Wine Refrigerator Buying Guide: The Best Chillers and Coolers

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With a wine cooler, you can enjoy collecting wine as a fulfilling hobby for years.

A wine cooler is an essential asset for any wine lover’s collection. Wine often requires very specific conditions for it to develop to its peak, and collectors take pride in their wine for good reasons. Once you’ve started your own collection, you’ll always have your favorite flavors at the ready, whether for holiday celebrations or just a casual night in.

Top 5 Benefits of a Wine Cooler

Wine is a finicky beverage and needs to be stored in ideal conditions for a long time to fully mature. For a look at why you need a wine cooler to start a serious collection, here are the top five benefits of using one:

1. Your wine is kept away from food

When wine shares space in your refrigerator, strong odors can contaminate the flavor. Wine coolers let the wine age for the flavors the winery intended.

2. Your wine is stored at the right temperature

Wine needs to be stored at a consistent 55°F. Your home refrigerator is frequently opened and closed, affecting the temperature, while your wine cooler should only be opened when you’re ready to serve wine.

3. Your wine is left undisturbed

Wine needs to be kept still for sediment to sink to the bottom of the bottle. This also lets your wine age properly. A wine cooler keeps your collection isolated so that it’s not disturbed, and thermoelectric models also prevent the refrigerator from vibrating.

4. Your wine is in a humid environment

Wine also needs to age in a humid environment, which is why wine cellars are the classic way for storing wine. Many coolers match these conditions above ground.

5. Your wine is kept in the dark

Sunlight and UV rays negatively affect your wine and cause it to spoil. Wine refrigerators keep the wine in a dark environment and often come with built-in low-intensity lighting.

How to Store Your Wine

Wine bottles should be stored on their sides with the label facing up so you can see sediment collecting as it ages. Shaking the bottles by storing them somewhere like a refrigerator door will constantly unsettle the sediment and prevent it from aging well.

The key to storing any wine is to keep temperatures consistently at 55°F and humidity at 60%. All wine can be stored with these settings, however, when you serve your wine, the temperature should be different.

For white wines, serve them a bit cooler between 49-55°F. For red wines, let them warm them up to 62-68°F. If the temperature is too hot or cold when served, the flavors won’t be presented well for tasting.

How to Choose: Chiller vs Cabinet vs Cooler

The top features Master Sommelier, Michael Jordan, recommends are adjustable shelves to fit a variety of bottles, floating racks to lessen vibration, and LED lights. Features such as digital control panels and stainless steel are also essential for all wine coolers. Browsing around the different models will help determine the perfect match for your home.

Depending on your collection, you’ll need to fit different amounts of wine, and depending on your preferences, you may want certain temperature and humidity controls. These are the categories you’ll have to choose from:

Small wine refrigerators or chillers: These small coolers are best for storing 10-29 bottles of wine for shorter periods of time. White wines can be served directly from the chiller, while red wines will need to warm up to reach room temperature. Decanting you red wine is the best way to serve it when it comes from this type of storage.

Wine cabinets: These are best for aging large quantities of wine and can last decades. These typically come with many sub-sections for storing and serving a variety of wine. An alternative to a wine cabinet would be a wine cellar to match the large cool environment and high humidity.

Dual zone wine coolers: Dual zone coolers are best for medium and large-sized collections, from 30-100 bottles or more, to store a variety of wine at two temperatures. This suits wine collectors that would like to keep red and white in storage then use the second section for bringing wine to a different serving temperature.

If you’re only interested in keeping red and white wines in small quantities, then your choice is simple and a small chiller is perfect. Be sure to pick up a decanter if you’re a fan of red wines in this case.

If you’re interested in collecting wine as a hobby and need a refrigerator for more than just a couple bottles, then you likely need either a dual core wine cooler or a full wine cabinet. Don’t invest in a wine cabinet if you can’t see yourself stocking it for years to come. Dual-core coolers are less of a commitment and serve the same purpose.

We’ve also created this three-part video guide to help with your decision:

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