DWWA 2013: London Wine Merchant of the Year: Hedonism Wines
Shortlisted contenders: Fortnum & Mason, Hedonism Wines, Lea & Sandeman, New Street Wine Shop, Roberson, The Sampler
London has always been spoilt for choice when it comes to great wine shops, but 2012 saw the bar raised with the arrival of Hedonism. Housed in prime Mayfair real estate in Berkeley Square, its glittering showroom offers every kind of vinous gratification you could possibly think of. The store is aptly named.
Founded by Russian multi-millionaire Yevgeny Chichvarkin when he couldn’t find a merchant to deliver a particular wine at short notice, it aims to provide the ultimate concierge service. The staff, led by ex-Harrods head buyer Alastair Viner, includes several sommeliers, and the range of 4,500 wines and 2,000 spirits – including the largest selection of California wines outside the US – is jaw-dropping.
There’s a great tasting area equipped with cosy throws (welcome in the temperature-controlled cellar) where you can listen to music of your choice while dipping into the 48 wines that are available at any one time from the Enomatic machines, including such top names as Yquem and Mouton- Rothschild. Your kids can even play in the iPadequipped play area while you sip your Sine Qua Non (for which there is a dedicated room with racks modelled as hands and claws).
Given the location and level of service prices are understandably on the high side, but there are some 500 wines under £30 and the Enomatic samples are well-priced. It’s even eco-friendly: Hedonism uses electric delivery vans and all its packaging is made out of natural materials. We rate our other shortlistees highly but Hedonism is in a class of its own.
Runner-up: New Street Wine Shop
Another 2012 opening, this is the first venture into retailing for the D&D restaurant group. With several Enomatic machines and a selection of charcuterie and cheese, it has a wine-bar feel with a modern, streamlined look.
The wine ranges from the usual City suspects (a recent Krug tasting was a sell-out) to some natural wines about which manager Claudio Martins is particularly enthusiastic. Enterprising events such as Brazil Month and tools like a wine colour-wheel encourage experimentation. Service is a strong suit – local Wine Club members can even get wine delivered to their desk, which sounds a shade risky.