There have been many fears about the impact of the pandemic on the wine industry, but at least in Australia, it looks like consumers are still enjoying wine at home– and going wild over Target’s new luxury 12 bottle wine cooler.
Retailing for just under two hundred Australian dollars, shoppers are rushing into physical and virtual stores to purchase the sleek, 12 bottle wine cooler, claiming to offer the best for price and quality.
Claiming to use ‘advanced thermoelectric technology’ the Bellini 12 bottle wine cooler is so popular that it’s out of stock in many stores across the country.
But it isn’t just about one affordable 12 bottle wine cooler across the world. In fact, while wine sales did slow some in 2020 in the US, online wine sales, from online alcohol delivery like Drizly to wine subscription services like the California Wine Club, enjoyed increased popularity.
In the past year alone, online sales of alcohol increased by 72 percent, and many see even more opportunities to expand their customer base.
The interest in personal wine coolers and online wine delivery points to a trend: more wanting to enjoy quality wine from home. Today I’ll help you do just that. Consider this your guide to the best 12 bottle wine coolers that are affordable and you can buy from Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and even WayFair.
Do you need a wine cooler?
Before you start shopping for the best 12 bottle wine coolers, I recommend thinking about the pros and cons of buying one. For most wine enthusiasts, a wine cooler of some kind is a must, especially if someone doesn’t have company and can’t finish a wine bottle in a day or two.
While the best wine racks – whether stackable or on the counter racks–can keep closed bottles of wine good in cool environments, once you open up a bottle of wine it starts losing its fresh taste.
Does wine go bad?
The main reason you need to consider investing in one of the best wine coolers is that wine does, in fact, go bad. Wine can go bad if it was not bottled correctly or somehow contaminated, but it can also go bad over time when exposed to air.
Oxidation occurs once you open a wine bottle, whether that’s Champagne or Merlot, or Sauvignon Blanc. Depending on the wine, the fresh taste will disappear sooner or slower, but most recommendations suggest that wine should be consumed as quickly as possible.
You can tell wine has gone bad if it:
- Looks brown or discolored
- Smells like sweat or mold or other odors, like vinegar
- Is sparkling wine and all the carbonation is gone
Of course, you can also tell a wine has gone bad by taste. Bad wine may take on any number of tastes, such as vinegar, fermented food, or rotten food. But I highly recommend not trying wine if it exhibits any of the signs above or you notice it has a leak.
Reasons to get a wine cooler
I recommend getting a wine cooler if you plan on enjoying more than one bottle of wine at once, or are simply slow to drink wine. You may wonder about the difference between a wine cooler and a regular fridge.
A wine cooler is preferable to a regular fridge in that a wine cooler is set to temperatures and conditions ideal for wine. In fact, your average wine cooler runs at around 45 degrees, compared to an average of around 37 degrees for a refrigerator.
Other features, such as darkness and special cooling systems, as well as specific racks for wine, ensure that wine stays at top quality.
If, on the other hand, you only enjoy a bottle of wine occasionally, it may not be as necessary to invest in a wine cooler–so long as you drink quickly and keep long-unopened bottles stored in a wine rack.
How do you find the best compact wine coolers?
12 bottle wine coolers are usually categorized as compact wine coolers. They’re real space savers and more practical for those who don’t have a large collection or are tight on space.
Of course, compact wine coolers do not always have all the luxurious features as larger wine coolers, but the very best ones can offer excellent cooling systems, clever storage, and even smart tech features.
12 bottle wine coolers come in two main forms: either countertop 12 bottle wine coolers, or freestanding 12 bottle wine coolers.
Of course, countertop wine coolers are especially practical if you’re tight on space or living in an apartment, while freestanding wine coolers can in turn free up cluttered space, and, at their most luxurious, arguably even create a bit of atmosphere to a room.
In order to find the best 12 bottle wine coolers, I look for a mix of versatility, overall features, and value per price point. Of course, the most important things I consider are the cooling systems and related features that keep wine cool and fresh.
