What makes one wine cooler different from another? Which one is right for me? Read below to learn what differentiates the best wine coolers from all of the others.
Proper wine storage is vital to the enjoyment of your wine, whether you have 1 bottle or aspire to collect 1000 bottles. Changes in humidity, temperature and even exposure to sunlight can alter your wine drinking experience. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to wine bottle coolers, which is why I put together this blog for you.
No matter if you want to keep your collection close, in your living room; where you cook, in your kitchen; or where you entertain…You will learn how to find exactly what you are looking for. With wine refrigerators that range in price from $100 – $10,000; there are a lot of options…but often, only a few offer exactly what you need. I made this site so you could learn to differentiate between the good, the bad and the ugly of wine coolers.
What kind of wine you are keeping in the wine cooler, how much of it you plan on collecting (hint…double the number you are thinking of) and even where you are going to place your wine cooler are important factors in making the right decision, the first time.
For any number of bottled wine you have or want to preserve for the future, there is a wine cooler for you. Whether you want a built-in triple zone model, a cooler under the counter in your kitchen or a simple one to put in the corner of your den, the research is here for you…
Why can’t I keep my wine in the kitchen refrigerator (or in the garage beer fridge)?
Simply put….wine is more sensitive to its environment than food is. Temperature, vibration and humidity all play a part in ensuring that wine you are storing will be kept in tiptop condition for future enjoyment. What temperature is your kitchen refrigerator set at? Probably around 40 degrees, which is WAY too cold for wine and much too dry for cork stoppers.
When a refrigerator is kept at a cool, almost frigid temperature, it keeps odors at bay and ensures that your lettuce and your milk stay fresh in the same area. If a bottle of wine is kept in a normal refrigerated environment too long, the cork will shrink and let the aroma of yesterday’s grilled onion covered hamburger into what was a great bottle of wine. Wine bottle coolers, on the other hand, are designed to be temperature and humidity adjustable to ensure that your Napa Valley (or French or whatever you most enjoy) treasures maintain their optimal balance.
Another reason for a wine cooler and not the old refrigerator is vibration. Unlike purpose built coolers, compressors on normal refrigerators are not designed to limit vibration like a wine cooler is intended to. Harsh vibrations not only stir up flavor ruining sediment in stored wine but can also change the flavor by increasing the number of chemical reactions taking place…..which would, again, change flavor and fragrance for the worse.
50 – 60 percent is the ideal humidity range for wine storage. Under 50 percent and there is a danger that the cork will shrink, over 60 percent and mold becomes a concern. By using proper cooling for your growing collection, perfection can be achieved.
Where to put your wine bottle cooler
Wine coolers come in many different sizes and can be fit in a multitude of locations around your home. In an effort to narrow down which wine refrigerator is best for you, first….you have to decide where it will go. If you are remodeling your kitchen or updating an outdated appliance a built-in wine cooler would make an excellent choice. But, on the other hand; if you are not willing to give up the cabinet space in your current kitchen….or can’t remodel….then a freestanding wine fridge would be your best option.
You might be asking yourself…what is the real difference between a built-in refrigerator and a freestanding appliance? Besides the seamlessness of a built-in, the former wine fridge will have vents on the front; whereas the free standing cooler will usually have vents on the rear of the appliance.
Thermoelectric vs Compressor driven
If you are choosing a freestanding wine cooler, understanding the difference between a compressor driven model and a thermoelectric wine refrigerator is essential in making an informed decision. I say freestanding, because you will not find a built-in thermoelectric model and soon, you will understand why.
Thermoelectric models are almost completely silent, lighter in weight and because they are passively cooled, also used less energy. Thermoelectric coolers are best used where the external climate is always within 20 degrees of the desired wine storage temperature. These coolers are often smaller models which are optimal for keeping wine close at hand in a den or living room.
When looking to control the condition of a larger collection and in locations that are exposed to a varying degree of heat and humidity, a compressor driven cooler would be a wiser choice. Compressors are able to work harder to keep the internal temperature much more stable, thereby protecting your investment for a long time to come and allowing you many more options in choosing where you will place your wine cooler. It is true that compressors can cause vibration, which could be harmful, though most modern coolers have been designed to minimize this otherwise damaging aspect of compressor based storage.
Bells and Whistles
Although quality is perhaps the most important differentiation when choosing appliances such as these, there are other attributes and accessories that can make or break a purchase. It is important that you understand the function of these features to help make the buying decision as easy as possible.
