Top stores keep wine too warm: Decanter

  • Wednesday 30 July 2008

Fine wines in many leading UK stores including Fortnum and Mason and Harvey Nichols are kept at temperatures far higher than recommended, Decanter reveals next month.

Harvey Nichols: the 5th floor wine department

In an article in the September issue of Decanter, out next Wednesday, wine writer Jim Budd investigates storage conditions at Fortnum and Mason, Harvey Nichols, Marks & Spencer and other leading stores.

He finds that all these stores, as well as branches of Tesco and Sainsbury’s, keep some fine wines at 22°C or higher – well above the recommended temperature level of 18°C.

‘There is a consensus that wine on the shelf should be kept cool,’ Budd writes, quoting Isabel Graham-Yooll of London chains Jeroboams and Milroy’s of Soho.

They aim ‘to keep all wines at cellar temperature (10-15°C)’, Graham-Yooll says, with wines out of direct sunlight.

Nevertheless at Milroy’s of Soho Budd finds wines ‘surprisingly warm’, with a £135 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou 1995 and a Graham’s 1955 port at 22°C.

Jeroboam’s retail director Jonathan Wren assured decanter.com the air-conditioning was upgraded ‘three weeks ago, as we thought the temperature wasn’t quite right.’

At high-end department store Harvey Nichols’ London branch, an £80 Taylor’s 1985 vintage port was kept at 22°C, as was a 2004 Giaconda Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley.

Wine buyer Robert Graves said there was very high turnover of stock which mitigated the problem, and he added, ‘we are taking measures to control fluctuating temperatures, such as low-voltage lighting, a heat-reflective covering on the roof, and continually upgrading the air-conditioning.’

Elsewhere in London, Fortnum and Mason displayed a £230 Champagne Salon 1996 at 22°C, as well as clarets and other fine wines.

A spokesman for Fortnum's said. 'Our wine department is situated on the temperature-controlled lower ground floor. During the course of a day there can be minor variations in temperature due to customer footfall and the outside temperature.

'We constantly monitor the wines on display to ensure that they are not being adversely affected by these minor fluctuations. We also have a swift turnover of bottles in-store.'

Sainsbury’s in Dulwich and Tesco Extra in Purley also displayed fine wines at high temperatures.

Sainsbury's said in a statement, 'All our fine wines are fast-moving and remain on-shelf for, on average, no more than a couple of weeks. It is recognised that fine wines, as long as not kept in areas of extreme temperatures do not suffer from short-term periods in temperatures of 20-22°C as recorded recently in our Dulwich Hamlets store.'

At Marks & Spencer’s huge Oxford Street branch, a bottle of Champagne Oudinot NV registered 20-22°C, and a £60 Burgundy, Les Senteurs Clos de Vougeot 2004, weighed in at 22°C.

A spokeswoman for M&S said, ‘We have never had a comment about our food sections being too hot. If we do get complaints, they are about the sections being too cool. But we do appreciate you letting us know.’

Selfridges was found to have the coolest wines. ‘Lighting and temperature were major concerns’ when they built the new wine shop, wine buyer Dawn Davies said.

Jim Budd visited the stores during the week of 23 June with a wine thermometer from CellarDine with a range of 4-22°C.

Read the full article in Decanter magazine September issue, out on 6 August.

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