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How to Find the Perfect Wine Cooler

Red wine, white wine, or both? Choose the best wine cooler fridge for your home bar or even home office.

Yvonne Harbison
Yvonne Harbison
Large capacity built-in wine cooler in Mid-Century Modern style home bar

It may be known as a wine cooler, a wine chiller, a wine refrigerator, or a wine fridge, as one of the few appliances with a name flavor to suit your mood. Whatever you call it, it’s primarily for keeping fancy bottles. Storing your wine in the right environment is essential to getting the most out of every one.  

Whether you’re just starting your collection or have dozens of favorite vintages, there’s a wine cooler fridge to keep them safe. We’ve put together this guide to help you choose the best wine refrigerator for your collection. 

Built-in wine cooler

What to Know About a Wine Fridge

The most important thing to keep in mind about a wine refrigerator is that it is a versatile home appliance, intended to cater to wines and beverages sensitive to the temperature and air quality where they are kept. Some are designed specifically to preserve wine, while others can also store canned beverages right alongside, with the perfect temperatures for both. A wine cooler fridge offers quality and convenience, whether at home or at the office, for entertaining or collecting your favorite vintage.  

Why You Need A Wine Fridge

Storing sensitive wines in a beverage fridge or standard refrigerator may dry them out, oxidize the vintage, or otherwise interfere with the preservation of the flavors inside the bottles. In a matter of days, wines exposed to the usual light and warmth of a kitchen can change flavor, turning bitter as the vinegar overpowers the bouquet, and even start to visibly change colors. In contrast, a wine refrigerator is designed specifically to preserve the most fruity, nutty, or chocolatey notes in the vintage for as long as possible. They do this in multiple ways.  

Wine Cooler Buying Guide

First, wine chiller shelves hold bottles horizontally so the liquid flows toward the neck, keeping the cork wet to prevent drying out and cracking, which can allow damaging air to enter the bottle. (Even if all other precautions weren’t enough, that one design element can make a big difference in wine storage.)  

Preservation techniques built into a wine fridge include:  

  • UV resistant glass.  
  • Internal LED lighting. 
  • Variable shelf sizes and customization options to fit bottles. 
  • Consistent temperature settings. 
  • Humidity regulation. 
  • Lower vibration cooling systems. 

Another feature of some wine refrigerators is that they can be locked to keep the uninvited out of the fridge. It helps to minimize the number of times the door is opened throughout the day, which can expose the bottles to harmful conditions over time. 

Built-in home bar with beverage fridge and wine cooler

Wine Cooler vs. Beverage Fridge

Though a wine cooler fridge is a type of refrigerator, it is not cold enough to properly preserve most refrigerated food items. Despite the shared names, a wine refrigerator is not just another mini-fridge, and making that mistake could cost you a lot of money in groceries or damage your wine collection.  

The biggest, most important difference is that a quality wine refrigerator can have the temperature set to between 45 degrees and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much warmer than the 35 degrees to 45 degrees Fahrenheit offered by the standard refrigerator, regardless of size.  

Roll out wine shelves

Other differences between a wine refrigerator and a beverage fridge include: 

  • The design of the shelves. 
  • The amount of humidity. 
  • The consistency of the temperature. 
  • The power source. 
  • The amount of noise it creates. 

In contrast to a wine cooler, a beverage fridge will be colder, louder, and subject to the vibrations caused by the power of the compressor and the types of materials used to store items on the shelves inside. A beverage fridge will often use drawers and flat shelving and create cluttered storage places that block airflow. More importantly, the temperature and humidity monitoring systems of a beverage fridge create inconsistent environmental conditions that interfere with the quality of wine.  

Wine and beverage cooler built-in to home bar

A Wine Cooler Is Not Just For Wine

While the differences between a wine fridge and a beverage cooler may seem subtle, they allow you to customize how you store various household items and foods. Not everything in your refrigerator or pantry shelves is best kept in absolute cold or in the variable humidity of a cupboard space. A wine refrigerator can provide the best storage environment for many perishable goods.  

