Visuall appealing wine cooler with counter space

The Definitive Wine Refrigerator Buying Guide

Regardless of whether you are a long-term wine connoisseur or are just getting started in the appreciation of wine, selecting the optimal wine storage unit is essential for the enjoyment of your growing wine collection. Whether your wine refrigerator selection is a built-in, undercounter, or freestanding wine refrigerator for your kitchen or any other room in your home, adding a wine refrigerator to your home is the best way to ensure that your wine stays fresh and stored in perfect condition.

So, the question becomes, how do you choose the best wine refrigerator for you? With so many wine refrigerators products in the market, there are a lot of options to consider, but what choice is really the best one for you?  It is for that reason we compiled the Definitive Wine Refrigerator Buying Guide. We will discuss key features in selecting a wine refrigerator and break down your options for selecting the best wine refrigerator for you.

Our hope is that this guide will help you understand the basics of wine storage so that you have a better knowledge of how to keep reds, whites and sparkling wines for short-term and long-term storage. Wine is a delicate product made from fruit that will spoil and taste more like vinegar if not properly stored.

Wine must be protected from three adverse factors to keep wine fresh and vibrant. Those factors involve

  • Extreme temperature variations,
  • UV rays
  • Noise vibrations

The optimal wine temperature is 55 degrees, which, coincidently, matches the year-round temperatures in underground caverns and wine cellars, the original method wine was stored   before refrigeration. When wine is maintained at 55 degrees, it significantly slows the aging process, removes the possibility of wine losing its aroma, color or flavor. Maintaining a steady temperature is also important because wine subjected to variations in temperature speeds the decaying process. It also leads to fluctuations in relative humidity, which can damage corks and break the seal on your wine bottles. Shrunken corks can cause wine to spoil in just a few days. A 38-degree kitchen fridge is too cold for any wine, but a dedicated single or dual zone fridge keeps your wine at just the right temperature to make the most of its flavor when you are ready to drink it.

  • Red Wines: Traditionally, red wines are served at room temperature.¬†Today‚Äôs houses are kept much warmer than they were in the past, which is somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees.
  • White Wines: White¬†wines typically taste better chilled, but not too cold so you can't distinguish the delicate flavors. These should be served between 50 and 60 degrees.
  • Sparkling Wines: Carbonated¬†drinks are at their best when served as cold as possible. For Champagne and other sparklers, 40 degrees is the optimal temperature.

Other noise factors to consider when purchasing a wine refrigerator include: 

  • Compressor Systems:¬†Most refrigerators come equipped with a compressor. This type of wine refrigerator cools air by pumping a chemical refrigerant through coils. The refrigerant absorbs heat from the air inside the refrigerator and releases it into the air outside your fridge. The compressor is the part of your fridge where you can detect noise vibration when it's running. Large compressors are known to get very loud when they cycle on, so keep an eye on the decibel level. At the lower end of the spectrum, a whisper is rated at about 30 decibels.
  • Thermoelectric wine coolers: Employ no chemicals¬†and instead run by forcing electricity through a metal plate called a heat pump. Thermoelectric coolers produce no vibrations, making them a great choice for wine enthusiasts who wish to age fine wines without worrying about stirring up sediment in the bottles. They're also completely silent.

Thermoelectric Cooling: 

One of the advantages of thermoelectric wine coolers is that that they use far less electricity than compressor systems.

  • LED Lighting:¬†Good interior lighting helps you read your wine labels quickly, but beware of hot bulbs that make it harder to keep your fridge cold inside. Low-temperature LED lights are the most efficient choice.
  • Triple Pane Glass:¬†If you prefer glass to a solid door to show off your wine, be sure to choose tempered glass for safety and triple pane windows for effective insulation. This will keep the air cool in your unit and help your unit run more efficiently.

Choose a wine refrigerator model with smooth action metal or wooden shelves designed to cradle wine bottles on their sides. This makes it easier to see every bottle and ensures that corks stay moist during storage.

A beautiful wine cooler makes a statement in your home. Choosing the right one shows that you're knowledgeable about wine and savvy about making additions to your kitchen or home bar that will increase your home's value ‚ÄĒ not to mention provide years of convenience and enjoyment.

Consider the style of your home in shopping for wine refrigerators. Stainless-steel is a popular choice if you crave a high-end look in your home. Black finishes also work well in many situations and is considered a classic choice. The finish of the refrigerator door and sides should blend nicely in whatever room you plan to keep your wine cooler.

Wine refrigerators are designed to stay powered on to keep your wines at a steady storage and serving temperature.  Minimize your electric bill by paying close attention to how much energy each model uses, and look for wine refrigerators with energy efficient design elements,

Choosing a wine fridge with the correct bottle capacity will help you get the most out of your investment. Consider how many wine bottles you either plan to store or currently store and add 20% to give you room to grow. Choosing a fridge that is considerably larger than what your current needs require will force your unit to work harder to cool empty space. On the other hand, choosing a unit that meets your current needs without allowing much room for growth could cause you to outgrow your capacity immediately and will be frustrating. A common feature of wine refrigerators is to list their bottle capacities on the box or on the product label. Read the label carefully and make your choice based on the rated capacity of the unit.

