Wine Refrigerators: A Buying Guide
One of the most crucial aspects of enjoying a fine bottle of wine is storing that bottle until you are ready to pop the cork. We've put together a number of key considerations you should keep in mind when selecting a fridge.
Why a Special Refrigerator?
Wine is picky! No matter the vintage or variety, tight control on such things as moisture, light, humidity, temperature, and even vibration is important to proper wine storage. Wine refrigerators are designed to provide the optimum environment for your wine's aroma and flavors to remain intact.
When it comes down to it, we're talking about a refrigerator, so we want it to be efficient, right? Cheaper models have cases made of plastic, which does not transfer temperature very well, meaning that the cool air is absorbed more than in stainless steel models.
Dual Zone or Single Zone?
Do you like reds AND whites? How about different varieties of reds? If the answer is yes, then you'll definitely want a dual zone wine fridge which allows you to set different conditions in different 'zones' or compartments, specific to each wine variety.
While great for showing off your fine collection, a clear door allows light to reach your wine, which is not a good thing. If you want to show off with a clear door on your wine refrigerator, placement is important to keep sunlight from reaching your bottles.
Vibrations hinder your wines. As compressors stop and start, the fridge vibrates slightly. Go with a unit that absorbs these vibrations with wood shelves, or vinyl coated racks. Cheaper bare metal racks transfer vibrations straight to the bottle, killing your wine's flavor profile.
Obviously the size of your fridge depends on the number of bottles you plan on keeping on hand. But also keep in mind that some of the wine refrigerator components are fixed costs, whether 12 bottles, or 300. Say for instance that the actual cooling unit costs $75. That $75 is the starting point for ANY wine fridge. A 12 bottle wine fridge case might add another $125 to the price, or $200 total. That's $16.66 per bottle. That same cooling unit in a 100 bottle wine fridge, with a $900 case would be $975 for 100 bottles, or $9.75 per bottle. So, the larger the fridge, the less you'll pay to cool each bottle. A good rule of thumb; stay between $5 & $10 per bottle.
Free Standing or Built In?
Refrigerators work by removing heat from the air within, and they have to send that heat somewhere, efficiently. Built-in units are designed to distribute that warm air out the front of the unit since they are often enclosed under cabinets. Doing this increases the cost of your unit, while free standing fridges don't require the ventilation routing, and simply send heat out the back.
Compressor vs. Thermoelectric
Thermoelectric units have fewer vibrations and are more efficient. Built with fans that circulate the cool air inside the refrigerator, there is a small amount of noise from the fans, however it is a quieter wine refrigerator when compared to compressor fridge. Aside from being quieter, the major benefit is the non-disruption of sediments in the bottles due to minimum vibrations. So why even make compressor model wine coolers? While compressor units are more expensive to run, they are more effective when the environmental temperatures reach more than 80°F. Thermoelectric coolers are only able to keep temperatures 20° below the outside temperature. If you are placing the refrigerator in an area that can get warm, we recommend buying the compressor wine cooler.