Other adult beverages, like beer and some hard alcohols, can be kept chilled in a wine refrigerator, or the cooler can be used exclusively for sodas, bottled water, or sparkling water. It can even double as a humidor to be used for keeping cigars. While the wine cooler fridge offers the advantage of keeping all of these adult treats in one place, under lock and key if needed, the appliance can also provide family-friendly storage. 

Other daily-use items can find a good home in a wine refrigerator, such as: 

  • Cheeses 
  • Deli meats 
  • Fruits, like apples, pears, and oranges or limes for adding to drinks 
  • Juices and juice boxes 
  • Vegetables 
  • Prepared wet foods for pets 

Built-in wine fridge, bottles of wine, canned beverages, snacks

The wine fridge is a good place to keep food on-hand in the home office, or even for social gatherings. It is great for storing the refills for the charcuterie board, the refreshments, or even to pre-chill glasses and dishware for drinks and desserts. This also includes chocolate and other soft-melt treats. 

The kitchen wine cooler fridge can be used to dry-age and cure meats, with the stable temperature and humidity environment. If your household prefers farm-fresh chicken eggs, the wine refrigerator is the perfect place to store them. A wine chiller can also be used to store non-edible items, like beauty products, skin care creams, or medicines that require a consistent, cool storage place. 

What To Look For When Buying a Wine Refrigerator 

Because a wine refrigerator is intended to store items with very specific, even unique requirements, it’s a good idea to know what to look for before you purchase one. Keep in mind the type of wines you like to have on hand for short term or long term storage and try to identify what their storage requirements are ahead of time. That information will help you determine which of the following features are the best fit for your wine collection. 

The Different Types of Wine Fridge Zones

Just as there are different flavors of wine to choose from, there are different types of wine refrigerators to help preserve them. They function the same, but they provide more specific customization options for temperature and humidity levels to cater to your particular preference of vintage by offering separate cooling zones. 

  • A single-zone wine refrigerator is sufficient if you prefer to drink one type of wine over another.  
  • A dual-zone model will let you keep both whites and reds at their uniquely ideal temperature within the same appliance, or store wine in one zone and other beverages in another.  
  • For maximum flexibility, 3-zone and 4-zone wine coolers  are also available. 

With these different types of wine fridge available, it allows a collector to house their long-term storage bottles in the same place as the vintages they serve at dinner with friends; accessing short-term bottle storage doesn’t interfere with the aging of the other varieties. Multi-zone wine coolers also allow for other non-wine storage at different temperatures, as needed. 

270bottle capacity wine fridge and a 140 bottle capacity wine fridge

The Capacity and Dimensions of the Wine Cooler 

In your search for the right wine refrigerator, you will quickly notice that many of these appliances are listed by the number of bottles they are capable of storing. It is also important to note that vineyards and wineries world-wide have not come to a unified definition of the appropriate size and shape of a bottle of wine, just as all wine refrigerator dimensions vary by manufacturer and style types. With that in mind, it makes sense that your collection range may be much more varied than what is shown on the shelves of the wine fridge on display.  

The shape and size of wine bottles is so unique, from each vintage to the choice of the vineyard, that a common middle-ground had to be found. Trying to build a cooler for one size exclusively would be difficult, costly, and take up more space and electricity than is reasonable.  

As a result, a quality wine fridge is instead designed around one general bottle type, with removable shelves or otherwise customizable storage spaces that help make room for the larger bottles, like champagne.  

The good news is that the standard expectation for a wine chiller bottle collection is the traditional “Bordeaux” bottle size and shape. Also known as claret style, these are generally taller, long-necked bottles with wider shoulders and base, that can hold around 750ml each. 

You will find single zone wine coolers that hold as few as 6 bottles, and multi-zone refrigerators and wine cabinets that hold 300 or more. With the right shelving options, any bottle type will fit, and your collection is not limited just to the reds popular among the Bordeaux style bottle.  

