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Open 7 Days a Week. IRE: 1800 938 794 NI: 00353 41 267 3096 - View our Buyers Guide
The Ultimate Wine Cooler Buying Guide: How to Pick the Perfect Wine Fridge

The Ultimate Wine Cooler Buying Guide: How to Pick the Perfect Wine Fridge

A high-quality wine refrigerator should be on any wine lover’s wishlist. While the initial investment can be expensive, it truly is a gift that keeps on giving. A wine cooler can benefit someone who is seeking to age their wines for years and years, but it can also be a worthwhile investment for someone who has a few bottles laying around and wants to maintain quality before consuming them in the shorter-term.

Wine refrigerators take the guesswork out of wine storage, and ensure your wine is pristine upon opening. But how exactly do wine coolers protect wine, and how do you know which is the best wine cooler for your needs? Read on to learn about the fundamentals of wine storage, how to pick the perfect wine cooler for your needs, and how to maintain your wine cooler.

Is It Worth the Investment?

First, let’s establish why a wine fridge is such a valuable investment in the first place. Wine is a very fragile product, and can easily be damaged to the point that it is no longer drinkable. It is a devastating experience to pop the cork on an expensive bottle of wine, only to learn it has turned to vinegar or jam. To avoid such tragedy, wine consumers must be aware of the enemies of wine and actively combat them. There are seven main threats to the preservation of wine: heat, cold, temperature variations, light, humidity, angle, and vibration. That’s a lot of factors to consider!

In comes the beauty of the wine fridge--it takes care of each of these factors so you can sleep with ease at night knowing your wine is safe and sound.

Features To Consider

1) Temperature

Temperature is the first consideration to ensure proper wine storage, and it is a major reason why a wine cooler is worth the investment. Heat is lethal to wine. The storage temperature for wine should sit between 7°C - 18°C -- any hotter, and a wine can be destroyed in as little as ten minutes. Wine that is exposed to high temperatures can become “cooked” and oxidized, with flavors completely dulled. Heat speeds up the wine aging process in all of the bad ways and none of the good. In a study conducted by Wine Perspective, wine that was aged for one month at 32°C was proven equivalent to between four months and eighteen years of aging at 12°C.

A storage temperature that is too cold, on the other hand, is also a nightmare for wine. Cold air can dry out the moisture of the cork, which can allow air into the bottle and spoil the wine. Fluctuation of temperature can also create damage for your wine. If your apartment has extreme variations in temperature throughout the day, the expansion and contraction of the cork in the bottle can push the cork out and allow air into the bottle. To avoid all this hassle, a wine fridge allows you to maintain a set temperature that is ideal for wine storage, and you never have to worry about temperature again.

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 2) Light

Purchasing a wine cooler will also allow you to regulate light, humidity, storage angle, and vibration. Light of all kinds, including sunlight, UV rays, and fluorescent light, can damage wine. Light initiates an oxidative response in wine, creating similar damage that temperature causes. Exposure to light will break down compounds in the wine that are necessary for preservation and can make a wine undrinkable.

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3) Humidity

Humidity levels in a storage space can affect the maintenance of wine quality as well. Wines should be stored at a humidity level of 70 percent so that the cork does not dry out and allow air inside the bottle.

4) Bottle Angle

Another factor to consider is the angle at which your bottles are kept. When bottles are stored upright, the cork can dry out and expose the wine to oxygen. Instead, it is recommended to store wine on its side where the liquid can be in contact with the cork at all times. This can be difficult to achieve without a wine cooler or wine rack--you don’t want bottles rolling around and potentially breaking.

5) Vibration

And finally, the last enemy of wine is vibration. Vibration can speed up chemical reactions in an aging wine and cause it to go off. Storing wine above the kitchen refrigerator is a very common storage choice among consumers, but this is an awful location for wine storage as the vibrations can be hugely detrimental to the preservation of the wine.

As you can see, there are many elements that can make your wine vulnerable to deterioration. All of these elements can be regulated with the help of a wine fridge, which paves the way to successful wine aging and storage.

Buying Checklist

We've established why you might need a wine cooler, but now how do you choose which one to purchase? When browsing which you might want to buy, you’ll notice one thing immediately--wine refrigerators are EXPENSIVE! They can easily cost thousands, or tens of thousands of euros. Even the most affordable options available will likely still cost you over €500. Cheaper models will generally have to be replaced or repaired a lot quicker than high quality models. This means you may end up spending more in the long run.

So what are the differences between cheaper and more expensive models? There are different features that various wine coolers feature, and some of those features drive up the cost of the model.

1) Bottle Capacity

The first thing to consider is bottle capacity. If you don’t have a very large collection and don’t anticipate growing it too much, you might not need a very large bottle capacity. Some more casual wine drinkers can make do with a smaller, seven bottle wine fridge

 A two hundred bottle cooler will cost you much more--so it is wise to take a moment to accurately assess what will best suit your present and future needs.

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2) Temperature Compartments

Some wine refrigerators will offer multiple temperature compartments for different types of wines, and offer a range of customizable temperatures for each type of wine.

