How to Find the Best Wine Cooler
If you’re a wine lover, you might be interested to know that there are several reasons why you need to invest in a wine cooler or a wine fridge.
Storing your wine in a wine fridge rather than your regular fridge offers a number of advantages. It’s built to cool your wines at a warmer temperature than your kitchen refrigerator, and your regular fridge is busy anyway.
Let’s take a look at why a wine cooler (also known as a wine vault or a wine chiller) is the best option for chilling your whites, reds, champagnes, and other bubblies.
Reasons Why You Need a Wine Fridge
You may be wondering why you need a wine fridge when you have a perfectly good refrigerator in your kitchen already. There are a lot of reasons, actually. It’s important to evaluate your wine storage needs and get the right wine fridge for you.
Perfect for aging
The first reason you may want to invest in a wine cooler is for aging your wine. Only 1% of the wines being sold at the store today are actually meant to keep in the cellar. The other 99% are meant to be enjoyed relatively quickly.
The most tell-tale way to determine which wine you just bought is the price. If you paid less than about $30, your wine should be enjoyed within the next three months to three years.
While white wine usually needs less time to age than red wine does, they can both be stored properly in a wine refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy it. This fridge will preserve it better than your regular fridge until you uncork it.
Your wines are meant to be stored at cooler than room temperatures, but not as cold as the refrigerator in your kitchen. Wines will age too rapidly if they are stored at temperatures over 70 degrees. You run the risk of cooking your wine, which will damage the flavors and aromas.
However, if your wine is too cold, it will freeze and could push the cork out. The ideal temperature is between 45 and 65 degrees, but the perfect temperature is typically around 55 degrees.
A wine refrigerator will keep your wine at the perfect temperature all the time, until you’re ready to enjoy it. Because you don’t get in and out of it as much as you do in your regular refrigerator, you don’t have to worry about too many fluctuations in temperature impacting your favorite varietals.
As your wine goes from hot to cold and back, it expands and contracts, which could also push the cork out. It can cause seepage or dry out the cork, which needs to stay moist to maintain the seal.
UV rays will prematurely age your wine. You may notice that a lot of wines come in tinted bottles. These bottles are intended to protect the wine inside from light. Many vintners are now storing their wines in more eco-friendly cardboard boxes.
Rather than using fluorescent bulbs that emit small amounts of ultraviolet light, wine fridges use safer options like incandescent bulbs or LED lights instead. These bulbs are also designed to protect labels from fading by keeping them from extended exposure.
Proper horizontal storage
Wine fridges are designed to hold bottles on their sides, which is critical for keeping the cork moist. Maintaining contact between the liquid and the cork ensures it stays moist and doesn’t get brittle.
Your bottles will last much longer this way. They won’t age prematurely and they’ll be more space efficient. You can stack bottles on their sides and fit more in your fridge. Unless a bottle is already open, you shouldn’t store them upright.
Excess moving, jostling, handling, or vibration can age your wine prematurely as well. It can cause chemical reactions or stir up sediment in the bottom of the bottle. If you’re only storing your wine for a short time, this is less relevant, but it’s still important to have a place to store your wines where they’re less disturbed.
In fact, while both regular refrigerators and wine refrigerators both run on compressors, a wine fridge is specifically designed to minimize vibration from the compressor, whereas a regular fridge does not.
While humidity isn’t mandatory, it can be important. Dry air can dry out your corks, causing air to penetrate the seal and spoil the wine. Storing bottles to age means you need to maintain a humidity level of 70%.
Some wine refrigerators also come with built-in humidifiers for this purpose, and if you intend to store wines for more than 10 years, you’ll want to invest in this kind of storage.
However, it’s important to maintain a consistent level of humidity because too much humidity can cause mold to form.
Once again, a regular refrigerator is designed to cool rapidly and decrease moisture, but a wine fridge is not, which is why it’s a safer place to store your wine.
Types of Wine Fridges
There are several different types of wine fridges you can look for, and each has its own set of benefits.