Digital humidity and temperature controls on wine cooler

The Right Humidity and Temperature Controls

The aging process of wine influences the flavor over time. Oxygen, UV lighting, and the heat from exposure to sunlight can interfere with the short term or long term storage of wines. Some wines are more sensitive than others, while a fuller red wine can preserve flavor at room temperature. It is important to find a wine refrigerator with the appropriate controls to allow it to hold the humidity and temperature at the exact environment for your vintages. 

Many wine & beverage combination coolers have separate temperature zones to keep each refreshment ready to serve at its ideal temperature. However, also pay attention to the type of cooling used. 

For some smaller wine collections, a thermoelectric wine refrigerator will do the trick. Some of the advantages of thermoelectric wine coolers include: 

  • Quiet and good for entertaining rooms like the home office or a game room.  
  • Lower vibration cooling system is more gentle on the wine collection. 
  • Consistent environment settings and monitoring. 

 

If the wine cooler is kept indoors, in a room with a consistent temperature, such as a built-in, under counter wine refrigerator, then a thermoelectric appliance will provide reliable internal temperature control year round.  

The other option is a wine cooler with a refrigerant-controlled compressor unit. The advantages of a refrigerant-controlled compressor wine fridge include: 

  • Capable of getting to lower temperatures than thermoelectric wine fridges 
  • Good protection for white wines.  
  • Good for larger collections.  
  • The best option for placement in indoor/outdoor areas.  

 

When placed outdoors or in other areas with variable temperature conditions, a refrigerant-controlled compressor unit is more effective at maintaining a consistent environment inside the wine refrigerator.

Any drastic changes in environment around a wine cooler can require the compressor to run more to counter the natural climate. Outdoor kitchens, garages, or even the patio or lenai may quickly go from warm to cool depending on where you live, and the wine refrigerator must run more or less to keep up with the changes. 

For the most energy efficient appliance, choose the compressor type and the materials to match the demand of the location. There are outdoor wine coolers designed to minimize strain on the compressor and more effectively protect the cooler’s contents from the unpredictable elements. 

Starting at $1,609.00
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Starting at $1,529.00
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Pricing A Wine Cooler Fridge 

While you can expect to pay more for a wine refrigerator with all the bells and whistles, the important thing is to look for quality and convenience to your household’s needs. Size and features are among the variables that account for the wide price range in wine coolers. They should also be top of mind for you when considering which type of wine cooler fridge to buy. 

These appliances should serve you for years to come, so consider choosing one large enough to house the collection you want to have in the future. Make sure to budget for one when you’re planning a kitchen remodel or outfitting an entertainment room.  

Build-in wine cooler near fireplace insert in living room, kitchen, den

The Best Place to Put a Wine Cooler

Unlike the average refrigerator, a wine cooler can be used anywhere in the house or office. Units designed to hold both wine and other beverages — including beer, canned soft drinks, and bottled water — are a great choice for entertainment areas and places where families gather. Newer bathroom suites may have an under counter wine refrigerator to provide a place to preserve beauty products, skin care salves, and even medicines.  

With all those options, there are a few basics to keep in mind when choosing where to put your wine refrigerator.  

Temperature Control of Different Wine Types

Built-in vs Freestanding Coolers

The physical location can help determine the type of wine fridge that is best for your household.  

Freestanding wine coolers sit on the floor and can be placed anywhere there’s an electrical outlet. The sides of these units are finished, so they’ll look great no matter where you place one. They’re great additions to the home office or the home bar. Countertop models keep small collections within reach, at easy eye level, and relatively quiet. 

Built-in wine coolers are integrated into kitchen cabinetry and provide a sleek, custom look. They are equipped with front ventilation, which allows them to function properly within an enclosed space. Designed to fit between base cabinets, built-in units are an ideal choice for new construction or complete kitchen renovations. 

