Sunday, 17 March 2013

Hedonism

It could really only happen in London, the big city with a taste for wine, where there’s money – old and new – to burn. Yegevny Chichvarkin, the Russian mobile tycoon who a few years ago fled to London to escape possible political persecution, opened Hedonism Drinks just last year, a gleaming temple to fine wines and spirits in the heart of glitzy Mayfair. Sure the most valuable stuff is kept under lock and key in a special room, but there’s still row upon row of interesting fine wines on show enough to make an oenophile’s head spin.


Never mind that London is already up to its teeth in wine sellers, or that even within the same neighbourhood Hedonism faces internationally lauded competitors, some of which have centuries of pedigree. Chichvarkin’s latest venture bills itself as the best wine store there is, combining the brick and mortar with a concierge-style service. Beyond in-store offerings, they promise a high degree of success in helping customers get a hold of any wine they want, no matter how difficult. With the store not yet a year old, it’s a little early to make a call on whether Hedonism is top dog, but one thing is for sure: it remains a spectacular place for anyone with even half an interest in wine to visit.



When we walked into the store, it was completely free of customers save for an old man who was intently browsing the Champagne section. W and I made a leisurely circuit, being extra careful not to bump into anything while we checked out the prices of the bottles. A bottle was going for £8.90, but the one next to it had £2011 on its tag, so you can't say they haven't got range


W, hard at work deciding which she liked best
After a while, we descended down the £100 000 staircase to the temperature regulated basement, where a long row of enomatic machines awaited. A large portion of Hedonism's staff is made up of sommeliers poached by the company, and our wine guide for the day might have been one of them. Susan was wonderfully well-versed and enthusiastic, and took the time to talk us through the nearly forty wines and one sake that we could taste. With each tasting portion at 25 ml, before imbibing a single drop our heads were already swimming with possibilities of what we'd try. 

The enomatic machines work with a card, which you purchase credit for in any amount you wish. A couple who came by later put in the exact amount for the glass they wanted (£2.15) and no more. We put in £15 to be shared by the both of us, which we thought was the absolute height of decadence. Then two Polish guys came by and put £150 on their card. We left when a boy who didn't look older than 18 asked for his card to have £1500 on it. But before the evening crowd came in and made us look like the absolute misers we are, W and I had run of the place for a good half hour, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. 



All the Beatles' greatest hits were being played on a vinyl record that was piped throughout the store as we made our way through 9 different wines, with a water break  between the whites and the reds very thoughtfully provided by Susan, who also cleared our glasses ever so often so we didn't look like raging alcoholics. 

We started off very well with a 2008 Julien Labet Cotes du Jura En Billat Chardonnay, which tasted like baguettes, and moved on to the 2009 Bernard Gripa Saint-Peray Les Pins, which was really savoury with a pastry like finish. We then did a Pouilly-Fume comparison, and rounded off our whites with a young Spatlese, just to see its potential. After our water break, we moved on to the reds. The first was a really light and too-young Pinot Noir the colour of pomegranate juice, but things picked up with the 2004 Foradori Granato Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT. Then came the 2007 Castillo Perelada Samso, which was really juicy with a spicy kick at the end. We rounded everything off with a 2008 Reyneke Reserve that Susan warned us was a bit interesting, which turned out to be my favourite of the lot. It was surprisingly dry for the smell, but had an almost ridiculously buttery aftertaste. 


The children's play area. Apparently, parents have to beg their children to leave.

Even for those who don’t care a whit for the stuff, the store itself must still be experienced. Chichvarkin’s team has created a truly seductive space. It’s easy to forget that the store caters mainly to the 1% when the luxury of your surroundings doesn’t hit you in the face, choosing instead to manifest itself in thoughtful or even cheeky ways.  The chandelier of Riedel glasses lends an airy glow to the ground level, while visitors feeling the chill of the temperature controlled basement are offered cashmere throws. The tasting table has a print of artful smears from leftover glasses of with names of different vintages printed next to each, with a whimsical “Can’t remember, but was very good” taking pride of place in the centre.




Hedonism may be a paean to excess, but with such sincere delight in the enjoyment that you don't feel the worst of it. 

3-7 Davies Street London W1K 3LDhttp://hedonism.co.uk/

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