Around the world in 5,000 bottles
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Food & Drink news every morning.
One man’s crisis is another man’s opportunity, as they say — and few hospitality businesses seem to have weathered the pandemic quite like London’s smartest wine club, 67 Pall Mall. Within weeks of lockdown, this St James’s club had pivoted to host online tastings that proved so popular with its global audience that it led to a permanent virtual membership. This was followed by 67pallmall.tv, a platform for mini-docs, masterclasses and drinks chat with an international roster of MWs, 24/7. Before Christmas, the company opened a site in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. And on 14 February it will unveil its most ambitious venture yet: a 15,000 sq ft penthouse wine club in Singapore.
Ranged over the 27th and 28th floors of the Shaw Centre on the Orchard Road, it will offer more than 5,000 wines from 42 countries (with 1,000 by the Zalto glass), a restaurant, bar and lounges, members’ cellarage and tastings. There will also be a spirits lounge with a whisky waterfall on the top floor, overlooking a 1,000-bottle, 6m-tall wine tower.
Standard membership is S$200 per month (around £110), plus a S$2,400 joining fee — but the mark-ups on the wines are relatively modest. And that, says founder and CEO Grant Ashton, is what’s helped to build the club’s credibility among wine insiders.
“These days the level of transparency is so high with price-checking apps like Vivino and Wine-Searcher, there’s little point in trying to milk consumers,” says the former banker and hedge fund manager. “If anything, I tell my sommeliers to down-sell rather than up-sell. That way you win people’s trust and they’re more likely to try wines they wouldn’t usually.” He has a particular soft spot for Swiss wines, which he feels deserve to be better-known outside their own country.
Work is now under way on 67 Pall Mall’s Burgundy HQ, which will open in Beaune in May 2023. Housed in a 250-year-old hôtel particulier, it will have a club, TV studio and bar, and restaurant open to the public. A studio in Napa is also under construction (the channel has so far been viewed by 178,000 discreet URLs in 148 countries). Surely there’s a Napa club in the pipeline too? “Of course, I’d love to do California,” says Ashton. “And Melbourne. Shanghai is high on our list, once we’ve done a couple more clubs in Europe. And then Tokyo.”
The club’s physical expansion in the current climate is pretty astonishing. But when I ask Ashton what he’s most excited about he says, “The digital space. If Covid has taught us anything it’s that content is key. If you can crack how to get wine to people and get them to enjoy it remotely — especially if this pandemic is going to rumble on — that to me is really exciting.”
Get alerts on Food & Drink when a new story is published