Single-zone wine fridges have one interior storage space. They’re designed to maintain a single temperature and every bottle you store inside will be kept at the same level. It’s a great solution for people who are working on building a collection of one type of wine.
It’s perfect for maintaining one steady temperature and they’re more affordable than a multi-zone cooler.
Multi-zone wine coolers have two or more storage spaces separated by partitions. Some may have separate doors. They’re designed to maintain separate temperatures in each zone. They’re usually dual-zone fridges where one compartment is for whites and one is for reds.
If the fridge runs on a compressor, there will be two separate mechanisms, one for each compartment. If it’s a thermoelectric unit, it will only have one mechanism.
These types of wine coolers are great for people who like a variety of wines, but they’re not efficient if you’re only storing one type, because the second compartment is useless.
These solutions are typically more expensive than single-zone solutions and they’re not as energy efficient because they have to work harder to maintain two separate temperatures.
Compressor wine coolers
A compressor wine cooler operates very similarly to a standard refrigerator. The air is compressed and then released into the interior of the fridge in a process called vapor compression cycle.
It’s very effective at reducing the internal temperature of the fridge, but because heat is expelled at the back of the unit, it’s important to follow safety and clearance guidelines to make sure the fan continues to work properly.
When the internal temperature of the fridge is reached, the compressor shuts off. As it warms up, the compressor turns back on to cool it to the desired temperature again. The cycle continues to maintain the temperature you have set.
Compressor wine fridges are safe to have at home or at the office, you just have to make sure you place it somewhere where you have enough clearance for the exhaust. You also need to make sure the floor can hold the weight of the fridge, especially when it’s loaded with wine.
Compressor refrigerators are incredibly efficient because they can maintain a wide range of temperatures inside the fridge regardless of the ambient temperature in the room. This technology has been around for a long time and maintains the temperature quickly and efficiently by switching on and off as needed.
However, because of the mechanisms this type of fridge uses, it’s heavy and harder to move, even when empty. Luckily, its efficient enough to cool a large number of wine bottles at once.
Thermoelectric wine coolers
Thermoelectric wine refrigerators maintain their temperature by using an electrolyzed metal rod. The heated end faces the exterior of the fridge and removes heat from the interior. The cool end faces the inside and a fan distributes the cool air throughout.
The mechanism doesn’t alternate between on and off, there’s no vibration from the operation, and the units are typically more quiet than compressors.
You still have to be sure you place these where they can exhaust properly. They work to keep the temperature inside the fridge about 10-12 degrees cooler than the ambient temperature, so they need proper ventilation. Because of the way these work, they should never be placed in a warm room.
Depending on the external environment, these are moderately efficient. They belong in a room where the temperature is mild so they can maintain an appropriate temperature all the time.
They take longer to cool your wine, but once it’s cool, it maintains the temperature consistently without turning off and back on again. It also won’t ever freeze and it’s very energy efficient.
The mechanism isn’t heavy, so the fridge itself is lighter and easier to move. However, they typically have a smaller bottle capacity because the mechanism simply can’t cool as much as a compressor can.
The Best Wine Coolers
If you’re looking for the right wine cooler for your collection, here are some of the best options on the market. They vary in size, price, and technology, but they’re all excellent choices if you want something that you can use in your home or office.
If you’re a beginner and want to start small, or you want a high-end wine cooler that fits in your kitchen, this is a great unit. It’s sleek and gorgeous, but simple enough to fit in with any decor.
It’s small enough to fit wherever you need it, whether that’s under the kitchen counter, on the living room floor next to the recliner, or in the corner of the basement.
This fridge uses a thermoelectric cooling system, so it will stay at a consistent temperature at all times. You can also customize the temperature from 46-64 degrees, which is more than you can do with other thermoelectric refrigerators.
It’s insulated with polyurethane foam and has thermopane doors so the interior maintains constant humidity and stays odor-free. It will keep your corks from drying out and prevent air from coming into contact with your wine. The insulation also protects your wine from UV rays so they have the opportunity to age appropriately.
