Just how important is finding the best under counter wine refrigerator for storing wine? Maybe more important than you’d imagine.
At its best, a glass or bottle of wine is more than just wine. Wine is an experience, meant to be enjoyed with others–at least that’s what wine is according to Decant SF, a new wine bar in the heart of San Francisco that touts itself as a ‘social learning space’. According to co-owners Cara Patricia and Simi Grewal, the bar, which opens its doors May 1st, will answer a need to not only serve fine wine but an experience where customers can meet others, whittle an afternoon and enjoy the ambiance. While there are many places to purchase a bottle or glass of wine in the Golden Gate City, they insist, there are few places where you can actually truly enjoy in the way wine was supposed to be both enjoyed and shared.
Weekly tastings, personalized customer preference profiles, and even wine clubs at varying prices and with various flavors in mind will all be central to helping create a social setting around the wine they sell.
They may be on to something.
Wine has always been a beverage used to celebrate and commemorate, or even just add an accent to a good meal–this is especially true in France, where many really do consider a meal unfinished without a glass. But the social aspect is partially what makes wine so enjoyable and impactful. Jake Kloberdanz, CEO of One Hope Wine, realized this as his company has managed to donate over four million dollars to non-profits (he came up with the idea for the Napa Valley-based company after one of his best friends received a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the young age of twenty-two). Wine, he agrees, is a social thing, meant to center around a vibrant community sharing and collaborating together for something meaningful–whether that means donating to a cause, like his company, or simply meeting and spending time with others.
But if you’re planning on entertaining yourself, there’s one thing that could get in your way of a pleasant social experience: wine past its prime.
You may think wine can never go bad, but that simply isn’t the case. Improper storage can accelerate wine going bad and make for an unpleasant or even embarrassing experience. Luckily you don’t have to be a wine connoisseur; all you need to do is to understand wine properly.
In this article, in addition to some basics on wine storage, we’ll also cover how to find the best under counter wine refrigerators–not only so you can have the freshest wine possible, but also so you can optimize storage space, ensuring little gets in your way of a meaningful evening of glasses with friends.
Does wine really go ‘bad’?
Wine can, in fact, go ‘bad’. While most consumers worry about the variety of wine they’re getting, they should also be made aware that even the finest wine, stored improperly, can leave a less than fine taste in their mouth.
Generally speaking, if wine is tightly sealed and has not been opened, you don’t have much to worry about. There’s a reason why wine can be aged to taste for decades, even hundreds of years–hence the perception that you never need to worry about your wine the way you would a carton of milk.
But the biggest mistakes customers make? Even sealed bottles of wine, stored on a counter, can go bad after time–a rather unpleasant surprise. The cork, of course, is what allows for a hermetic seal and keeps oxygen and contaminants from reaching the wine. But if you store the wine sitting up, rather than on its side, over time tiny holes or perforations form in the cork. While it does take some time, the wine will eventually go bad. Wine is kept in a lying position so that the liquid moistens the cork, thus preventing the formation of those holes over time.
Opened wine is an even bigger problem. While sparkling wine will lose its fizz within a day or so, other wine most be store properly, in a refrigerating unit. Otherwise, you may very well end up serving an ‘expired’ glass of wine for you or your guests.
How can I tell if my wine has gone bad?
There are some simple ways to tell that your wine, opened or unopened, has gone bad. The following signs are all reasons you should promptly discard that bottle of wine and reach for something else to serve:
- The wine tastes carbonated, even though it’s not meant to be a sparkling wine
- Wine tastes sweet when its flavor notes are not meant to be sweet. Red wine is something to especially be wary of tasting sweet.
- The cork isn’t firmly in place–and it may not have just been an error on your part. While a slightly loose cork doesn’t always spell for disaster if used very quickly, you should proceed with caution. One tell-tale sign is a cork that is ever so slightly pushed away from the bottle, which could be a sign of the cork itself reacting to the wine both expanding and overheating.
- A brownish or yellow hue, both signs the wine has oxidized.
- An unpleasant aroma. Don’t play games with this one–anything that smells moldy, like vinegar, or even resembles the smell of raisins is a bad sign.
- Chemical taste. If there is an odd taste that reminds you of chemicals, get rid of the bottle.
What’s the proper way to store wine so I make sure it doesn’t go bad?
We’ve already touched on this a little, but this point deserves some emphasis. Properly storing wine, both opened and unopened, can ensure you won’t embarrass yourself, or even make you and others sick when entertaining.
For unopened, tightly sealed bottles:
- Store in a cool, moist place, preferably on a wine rack
- Store the bottles sideways, as opposed to standing
- Keep it in a dark place with as limited light as possible, to protect against UV rays
For opened bottles:
- While this applies for both, make sure temperature stays consistent, as greater changes excel a wine’s expiration
- Keep the wine refrigerated
- Humidity should be around seventy percent
- Make sure the cork is as tightly secured as possible
What’s the purpose of an under-counter wine refrigerator?
Since keep temperature consistent, as well as other storing conditions, is key to keeping wine good for as long as possible, a cooling refrigerator is a must have if you’re someone who entertains or even just has a few bottles of wine on hand at any given time. While other refrigerators do the trick, under counter wine refrigerators are especially prized for their economic use of space. It’s also especially handy when entertaining or serving others. Investing in the best under counter wine refrigerator you can find is worth it for experiencing wine at the best quality possible.
Why should I opt for an under-counter wine refrigerator as opposed to a built-in refrigerator unit?