However, because they have finished sides and tops, built-in refrigerators don’t actually have to be “built in” to anything. They function beautifully as freestanding units, making them the most flexible choice. Models are available in a variety of widths so they can be retrofitted into existing cabinetry. Some wine refrigerators are panel-ready, so the fronts can be customized to match your existing cabinetry. 

Kids playing in kitchen, built-in wine cooler with child safety locks.

Access Concerns with Wine Coolers

The contents of the wine refrigerator are up to you, but if it’s wine, it’s best to protect your collection from going to waste because the kids got curious. Keep your collection secure with optional features like built-in door alarms and child safety locks. It can guarantee the doors stay closed and the wine stays in the best environment possible, and can save money in the long run.  

Wine Fridges Require Ventilation

A full-size refrigerator and a wine cooler operate using the same technology and the same type of cooling system, so the same rules apply to both: a wine cooler fridge requires ventilation. To ensure you get the most out of your wine refrigerator, it’s important to make sure it is properly ventilated and the compressor can be kept from overheating via air movement.  

That often means that the back of sides of a freestanding wine refrigerator will have to be kept clear of obstruction, such as cabinets or other appliances. They require ideally three inches of space for good air flow. Built-in wine refrigerators and cooler cabinets will have the required ventilation space, too, but those usually vent to the front of the appliance, along the floor.  

Purple grapes in vineyard, selecting a bottle of wine at home

Care For Your Wine Collection 

Wine is one of the more expensive beverages. There is a lot of work and history that goes into the process that ultimately brings that bottle to your dining room table or holiday traditions. That’s all the more reason to make sure your wine collection is free from the hazards of heat and oxygen that can change the flavor over time.  

How long does wine last in a wine fridge?

Many vineyards today are preparing and packaging their wines with the expectation that the beverage will be enjoyed very shortly after purchase. To fully enjoy the flavors and notes in a bottle of wine, it can be kept in the wine chiller for 3 to 5 days after opening.  

Wine does not go bad very quickly and will last, even after opening, but the alcohol may consume the flavors and the drink may taste more like the yeast than the expected bouquet. Older, left-over wine is often best used as cooking wine after it has been exposed to oxygen. 

For those wines you want to allow to age and more fully develop, unopened bottles can last 10 to 15 years in a well-maintained wine fridge. While wine can tolerate freezing temperatures, it slows the aging process and is only recommended for short-term storage. Wine refrigerators can be used as long term storage to age your favorite vintage. It is important to keep bottles stored above 55 degrees Fahrenheit to help maintain the aging process.  

What temperature do you set your wine fridge? 

Temperature is essential for bringing out the best flavor in your wine. The exact temperature will vary by specific variety, but the general range for wine storage temperature is: 

  • Sparkling Wines: 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • White Wines: chilled at 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Red Wines: 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit 

 

While the conventional wisdom holds that red wines can be served at “room temperature” as a vague guide, the general expectation for room temperature varies over time. A stronger, fuller red wine can be stored at up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but keep it chilled before serving.  

What is the life expectancy of a wine cooler?

Most home wine refrigerators are designed to be quality appliances. When kept indoors with proper ventilation, a wine cooler fridge can be expected to last 10 to 15 years.  

Built-in wine cooler, home bar, people toasting with wine glasses

Is a Wine Cooler a Good Investment?

The foes of fermentation are unfortunately prevalent in kitchens and home bar spaces; what is bad for the wine is good for humans. The best way to protect the flavor and freshness of your favorite wines is to seal the bottles away in an environment entirely customized and specific to the vintage. When you have a collection, even as few as keeping seven bottles regularly at hand, wine is an investment in addition to something to be enjoyed. A wine refrigerator is the best way to preserve the value of that investment, while offering a multi-tasking cooler that can be useful in other ways, too. The right wine cooler can more than pay for itself very quickly in the amount of flavor it preserves in your favorite drinks. 

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