Chichvarkin) with a glass of something special bought from the enomatic tasters. The staff – who speak 10 languages between them – assure me that all customers are treated with care and respect, whether they drop £5,000 or £15. I suspect Chichvarkin would settle for nothing less.