Temperature and Cooling
The best wine coolers should have a mild range of temperatures to suit different wine types. Red and white wines do best cooled at 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
With a compact, 12 bottle wine cooler, look for thermoelectric cooling systems, which ensure the temperature stays consistent throughout the cooler, as opposed to a compressed system. Multiple temperature options for the whole cooler or even different levels is an added bonus. Precision cooling is great if you have especially particular types of wine.
Humidity control is another great feature to keep in mind, as are energy-efficient systems.
Lighting can play a big role not merely for the ambiance and element of decor for a wine cooler, but also for keeping your wine fresh for as long as possible.
Harsh lighting, or lighting that stays on, can negatively affect your wine’s composition. In a compact, 12 bottle wine cooler, opt for LED lights, which give off less heat and brightness. Make sure these lights can be adjusted, with a bonus if they automatically shut on and off.
Doors and Racks
Tempered glass doors are attractive and keep your wine cool, while sturdy materials like stainless steel can also be great options. Racks should provide stability and adequately hold the wine bottles. Sliding racks are useful for taking wine in and out.
Get to know the company policies a little. Though compact wine coolers, both freestanding and counter wine coolers, are fairly affordable (many averaging around two hundred or one hundred dollars), you still want to see if they have a refund and warranty policies. As an added bonus, I like to make sure the company is reputable and has a history of positive reviews.
Additional features including smart touch screens, locks or security systems, and interfaces for other things. With 12 bottle wine coolers, you may get some, but not all of these features.
Affordable 12 Bottle Wine Coolers
Now I’ll tell you my top picks for the best 12 bottle wine coolers for your countertop and freestanding units. Using the criteria I discussed above, I tell you which compact wine coolers to my list for features, price, and overall value.
Best Countertop 12 Bottle Wine Coolers
Here are the best 12 bottle wine coolers you can buy for your countertop. I love countertop wine coolers for saving floor space and easy serving.
They work especially well for apartments or small kitchens where you’d rather have your gadgets in one place and save as much room as possible.
Best Wine Enthusiast 12-Bottle Compact Wine Cooler
Wine Enthusiast offers a 12 bottle compact wine cooler for right around $200 with a simple exterior but admirable features.
Though modest looking on the exterior initially, this energy efficient wine cooler provides a digital touchscreen for easy temperature monitoring; LED lighting, and comes with a 1 year warranty.
I love the energy-efficient design, the sturdy chrome wire shelves, and how easy it is to fit even on more crowded countertops. While not stunning in appearance (there is no glass door to showcase your wine), it’s a good value for the features you get and was awarded an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Best Budget: Ivation 12-Bottle Compressor Square Wine and Beverage Cooler
Technically freestanding, this compact designed 12 bottle wine cooler works perfectly for your countertop, saving you space with sacrificing features.
It’ll save you just a little money, but, with a Home Depot card, you can save an additional 100 dollars. With a temperature range of 41 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s suited for not only red and white but also sparkling wines.
Double pane glass doors pair with LED lighting to keep your wine safe and properly displayed. Plus, you still get easy touch temperature controls and UV protection.
Best Overall: Koolatron 12-Bottle Deluxe Wine Cellar
Looking for a sleek, modern wine cooler for your counter? I recommend this Koolatron 12-bottle option, priced at just over $200.
Beautiful tempered glass doors display your wine and still keep it fresh and cool, with temperature settings from 46 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit.
A central thermoelectric cooling unit is quiet and prevents vibrations from disturbing your wine. Meanwhile. The digital control pad allows you to seamlessly monitor temperature and humidity. The wooden racks are studious and easy to move, and the interior lighting finishes off the design.
Best Freestanding Floor 12 Bottle Wine Coolers
Freestanding units are sometimes a better choice. For one, these wine coolers may serve as more impressive ways to present your wine, and even add a sense of decor to a room.