A built-in wine refrigerator unit can be both convenient and elegant in a kitchen. But built-in units tend to cost more; freestanding units of course also give you the option to more easily move the refrigerator should you need to. In addition, built-in cooling units require specific ventilation systems to prevent overheating. While built-in refrigerator units are excellent choices, anyone on a lower budget, who stores wine less frequently, and wants the option to move the unit for whatever reason, may prefer an under-counter wine refrigerator instead.
Keep in mind that a central challenge of under counter refrigerators is fit: they can be shapes or sizes that do not match as seamlessly as a built-in unit.
What should I look for in an under-counter wine refrigerator?
But what exactly should you look for in an under-counter wine refrigerator? Here are some factors you need to look into:
Efficient use of space:
Of course, paying attention to the dimensions and also how much wine can be stored needs to be a key consideration. Much of this is a matter of personal preference, as well as how much space you need. Just make sure, especially when comparing different models and prices that this is something you keep in mind.
Most wines are best stored at a temperature of forty-five to fifty-five degrees, but the normal default for refrigeration units, in general, is much cooler around thirty-five to thirty-seven degrees.
Adds on, like digital displays
And even alarms and locks may be features you want if you have a flexible budget, but they’re not also non-negotiable.
Is something you want to look at, since light, especially UV light, has an impact on wine quality and storage life. You’re better off finding an under counter refrigerator with incandescent or even LED lights.
Is also something to consider; the more shaking the more your wine will be disturbed. The sturdier the cooler, the better–which is why you don’t always want to go for the cheapest under counter wine refrigerator possible.
- Thermoelectric vs Compressor systems: Generally you’ll have an option of either compressor or thermoelectric refrigeration systems. There are several pros and cons to each. Thermoelectric systems are prized for being more lightweight, free or almost free of vibrations, energy efficient and are generally quieter, but they also have overall less efficient cooling, are more susceptible to environmental heat, and have fewer options for storing wine. In contrast, compressor systems have more storage capacity and options, stronger cooling systems, and cope better in warmer environments. That said, compressor systems require more energy to run and also vibrates. When it comes to under counter wine refrigerators, thermoelectric is your best bet–you’re looking for something that is more compact and you definitely want something less vulnerable to vibrations if you’re in a kitchenette. Plus, you can control how cool the external environment is.
- Ratings and reviews to get a full idea of how well the refrigerator works, and for what purpose
- Energy friendly insulation can usually be found with rigid polyurethane foam, which is not only effective as an insulator but also is very light, strong, and useful for smaller spaces like under-counter refrigerators. The other good news is that it tends to be a fairly affordable form of insulation. It’s considered eco-friendly by dramatically cutting back on overall energy usage.
- Dual cooling systems: While not a must-have, dual cooling systems may be helpful if you plan on storing over beverages, like beer, in addition to wine. Since beer does have different conditions you should store it under, a dual system would be needed.
- Warranty: Even though under counter wine refrigerators tend to be more affordable, it’s still in your best interest to find a refrigerator that comes with a manufacturer’s warranty.
Can you point me to some of the best under counter wine refrigerators?
Keeping all of these key criteria in mind, we’ve found some of the best, highly rated under counter wine refrigerators. Without further ado, here are the refrigerators that top our list:
A number one bestseller on Amazon, the hOmelabs freestanding fridge can hold up to eighteen bottles of wine at a time and is only intended for wine as it has a single chilling zone. Temperature is adjustable and has a range of fifty-four to sixty-four degrees Fahrenheit, which is especially ideal for bottles of rose, white and red wine. Slide out racks make it easier to reach for your bottle and are constructed to be sturdy and durable. An inside light switch allows you to store your wine in a dark setting but is useful for your own use. A glass door and digital temperature display add to the overall aesthetic appeal. The thermoelectric system also features a whisper fan system to keep it both as energy efficient and quiet as possible. A downside is it is more expensive than some models, retailing at one hundred and eighty dollars.
This twelve bottle under the counter wine cooler by NutriChef also features a thermoelectric system and is a slightly more affordable option, at one hundred twenty dollars retail, if you don’t need to store as many wine bottles at a time. With a rating of over four and a half out of five stars based upon over five hundred reviews, this small refrigerator has a number of nifty features. LED lights, an airtight seal on an attractive glass door, the cooling system is optimized to make as little noise as possible. Horizontal shelves can be converted into vertical shelves; as if that were not enough, it also comes with a one year warranty.
If you’re looking for a smaller, more compact and affordable wine cooler, you might want to consider this one by Magic Chef. It may not have all of the bells and whistles on some models, but it does come recommended with a four and a half star average rating. A thermoelectric system of cooling can be adjusted anywhere from forty-six to sixty-four degrees for optimal cooling; sculpted chrome shelves allow you to remove racks for best storage. While technically in the category of under counter wine refrigerators, an extra compact design also makes it suitable for countertop use.
Ivation Premium Stainless Steel 8 Bottle Thermoelectric Wine Cooler/Chiller Counter Top Red & White Wine Cellar w/Digital Temperature:
A very attractive option by Ivation, this wine cooler can be used either under or on a countertop and is perfect for storing red and white wines. The cooling system provides an adjustable but stable ideal temperature between forty-eight and sixty-four degrees Fahrenheit. Insulated foam is optimized for cooling and maintains humidity. The refrigerator also features thermopane doors that deflect UV rays. Stainless steel makes it look welcome in most kitchens, and a digital display is included for easy use.
If we had to select just one under the counter wine refrigerator, it would be NutriChef’s 12 bottle cooler.
This is not the most expensive or the lowest cost option and provides decent storage space, excellent features, and a one year warranty. While all under counter wine refrigerators on our list are worth checking out, this one offers a great blend of features for the discerning consumer.