Single or Dual Zone (or Triple for that matter…)
As you know, temperature control is paramount to maintaining a quality wine. But, what if you have a white wine you want to keep chilled and a red that needs to stay at a slightly warmer, albeit warmer temperature? Or….what if you prefer a particular vintage at a certain temperature, regardless of the variety? There was a time where the only answer would be to buy two different wine coolers, but not today; today these versatile appliances are available with dual and triple zone controls. These controls ensure that your wine is kept at a consistent, optimal temperature that YOU choose, making your wine ready for immediate enjoyment.
At all price points you will have different shelving options, it is important to understand the attributes of shelves because after all….you wine depends on them.
- Wire shelving. These shelves tend to be seen in the less expensive models, they tend to be light, maintain the temperature of the fridge and also give maximum storage space. On the other hand, some wire racks can scratch bottle labels if they aren’t properly coated or if the protective coating has been worn away. Wire shelves can also warp over time if loaded with large bottles or stacked with multiple rows.
- Wood Shelving. Usually seen in the best wine coolers, wooden shelves maintain their shape better and are gentler on the bottles than wire shelving. Wood shelves also take up more spaces in a cooler, which is why you will see a bottle capacity difference amongst similarly sized coolers.
- Fixed Shelving lets you stack bottles while Adjustable Shelving ensures that even the largest bottles will have a home.
Other items to consider when choosing a cooler are:
- Temperature Controls. Whether analog or digital, ensure the appliance you choose is capable of your desired range. Each of us has our own preferences, especially when it comes to wine…and that preference often extends to the temperature our wine is stored and consumed at. I prefer digital controls because there is no guessing involved; 55 degree is exactly that, there is no margin of error as analog controls have.
- Locking Doors. Depending on who has access to your wine bottle cooler and who you WANT to have access…a locking door is definitely something to consider.
- Price per bottle. When you are researching the best wine coolers, as I am sure you have already been…you will notice the variety of sizes that they are available in. Be careful, when considering price to average the price per bottle and not just the approximate size. The 32 bottle cooler should be close to the average price of the 36 bottle cooler. If prices vary too much and both coolers are comparative, there could be a quality difference or you may be paying for a name.
- UV Protection. Ultraviolet light is one of the leading causes of damage to short termed wine collections. If your cooler is facing a window, choosing a model with tinted glass will help protect your investment.
Keeping it Clean
No matter if you are unboxing a new cooler, reusing one that had been in storage, or making use of a used cooler, cleaning your cooler will prevent unwanted odor and will ensure your collection is stored in an optimal environment. Cleaning a cooler is simple, here is the best way to clean your wine cooler:
- Unplug your cooler and empty the contents, including any removable shelving.
- Use a mild cleaning solution on the inside surfaces. Baking soda is cheap and makes a most excellent option. When using baking soda, mix 2 tablespoons into a quart or so of water. After the inside is wiped clean, go over it again with warm water to wipe away any residue.
- If you have wire shelving, wipe them down with the baking soda solution and rinse.
- If you have wooden shelving, use a soft cloth and a wood cleaner. Test the cleaner outside of your cooler first to ensure it won’t stain or leave any unwanted odors behind.
- Vacuum the vents and the compressor of dust and cobwebs..
- Wipe down the outside with your baking soda solution, paying close attention to not soak any electronics or compressors.
- If anything is still wet, wipe with a clean cloth.
- Plug you cooler back in, check for desired temperature settings and enjoy!
Wine is made to be treasured and enjoyed, the best way to have a bottle ready is to keep it in a cooler. It doesn’t matter if you are just beginning your collection or are looking to add a cooler to keep a bottle ready; finding the right wine bottle cooler is an essential step in caring for your addiction collection.
The ability to control the temperature and humidity of your collection is an enormous factor in the enjoyment of your collection. Being able to choose a wine like a child would choose a chocolate in a candy store….and enjoy it without any other pre-planning will bring you immense joy and increased satisfaction. Whether that enjoyment begins in the kitchen, living room or anywhere else, having that bottle ready at a moment’s notice will impress even the most devout connoisseur.
In many aspects of life, size does not matter; this, however, is not one of those. BUY A BIGGER COOLER THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED! I cannot stress this enough, you will buy more wine than you have now and you will need a place to put it. So choose wisely and find the best wine cooler you you, but above all, enjoy every glass! Salute!