A large number of wine coolers offer dual temperature zones that allow you to set each section independently at different temperatures. This is a highly useful feature for wine collectors who love red and white wines equally. Dual temperature zones allow you to fine-tune your wine storage by providing two compartments that each has a separate control panel. You can set the temperature in one zone to be significantly cooler than the other, making this type of refrigerator perfect for serving different types of wine at the perfect temperature.

If you are a budget conscious consumer, just looking for a low-end wine cooler, single zone fridges are your best choice. Single zone cooling simply means that the interior of the wine fridge is all the same temperature, so every shelf keeps all your wine evenly cooled. They are also perfect for long-term storage of both red and white wines, since you'll likely be storing all bottles at the standard 55 degrees.

Compressor wine coolers are highly efficient cooling systems, but they need proper ventilation to let hot air escape from the area around their cooling coils. The location of the compressor will determine how your fridge can be used and maintained. 

  • Freestanding Models: Freestanding¬†wine refrigerators are designed to stand on their own legs, whether on a countertop or on the floor, with compressor coils on the back of the unit. This allows the unit to maintain a clean look and maximize storage space inside. Rear coils must have adequate air flow around the fridge, so you'll typically need to maintain several inches of free space behind and around a freestanding wine cooler.
  • Built-in Wine Refrigerators:¬†Undercounter wine coolers are designed to slide snugly in between kitchen cabinets and not have their compressors pressed against the wall. These need to be specially designed with coils and an exhaust grate on the bottom, where air can easily escape the unit.

As you shop, remember that built-ins can be used between cabinets or as stand-alone units wherever you like, which provides maximum flexibility. Freestanding units can only be used with proper airflow around the appliance. Most thermoelectric refrigerators are freestanding.

Your Wine Cooler Buying Checklist

A wine fridge is crucial when it comes to maintaining your wine's freshness and flavor. As you research your options, use this checklist to track your must-have features and make comparisons of different makes and models.

Features to Look for in Your Wine Cooler 

  • Bottle Capacity¬†sufficient to hold your collection and allow it to grow.
  • Temperature Range appropriate¬†to chilling all your favorite kinds of wine at the ideal serving temperature.
  • Dual or Single Temperature Zones to¬†provide temperature flexibility for your collection.
  • Freestanding or Built-In Design¬†for the ability to place your fridge exactly where you want it.
  • Thermoelectric or Compressor Cooling¬†to keep your wine at a constant temperature.
  • Child Locks¬†for safety
  • Triple Pane Glass¬†or a well-insulated solid door to keep cool air inside the unit.
  • LED Lighting¬†saves energy and keeps UV rays to a minimum inside your cooler.
  • Wine Rack Shelves¬†that allow bottles to be stored on their sides for proper long-term storage.
  • Durable, Stylish Design¬†that blends with your decor and will stand the test of time.
  • Outstanding Customer Service¬†to get answers to questions and prompt problem-solving for the lifetime of your appliance.
  • Free Shipping¬†to keep your total cost to a minimum.

 Wine Refrigerator Maintenance

Once you've chosen the perfect wine cooler to keep all those white and red wine bottles perfectly chilled, make sure you know how to take care of it. Proper installation and maintenance will keep your fridge running efficiently for years to come.

Choose the Right Location

Place your wine fridge on a hard, flat, stable surface for the best results. Carpet should be avoided whenever possible, but if you must place your fridge over carpet, purchase a plastic mat to create a more stable base and catch any leaks or drips. Keep your wine cooler out of direct sunlight and in a room where the temperature is stable to help it run efficiently.

Check the Drip Tray

Nearly all wine refrigerators have a small pan or reservoir that catches excess water. The excess water isn't a problem ‚ÄĒ it's just condensation that's funneled out of the fridge so it can evaporate. Occasionally water can gather in the drip tray, which can lead to a musty smell or, in rare situations, an overflow of water onto your floor. Check the drip tray and pour away any excess water to stop problems before they start.

Solve Condensation Problems

All refrigerators create condensation due to the temperature difference between the interior and exterior. Normally excess moisture isn't a problem, but sometimes condensation can form on the inside of your fridge. If this happens, try adding an open box of baking soda or silica beads to absorb excess moisture.

Keep It Clean

Keeping your wine fridge clean is one of the most important ways to make sure it runs well. Follow these steps to thoroughly clean your wine refrigerator once a year:

  1. Unplug and/or turn off the wine cooler before cleaning to avoid electrical shock.
  2. Gently remove wine bottles, keeping them on their sides as you move them to a secure location. Keep them in the same position to avoid agitating sediment.
  3. Carefully remove shelves or racks and wipe them down with a damp cloth. Microfiber is a great choice, as is an old cotton T-shirt.
  4. Wipe the interior with a damp cloth as well.
  5. If the interior of wine fridge smells musty or you can see visible mildew, with a damp cloth soaked in white vinegar or a 1:10 solution of bleach and water. Allow the fridge to air out for several hours.
  6. Replace the interior fittings and wine bottles.
  7. Wipe down the unit from the outside with a soft cloth.
  8. Remove smudges on glass by wiping with vinegar-soaked newspaper. For smudges on stainless steel, use a specialty cleaner, or try polishing with olive oil and buffing with a soft cloth.
  9. Finally, use the crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner to clear dust and debris off of the compressor coils and away from vents.
  10. When you're finished cleaning, don't forget to turn your wine fridge back on!