A wine cooler is an appliance designed to store wine, keep it cool, and preserve its quality. One can cost between $50 and $8,000 depending on how many bottles it can store and its extra features. So, is it worth investing in one? The short answer is yes and no.
If you’ve bought several bottles of good quality wine that you want to keep for a while, then wine coolers are worth the money. However, if your idea of a good wine involves buying the cheapest bottle you can find and drinking it as soon as possible, you probably shouldn’t buy a wine cooler.
If you fall into the former category, you’re in the right place. In this article, I’ll help you understand why storing wine in a regular refrigerator may not cut it and why getting a wine cooler is an excellent idea. I’ll also outline the type of coolers available in the market.
Why Wine Coolers Are Worth the Money
Imagine tasting one of your expensive bottles of wine and finding its flavor flat or acidic. Well, with a wine cooler or fridge, you don’t have to worry about this scenario. A wine cooler keeps your bottles of wine in excellent conditions so that flavors and aromas remain at their highest potential.
Let’s look at why you need to invest in a wine cooler if you’re a moderate wine collector or enthusiast.
- It doesn’t experience temperature fluctuations. Wine coolers operate at a constant temperature based on what you have set. You can choose from a range of 46°F to 66°F (7.78°C to 18.89°C) based on the type of wine you wish to store. However, you can also set it to 55°F.
- There’s little to no vibration. Some wine refrigerators vibrate mainly due to the use of a compressor-based cooling system. However, this vibration is not as much as for a regular fridge. So, sediments settle over time and keep the flavor at its best. Thermoelectric wine coolers don’t vibrate.
- It has appropriate humidity levels. Since temperature and humidity are related, having the wine stored at the right temperature means humidity stays at a suitable level. You may use a hygrometer such as the Goabroa Mini Hygrometer (available on Amazon.com) to measure the humidity level in your wine cooler. This one has a digital readout and comes with its batteries included.
- There’s no exposure to sunlight. Wine coolers come with built-in light protection so that your wine doesn’t degrade.
- It has adequate and dedicated storage space. You don’t have to share space anymore with food items as you would with a regular fridge. Also, coolers come in various sizes. So you can store anything from four bottles up to over 200 bottles depending on your needs.
- You can store wine close to serving temperature. A wine fridge not only stows your wine at the perfect storage temperature but also keeps it at the best serving temperature.
- It comes with convenient construction options. Wine coolers come in one of two options: Built-in and Freestanding coolers. You can install a wine refrigerator under your kitchen countertops (built-in wine cooler) or choose a freestanding option that you can put in any space in your kitchen or living room.
It’s important to note that freestanding coolers shouldn’t be installed under countertops to prevent overworking cooling systems.
Can You Use Your Household Fridge To Store Unopened Wine?
Technically, you can use your regular fridge to store unopened wine, although it’s not advisable, especially if you intend to keep it in there for more than a week.
Wine is a delicate drink. So, as a wine lover, you must take care to store it properly. You must consider the temperature, humidity, light, vibration, and storage position of the bottles. Let’s look at these in greater detail to see why using your regular household fridge isn’t a good idea.
According to the FDA, household refrigerators should run at temperatures below 40°F (4.44°C) to keep food safe. However, this is far below the required 55°F (12.78°C) your quality wine needs to remain pristine. Generally, you want to keep your wine cool but not too chilled.
Fluctuating temperatures due to the regular opening and closing of your fridge door lead to the thermal expansion of the wine. As a result, the cork moves due to a change in pressure inside the bottle. Ultimately, this leads to the breakage of the seal. Once this happens, the surrounding air freely flows into the bottle and leads to contamination of aromas.
Relative humidity (RH) levels should range between 50% and 70% to maintain the quality of any wine. Under the best conditions, aim for 60%.
Most household refrigerators have a humidity of less than 50%, which leaves the cork dry. The dry cork soon shrinks and results in degraded smells and flavors due to air exposure. Also, levels higher than 70% lead to a build-up of mold on labels and a change in maturation.
Light and Vibration
The effects of exposure to sunlight are minimal when using a household refrigerator because the wine doesn’t come into contact with much light, except when you open the fridge door(s). But vibration does.
Home fridges vibrate (some more violently than others) as the compressor motor goes about its business. Unfortunately, vibrations are harmful to your wine, as determined by a study done in 2008. Vibrations cause the sediments in the bottle to mix with the wine, affecting the acidity and aging of the wine.
Unless you have a gigantic refrigerator with lots of racks, your expensive bottles of wine will battle for space with your foodstuff. You may even get tempted to place them upright in the front door compartment, right next to your milk.
But, unopened and especially corked wines should be stored horizontally. The horizontal position keeps the cork moist, preventing any oxidation and premature aging.
How To Choose Your Wine Cooler (Buying Guide)
As mentioned before, wine refrigerators come in various sizes and options. With many brands to choose from, it can be challenging to decide which cooler to buy. To help you out, here are a few features you should consider when purchasing a wine cooler.
The capacity of your wine cooler depends on the number of bottles you desire to store at any given time. Remember to factor in space to grow your collection when choosing a wine cooler. If you’re an enthusiastic wine collector, you’ll probably need more space than someone who buys wine only once in a while.
Built-In vs. Freestanding Wine Fridges
As mentioned, the built-in wine cooler sits under countertops. It features a vent at the front of the door to release heat. If you want an excellent built-in cooler, you may want to look at the 15-inch (38.1 cm) wide Kalamera Wine Cooler Refrigerator (available on Amazon.com). It holds 40 bottles of wine! (Although, a 46-bottle option exists.)
The freestanding option stands alone and dissipates heat from the back. If you have lots of idle space in your home, you can check out the Danby Freestanding Wine Cooler (available on Amazon.com). It can hold 36 bottles and comes with an option 5-year protection plan.
Single Zone vs. Dual Zone Wine Fridges
Single zone fridges have the entire cooler set to the same temperature. Consider it if you only want to store one type of wine.
If you foresee yourself storing a mixture of red and white wine or even champagne, you’ll need a dual-zone cooler. Here you can set different temperatures for the separate storage sections. Below is a brief guide on the preferred storage temperatures for wines:
- Light to medium red wines at 54°F and 61°F (12.22°C to 17.78°C).
- Full-bodied wines at 63°F and 66°F (17.22°C and 18.89°C).
- Dry whites at 46°F to 54°F (7.78°C to 12.22°C).
Consider the dual cooler Phiestina Dual Zone Wine Cooler Refrigerator (available on Amazon.com) if you need a multi-type wine cooler. It holds 33 wine bottles.
Thermoelectric vs. Compressor-Based Wine Fridges
Compressor-based wine coolers tend to offer better cooling than thermoelectric ones. However, thermoelectric coolers are noiseless, vibration-free, and more energy-efficient.
Small fridges mostly use thermoelectric coolers, while larger coolers use compressor-based wine coolers. For an excellent thermoelectric cooler, consider the Schmecke Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler (available on Amazon.com). It only holds 12 bottles, but it features temperature stability.
Added features such as child lock and door alarms that keep your wine safe always come in handy. If your choice fridge does not come with any safety mechanism, you can purchase a fridge lock such as the BAOWEIJD Fridge Lock (available on Amazon.com). It’s reasonably priced and comes in a two-pack.