Cool down with wine storage

Q The spotlights in my shop make the wines on

the top shelves a little warmer than is probably good for them. Is this something that will permanently damage the wines, or just an inconvenience for customers who want to drink them almost immediately?

A The best

conditions for wine storage are dark, humid, vibration-free places with a constant temperature of about 11 ºC. Unfortunately, that is pretty impractical for a retail environment,

so somewhere along the line you are going to have to compromise.

The humidity is great for preserving corks, but is bad news for labels or staff with stiff joints, so you'll probably want the shop to be drier than officially recommended. You'll also want customers to be able to see what they're buying. As for vibrations: the council isn't going to build a bypass to keep your wines as cosseted as you'd prefer, and people will be annoyed if they're not allowed to pick up the occasional bottle and inspect the label.

A temperature of 11ºC will require you and your team to wear fleeces all year round, and you'd need sophisticated air conditioning, left on throughout the day and night, to avoid peaks and troughs on the thermometer. That's both expensive and impractical.

There's not much you can do about any of these things, which means you have to accept that you can't provide optimum wine storage conditions in a retail setting. You work in a shop, not a cave in Epernay.

But even in the imperfect world in which you have to operate, there is really no need to aim a spotlight at perishable merchandise. Talk to an expert about other lighting options: you may not need to use as much light as you think. Wine bottles can look quite unattractive when direct artificial light is bounced off them - there's no shame in standing them in partial shadow in a naturally-lit sale area.

There is a chance that the wines will suffer some damage if they're displayed at too warm a temperature - they could age prematurely or simply taste soupy and flabby, losing their acidity. It might, as you say, merely be a temporary inconvenience. But it's a totally avoidable one.

Q We have opened a small area at the front of our shop allowing customers to enjoy wine on the premises with tapas-style nibbles, which change from day to day. Are we obliged to publish a menu with details of every single dish?

A Our friends at Trading Standards inform us that legally, you must have at least 30 prices for food items on display. If you have fewer than 30 items of food available

you must display the prices of them all.

The price list doesn't have to conform to any specific standards - you can simply write the day's offers on a blackboard, or in a marker pen on a large sheet of paper. Remember, what's crucial here is the price, so in theory you could put up a giant notice saying something like "selection of tapas, £7.95" and there wouldn't be a problem so long as the price applied to everything on the menu.

Clearly your customers are going to want to know exactly what sort of tapas they are getting, so it's probably worth writing out what that day's selection is. But the law certainly doesn't require you to publish a giant list of everything you're ever likely to have available.

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