Storing wine isn’t difficult, but if you want to retain its flavour, colour, and complexity, there are some things to keep in mind. Subtle changes in temperature, humidity, UV light levels – even vibrations – all impact what’s happening inside the bottle. A wine cooler will make sure everything is as it should be to keep your wine at its best.
As well as keeping your wine safe, these fridges add a luxurious quality to a room and are the perfect way to show off a prized collection. Wine fridges are a little different to a standard refrigerator, so we’ve included lots of information here to help you choose.
BUILT-IN OR FREESTANDING?
A built-in wine cooler gives a streamlined look to your kitchen.
They’re sometimes described as integrated since they’re fitted in alongside your cupboards. This helps add a touch of elegance to your kitchen, as it looks like it was designed to be a part of it. Built-in wine fridges usually have vents on the front, allowing the back and sides to be enclosed without causing the appliance to overheat.
Freestanding designs can be placed anywhere with a power source. Fitting is much simpler, although these models tend to have vents at the back, so you’ll need to leave a gap between the cooler and the wall to let air circulate.
A built-in wine cooler gives a streamlined look to your kitchen.
DIFFERENT COOLING SYSTEMS
Wine cabinets work in one of two ways. They either have a compressor, like your main refrigerator, or they’re thermoelectric. Thermoelectric models use a small ‘heat pump’ with no moving parts, fluid, or refrigerants. Both types have advantages and disadvantages.
While compressor models can get to lower temperatures and handle higher room temperatures well, they are often a more expensive and louder option.
Thermoelectric units are easier to install, quiet, and efficient. They’re perfect for keeping in your main living area. However, they might not perform as well in an unusually warm room.
Either system can benefit from no-frost technology. This prevents ice from building up, keeping the cooler running efficiently.
These appliances vary hugely in size, so think about how much wine you’re planning to store.
Slimline models can fit six or seven bottles in without encroaching too much on your kitchen space. Restaurant-style freestanding ones can hold more than 100 at a time. Undercounter coolers, designed to fit underneath your kitchen worktops, rest somewhere in between, with space for around 30 to 40 bottles, typically.
It’s also worth considering which wines you drink the most. Most coolers have shelving designed for standard Bordeaux style bottles. Some wines such as champagne or pinot noir have a wider, shorter bottle shape. You’ll need to check the racking can hold them securely. If you’ve got a mixed collection of bottle shapes – and the likelihood is that you will – you should expect to fit about 70% of the stated capacity.
Thermoelectric units are easier to install, quiet, and efficient. They’re perfect for keeping in your main living area.
You’ll probably know that white wine should be kept cooler than red. But did you know connoisseurs recommend specific temperatures for different wines?
Generally speaking, the fuller bodied the red wine, the warmer it should be kept. This means the range can be anywhere between 12˚C and 19˚C. Chill sparkling and sweet white wines to a cooler temperature than dry whites like Sauvignon Blanc. Recommendations for these spans from 5˚C to 12˚C.
Wine coolers let you control the temperature of your wine to get it perfect. Some models have separate zones for reds and whites, with independent temperature controls for each of the different areas. Even if you have only one cooling zone, you’re likely to be able to set an exact degree of cooling for the perfect glass, straight out of the fridge.
Wine coolers let you control the temperature of your wine to get it perfect.
HUMIDITY AND VENTILATION
State-of-the-art wine coolers take care not only of temperatures, but of humidity and ventilation too.
The humidity level where you store your wine is significant. Moisture prevents the cork from drying out, although too much of it could cause mould.
A good ventilation system will keep the wine cold even after you’ve opened the door. It’ll also get rid of any odours which could tarnish the flavours inside each bottle. Some chillers also have fans which move air around the storage space, effectively maintaining a constant and even temperature.
Believe it or not, sunlight can damage your wine. Exposure to UV rays destroys the tannins in the wine, altering the colour and flavour.
While keeping bottles out of direct sunlight can help, the latest wine coolers have glass doors with built-in UV protection. That means you have one less thing to worry about when choosing where to put your new wine cooler.
Another factor that affects wine is vibration. While sediments naturally settle to the bottom of a bottle as it ages, slight movements can disrupt the process.
Anti-vibration features prevent this from happening, helping your bottles age naturally.
Since you’ll use your new wine cabinet for long-term storage, you’ll need to choose an efficient model to avoid nasty surprises on the energy bills.
Most retailers provide details of annual energy usage or running costs, making it easy to compare different models.
Wine coolers use a different energy labelling system to regular fridges and freezers. Don’t be alarmed by a low energy rating (rather than the A+++, A++ or A+ we often see in other appliances). Their glass doors make them less efficient than ordinary fridges, but the running costs tend only to be around £30 a year.
Most retailers provide details of annual energy usage or running costs.
Manufacturers often add additional features to make looking after your wine even more convenient.
DOUBLE GLAZED DOORS
Both freestanding and built-in models tend to have glass doors which display your bottles to their full potential. Double glazing helps to insulate the cabinet to ensure you don’t lose the temperature you want.
The majority of wine coolers have traditional wooden shelves which provide beautiful contrast against a stainless-steel exterior.
Others have sleek chrome shelves for a contemporary look. Horizontal shelving prevents the cork from drying out and letting air into the bottle.
Entry-level models often have fixed shelving, while more expensive ones have adjustable systems to accommodate different sized bottles. Keep an eye out for sliding shelves too – these let you read the labels more easily.
Make it easier to see your collection by choosing a wine chiller with a built-in light. Many designs use LEDs for bright illumination without any heat.
CONTROLS AND DISPLAYS
Touch button controls and digital displays make it easy to set the chiller to the exact temperature your wine needs.
If there’s ever a problem, you’ll want to know about it. High spec models use built-in warning alarms to alert you if the temperature or humidity reaches levels which could spoil your wine.
Choosing a chiller with a reversible door gives you a little more freedom when fitting. You’ll be able to decide whether you want a left or right-hand opening, making it easy to avoid bumps with kitchen cupboard doors or furniture.
While most wine fridges can adapt to room temperature changes well, fluctuations do mean the cooling system has to work harder. Where possible, try to keep yours in a room with a consistent temperature, such as a living area or kitchen. If you have a cellar or garage in mind, look for a model which advertises this in its specification. Not all are suitable for low ambient temperatures.
Not all fridges are suitable for low ambient temperatures, such as cellars or garages.