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Wine to 5: Tatiana Fokina, CEO of the Hedonism group

Inside a professional's everyday life, Decanter speaks to Tatiana Fokina, CEO of the Hedonism group.

Tatiana Fokina moved to London in 2009. In 2012 she launched Hedonism Wines in Mayfair, which fast became a draw for wine and spirit lovers from around the world, winning industry awards for its luxury retail experience, range of products and interior design. In 2019, The Sunday Times named it one of the fastest-growing UK exporters. Today, Fokina is CEO of the Hedonism group, which now also includes one-star Michelin restaurant Hide and its ‘little sister’ Hideaway, as well as Mayfair’s ‘first wine-led gastro pub’, The White Horse.

How did you get here?

I was approached to join what would go on to become Hedonism Wines as project manager in 2010, shortly after moving to the UK from Russia, where I had previous experience in luxury retail. We set out to create the finest wine-buying experience that was still both fun and approachable, and which offered an unparalleled width and breadth of choice alongside excellent customer service.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I love watching people buy wine, seeing their excitement when they find the bottle they have been searching for in our store, the almost tangible anticipation of opening a certain bottle. In our restaurants, people trust the sommelier, and it’s very gratifying to watch diners taste something they have never tried before, and learn something new from our team.

And the worst?

I spend a lot of time trying to make sure we are not viewed as elitist. Yes, we’re based in Mayfair, but there is something for every taste and every budget. People love talking about ‘the most expensive bottle in the shop’, forgetting that we have more than 1,300 lines under £30, and that we price-match our non-vintage Champagnes with the supermarkets.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

People think I spend my time gallivanting from wine tasting to vineyard visit, whereas the reality is that I am predominantly based in the office, in front of a computer. I still get to try some incredible wines though, albeit at my desk.

What was your greatest moment?

I remember our first big event was a book signing with Robert Parker – people were queuing out of the door. Watching Hedonism become a true mecca for wine lovers, a place people talk about as the greatest wines hop they have visited, gives me a real buzz, as does beating our financial targets every year – it has sometimes seemed unachievable. Seeing how well the Hedonism team adapted to the new reality during the pandemic made me incredibly proud, too.

And your greatest mistake?

There were some mistakes made at the very beginning as there was no wine retailer of this scale and quality we could learn from. We didn’t get our website right from the word go, for instance, with some back-office headaches around linking to a stock control system that used data from all our locations. Luckily, we managed to rectify our mistakes early on.

What advice would you give someone wanting to follow your career path?

Remember that the people you work with are the most important asset you have, especially in a new venture. We make sure that any new team members coming on board share our values. Use any scepticism you might encounter as a motivation to succeed – I was young, Russian and new to wine when I joined Hedonism, so I encountered my fair share. Lastly, hospitality and retail are hard work, but as long as you enjoy it, it is truly a great job.

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