Because there’s no compressor, there’s no vibration and it’s very quiet, so you can put it anywhere and it won’t disturb you. Your wine will age and settle the way it’s supposed to without any disruption.
The digital LCD display makes it easy to program and lock your temperature and read the settings so you’ll always know where you have it set.
It also comes with chrome shelves that slide out easily, so you can access the wine you want without disrupting the others. It has soft, interior LED lighting that you can control from the exterior to view your wines without opening the door.
While it only holds 8 bottles, it’s a great option for beginners or those who want to store a few bottles in the kitchen and keep the rest of their collection in the basement.
- Silent, vibration-free operation
- Easy LCD control panel
- Soft LED lighting
- Smooth, chrome shelving
- Customizable temperature setting
- May be too small for serious collectors
- Handle is difficult to install
This wine cooler is energy efficient and quiet. It has a simple but elegant design and it’s easy to control. It has tempered double pane smoked glass for UV protection and custom wood display shelves.
There’s a security lock and key to protect all of your favorite bottles and the soft-touch digital control panel allows you to set a custom temperature from 39-65 degrees.
It features a compressor cooling system that ensures precise and even temperature distribution at all times, but it’s a little pricey for a single-zone fridge.
The bottom shelf is reserved for showcasing wines, so you can display your favorites. This is great if you really want to show something off, but it’s not ideal for long-term storage. If you want to store something for longer than a couple of years, you’ll want to lay it on its side on the top 5 shelves.
The fridge also features soft interior LED lighting that you can switch on and off without opening the door, so you can view your collection and protect it from light or temperature variations.
One complaint is that it’s advertised as fitting 34 bottles, but it’s a snug fit, and it really fits 30 much more comfortably, unless you like to play wine tetris with your bottles.
- Sleek and stylish
- Soft touch control panel is easy to use
- Soft LED interior lighting
- Custom wood display shelves
- Pricey for a single-zone refrigerator
- Only fits 30 bottles comfortably
While not quite as sleek as some of the other solutions, this 20-bottle wine cooler is super affordable. It includes digital controls and a temperature readout so you can easily set your custom range from 46-66 degrees.
It’s a thermoelectric unit, so it’s quiet and minimizes vibration. It’s compact enough to fit underneath a countertop or any other small space. The concave wire shelves nestle your bottles snugly so they won’t roll.
It offers a dark interior with soft lighting that will protect your wine from damaging light. The only complaints users seem to have are that it’s not a top-quality wine fridge, and the controls seem to be hard to operate.
- Thermoelectric cooling system
- Dark interior with soft lighting
- Not sleek or elegant
- Controls may be difficult to set or operate
NewAir offers wine coolers in many different sizes, ranging from 16 bottles all the way up to 98. Take your pick, depending on how many bottles you want to store at the same time. They’re all dual-zone coolers, so you can store both red and white at the same time.
The fridge offers a streamlined look, no matter which size you choose. The smaller options are compact enough to fit nearly anywhere, but even the large sizes are elegant and shapely.
Every fridge works reliably based on the temperature settings you choose. You can set it from 40-55 degrees in the upper zone and 50-65 degrees in the lower zone. It comes with a built-in fan to keep a consistent temperature.
Soft LED lighting will highlight your collection without adding heat while the double pane insulated glass door will block UV rays and protect your bottles from harm and premature aging.
The black wine racks can be removed, making it easy to reload bottles or giving you easy access to your favorites. You can also reconfigure their positioning to maximize space based on what you need to store.
Soft touch controls are easy to manipulate, and once you set your desired temperatures, you can lock them in with the lock button to prevent accidental bumps.