For another, sometimes you can get some extra features with larger units. Of course, you’ll have to decide what kind of 12 bottle wine coolers make the most sense for your needs.
Best UV- Resistant: Schmecke 12 Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler Refrigerator
From Schmecke comes one of the best freestanding 12 bottle wine cooler options, especially if you’re concerned about UV light. While it doesn’t feature a thermoelectric cooling system, it does still keep wine at a temperature range of 41 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, with a built-in fan for consistency.
The beautiful glass doors are both UV resistant and double-paned, keeping wine safe and flavorful. LED lighting is energy efficient, and the racks can easily be removed.
Plus, you also get easy touch digital controls that are great even when all the lights are out. It retails for around $200 and comes with a 1-year warranty.
Most Practical: Koolatron WC12-35D 12 Bottle Capacity Thermoelectric Wine Cooler
Koolatron offers one of the best freestanding 12 bottle wine coolers with a 4 out of 5-star average rating and features for optimal temperature and humidity control with stable shelving units.
What makes this a stand out to me are the handsome Beachwood shelves that you can slide in and out to accommodate wine bottles of all different sizes.
I also like the thermoelectric cooling system that is not only quiet but also energy efficient and low vibration. Meanwhile, the mirror glass door not only makes this wine cooler presentation worthy but also protects against harmful lighting. You also get a touchscreen for temperature display and control, all for right at $200.
Best Overall: Nutrichef PKCWC120 Refrigerator
delivers a crowd pleaser with this 12 bottle wine cooler, complete with an impressive number of features for under $250. The compact design can be purchased with stainless steel, a sturdy frame with a glossy finish, making it visually appealing.
It includes precision cooling with custom temperature settings and LED lights to keep your wine cool and fresh. I love the surprise addition of a fan and ventilation system to keep airflow consistent. It also comes with a one-year warranty and features quiet operation.
The temperature range is a tad warmer than some coolers, and it cannot be shipped to California. Overall, it’s my favorite choice for a freestanding 12 bottle cooler, even if it is a tad more expensive, and customers seem to agree, with ¾ of consumers giving to the unit a 5 out of a 5-star rating. Read our full NutriChef Wine Cooler Review here.
Answer: A wine fridge is one of the best types of wine gear if you’re planning to drink more bottles of wine at a time or cannot drink wine quickly.
Wine fridges offer the optimal environment, with humidity control and custom temperature settings that are warmer are more suited for wine. The average refrigerator has a temperature of around 37 degrees, whereas wine coolers average 46 to 60 degrees.
In addition, wine fridges feature racks that will hold wine properly–sideways and at a slight angle. This keeps wine from hitting the cork, in terms of keeping the cork moisturized and preventing holes in the cork (leading to oxidation). Overall, the best wine coolers will be worth it for keeping wine fresh for longer
Answer: Red wine, just as with white wine, should be placed in a wine fridge after being opened. Once a wine is opened, it’s exposed to light, humidity and air that can take away from the flavor, taste and quality. A wine fridge will keep the wine fresh for longer and should be used for any wine that will not be consumed in a single sitting.
Answer: You can place your wine fridge in a number of locations. There are under the counter wine coolers and counter wine coolers for tighter spaces and more compact designs.
Freestanding wine coolers range from compact to quite large, and can be placed in kitchens, but preferably in cooler, darker environments like finished basements. Keep in mind that, even if the wine cooler itself has LED lights, wine coolers are still best placed in rooms with relatively low humidity.
Final Thoughts and Alternatives
12 bottle wine coolers, at their best, can keep your wine fresh for longer and more flavorful. From sparkling wine to red wine and white wine, a wine cooler with an integrated cooling system and humidity control is a great way to savor your wine – complemented with an electric wine opener.
Not sure a wine cooler is right for you, or just want to make a single bottle last longer? A great alternative is a wine preserver, like Coravin. A wine preserver opens your wine bottle in a way that extracts air and reseals it, keeping the wine from oxidizing. Read my review of Coravin.