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3) Additional Features

Other variable features are child locks, triple pane glass to keep the cooler air inside the fridge, LED lighting to keep UV rays out, energy efficiency, strong shelving racks, durability, and style. You’ll also pay additional costs if you choose to buy an option with lifetime guaranteed customer service and troubleshooting.

These are all the variables that can drive up cost, so depending on your needs, a wine fridge can be a few hundred euros or a few thousand.

4) Freestanding or Built in/Integrated?

Then there are a few different designs of wine coolers, each with their own advantages. The first decision is whether to opt for a free-standing or built-in wine cooler. A freestanding wine fridge is designed to stand alone, while a built-in will allow you to place the cooler in an empty cabinet or under the counter. The built-in model has a front vent under the door that allows heat to move away from the unit, allowing air to flow and avoiding heating the fridge. With a freestanding wine fridge, the vent is usually located at the back of the fridge.

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5) Thermoelectric or compressor-based wine cooler?

The next distinction is between thermoelectric and compressor-based wine coolers. Thermoelectric coolers contain a cooling unit consisting of a ceramic tile with an electrical current running through it, as well as a small fan to distribute cool air evenly across the fridge. The thermoelectric option produces fewer vibrations, is more energy efficient, as is usually a quieter model than the compressor-based wine coolers.

On the downside however, thermoelectric wine coolers can sometimes be affected by outside temperatures. Compressor-based wine refrigerators, on the other hand, employ the same cooling system as larger appliances. They are able to cool a large number of bottles and maintain completely consistent cool temperatures, regardless of the outside environment.

Can I Just Store My Wine In A Regular Fridge?

That all sounds pretty costly… so why not just store the wine in a normal kitchen refrigerator?

Storing wine in a basic kitchen fridge can be disastrous for a number of reasons. First, the average temperature of a standard refrigerator is 0°C - 7°C. As we established earlier, the ideal storage temperature for wine is between 7°C - 18°C. An average fridge is far too cold for wine and can dry out the cork and expose the wine to oxygen.

Temperature fluctuation can also be an issue as household members open and close the fridge throughout the day, and if you have chilled a red that must be brought back to room temperature to be consumed. In the case of sparkling wines, excess cold can degrade the quality of the bubbles.

Additionally, the smell of food in your refrigerator can seep into the cork and transmit unwanted aromas into the wine when it is stored in the fridge. Regular refrigerators are designed to maintain low humidity levels, which can also pose severe issues for wine. And for a final reason, there often just isn’t enough space for all your wine and food to coexist in one small space! It is best to just bite the bullet and invest in a wine cooler.

A proper wine cooler will allow you to store your wine at its ideal temperature--both for storage but also for drinking. If you didn’t know, wine is best when served at specific temperatures.

Wine Storage Temperatures

White wines should not be served too cold, and red wines should not be served too warm. Sparkling wines can be served coldest at 3°C - 10°C and white wines should be served cold at 7°C - 14°C. Light red wines should be lightly chilled around 12°C, and richer reds should be served between 16°C - 20°C. Serving at these proper temperatures allows for the flavor and structure of the wine to be enhanced. Some wine coolers offer several compartments in order to follow the ideal storage and drinking temperatures for each type of wine. This is a handy feature, as it consolidates the role of storage and serving preparation into one. A temperature breakdown is available on our FAQ's page.

Easy To Maintain

Once you are the proud owner of a wine cooler, it is important to make sure to care for it properly. Cleaning and maintaining your wine fridge will allow it to stay working well over many years. It is recommended to fully clean-out your wine cooler at least once per year, but two times is even better.

To do so, first unplug the unit to avoid electrical shock. Next, remove all the wine bottles, making sure to keep the wines on their sides at the same orientation they were stored at (so as not to disturb the sediment). Remove the racks or shelves and wipe them down with a damp cloth. Wipe the interior from top to bottom with the damp cloth. If the fridge still smells musty, don’t use soap--try a natural solution such as damp cloth soaked in white vinegar.

Then let the cooler air out for a few hours. While you’re at it, check the exhaust to be sure it is free of dust and debris, and clean out the water tray. Then you can wipe down the exterior of the fridge. After the fridge has aired out, put the racks back in, load them back up with wine, and turn the fridge back on. Doing this from time to time will ensure your wine fridge is running optimally for years to come.

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As you can see, there are countless factors to consider when attempting to store wine for long-term or short-term aging. It can be overwhelming to juggle all the elements of proper wine storage. Between heat, cold, temperature variation, light, humidity, angle, and vibration--it can be difficult to create the ideal wine storage unit on your own. Wine coolers take the guesswork out of wine storage and allow your wines to reach their potential.

To pick the perfect wine fridge for your needs, conduct an audit of your current wine collection, drinking habits, and cellar goals. No two drinkers will require the same fridge, as every wine fridge offers a unique set of features. Once you’ve decided on a wine cooler, it’s time to start putting down bottles and building a collection of wine that will be the envy of all your friends. Cheers!

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Next article HOW TO STORE AND AGE WINE: WINE COOLERS 101