- Sleek and stylish
- Soft LED lighting and double pane insulated glass
- Removable, adjustable shelves
- Comes in a variety of sizes
- Custom temperature settings
- Fan is noisy
- Energy consumption could be more efficient
If budget is no option, this is a serious wine cooler. Allavino understands that not every bottle is the same, so they designed their shelves with the versatile needs of a collector in mind. There’s no standard wine bottle size anymore, but luckily, this wine fridge can hold them all.
You can store tall bottles, Chardonnays, Pinots, and all other types of bottles without reconfiguring your shelves. The shelves are made of metal, so they’re strong enough to hold the weight of plenty of bottles, but thin enough to give you plenty of space.
Yes, it’s also a dual-zone fridge, but it goes above and beyond being able to program two different zones. Each zone has its own digital display and control panel. The push button controls make it easy to set and read your temperatures.
And the versatility doesn’t stop there, either. This wine cooler is built to either be freestanding or to tuck away in your cabinets for a seamless design in any room. You can also order it with a right hinge or a left hinge, depending on the way you need it to open. It’s truly one of a kind.
- Dual-zone and dual display control panel
- High quality design with built-in versatility
- Freestanding or built-in
- Metal shelves are strong but offer plenty of storage space
- Tends to be noisy
- Has a short life span
Wine Cooler Beverages
Perhaps you were looking for the other kind of wine coolers. You know, the kind of wine coolers you could put inside your wine cooler? Well, if you were looking for that kind of wine cooler, I’m sorry to disappoint you.
If you were looking for that, I’ll bite. Here are some of the best wine coolers you can buy to put in your wine cooler.
Crook & Marker Spiked and Sparkling
These are unique because they’re gluten-free and made from tropical roots. They’re pretty sweet, but tasty. They’re made in West Palm Beach, and can be hard to find in other places, so when you do spy them, snatch them up!
Truly Hard Seltzer
I really thought this might start out as a fad, but I think it’s here to stay. They’re pretty yummy. Plus, they come in so many different flavors that I’m beginning to lose count! From plain lime to blueberry acai and everything in between, you’ll find something for every taste.
I like White Claw because it’s refreshing, crisp, and bubbly, more so than Truly. However, they’re not overwhelmingly sugary. While some people may have a hard time stomaching Truly because it’s heavy, these are a nice change of pace.
Answer: It all depends on your needs. If you only like reds, or you only like whites, you’ll really only need one cooling zone. However, if you want to be able to chill both, a dual-zone fridge is a must.
You also need to decide what kind of cooling mechanism you want. I generally don’t think it matters too much, and I prefer a compressor cooling system, but both work fairly well, as long as you use them properly.
You’ll also want to pay attention to size. If you want to be able to store your entire collection, you’ll need a larger fridge, but if you just want to keep a few bottles under the kitchen counter, a small wine cooler will do.
Answer: It’s all a matter of perspective. For true wine connoisseurs and those who drink a lot of it, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment. You’d be surprised at how much more you’ll enjoy your wine when it’s chilled properly and not subjected to all of the light, air, and vibration that your normal refrigerator is.
You also have to consider your budget and whether you have room for a wine cooler. If you can’t afford one or don’t know where you’ll put it, then maybe it’s not worth it for you. However, if you’re already storing 12 bottles of wine on the counter, a small 12-bottle wine cooler won’t take up that much more room.
Answer: While it’s totally up to you, it’s best to place the fridge where it’s convenient, but where it will also keep your wine the safest. Many people who want it in the kitchen or another high traffic area will choose to put it under a counter where it sees less light. Others may keep it in the basement.
Either way, you need to follow the storage instructions in the owner’s manual to ensure that you leave enough space for ventilation, especially if your wine cooler includes a fan.
Wine coolers are fun to have, and they can definitely make you feel fancy, even when you’re not. If I’m being honest, that’s why I like mine. However, I was surprised by how much more I enjoyed my wine and the experience of drinking it after I got one.
You’ll need to consider your space, budget, and the types of wine you drink before deciding which wine cooler is right for you. No matter what you decide, I can guarantee that it will dramatically improve how you feel about your collection.