Very rich, megalomaniacal, powerful and egotistical people often do a lot of good. Take the example of Shah Jehan who constructed the Taj Mahal. Take the example of someone like Donald Trump who has made the luxurious Trump Towers and other buildings in the USA. Take the example of the Sheiks in Dubai who have constructed the magnificent building in Dubai that I have waxed lyrical about in previous posts.
Now from megalomaniacs on to alcohol. Or more specifically - alcohol retail. Alcohol retail is big business all over the world. Alcohol retail has many dimensions, in as much as you have shops in India selling predominantly spirits and beer, shops in France sell predominantly wine often just the local wine and in the UK you also have shops selling predominantly wine. Supermarkets predominantly sell beers, ciders and spirits. So, to put it differently, it is not often you get a store with everything.
Up comes Evgeny Chichvarkin a Russian oligarch who made money in Russia in retailing mobile phones. He was falsely accused of kidnapping and extortion but the charges were dropped. He moved to London and was marking time thinking of what to do. Whenever he ordered wine, he received strange answers, basically the shops treated a customer with the least respect. One day was looking for a particular wine and his local retailer did not have it. He called all the big stores, Harrods, Berry Brothers, Fortnum & Masons, all of whom said they did not stock that particular wine. This situation he thought was unacceptable, and he set about correcting it.
First he poached the chief wine buyer from Harrods and set about buying wine. They spent 18 months buying wine from all kinds of suppliers. They then identified a space in Mayfair - a huge 2 floor retail unit and filled it with the wine. They have some 3500 types of wine and some 1000 types of other alcohol. In addition they have all the paraphernalia used in wine drinking, decanters, glasses and what have you. Next up they staffed the store with 12 multilingual staff, many of whom were Sommeliers at restaurants to help customers buy the wine.
We walked in one afternoon and were astounded. The wine collection was, to us, completely incomprehensible. This was because we simply have no knowledge of wine. But looking at the spirits also available, I was truly staggered. Every type of Vodka, every whiskey – American, Canadian, Irish, Japanese, Scottish and Indian, yes, Amrut Fusion and Amrut Peated Malt were both available – brandy, Grappas, Tequilas, Liquers, Bitters, some 40 varieties of Gin. You name it, they seemed to have it.
We bought a bottle of wine to have with our dinner. It cost very little, but the service given to us was unmatched by any shop we have been to in the past. Wines there cost upto GBP 130,000, ours cost a very small fraction of that. The shop will deliver any wine to any location in Central London or to a hotel or even a private jet. Now is that not service?
I was very pleased with the shop. I will certainly be back to buy more wine. Such friendly staff, why not go back? None of that snooty French attitude or contempt for a people with limited wine knowledge. Just smiling, helpful, knowledgeable service.