Wine coolers and other types of wine storage units

There is a huge range of options available for proper wine storage, from small, wine bottle coolers you can keep in the kitchen, to large wine storage cabinets, to wine cellars. Your choices depend on a number of factors, including the length of time you’ll be storing your wines, the number and type of bottles you’ll be storing, the space you have available, and the location of that space, the features you need and want, and, of course, price.

Short term storage

For short term storage, for wines you’ll be consuming within a few days of purchase, all you really need is a holding area. A wine rack, kept in a cool enough place – not on top of the refrigerator – is fine. Of course, for white wines, you’ll want to chill them a little before serving. Wine can be stored for up to 6 months in a cool, interior closet, in just the box, or in a wine rack. The better you can approximate cellar conditions – cool, humid, and dark – the better.

Longer term storage

For longer periods of storage, you’ll want to invest in a proper wine storage unit of some type. At the low end of the cost spectrum, small wine bottle chillers can be purchased, in some cases, for under $100. They provide the cool temperatures that are most important. However, the less expensive models do not provide any humidity control, nor do they provide stable temperature control, and they often permit light through glass doors.

Wine coolers (or wine bottle coolers)

There are two types of these wine bottle coolers, as well. The standard wine cooler has a compressor, like that in any kitchen refrigerator. This type of cooler can maintain the proper temperature regardless of the temperature in the surrounding area. Thermoelectic chillers, on the other hand, do not have compressors, and can only maintain a temperature of up to 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding area. (Avanti’s user manual for its 12-bottle thermoelectric chiller states that the ambient temperature must be between 72-78 degrees F, in order to reach the desired internal temperature range of 57-62 degrees F.) This can be problematic, where your unit will be stored in a garage, for example, in a climate where temperatures exceed 80 degrees, or if you just keep your house warm.

Wine bottle coolers also come in single-zone and dual-zone models. As you might expect, dual-zone models permit different temperature settings for reds and whites. This may be important for short-term storage, where you want to take a bottle of white straight from the cooler to the table. However, many people have voiced disappointment over the inflexibility in the ratio of space for whites to space for reds that these units offer. And, of course, the dual-zone feature raises the cost of the unit. Generally, we recommend single-zone wine coolers for most people.

Wine cabinets and cellars

In addition to these functional wine storage units, there are also larger, specialty wine cabinets, and, of course, actual wine cellars. There are a broad range of wine cabinets available, which serve as much as entertainment areas and/or furniture, with large capacities, and very stylish appointments. Actual wine cellars are an entirely different solution, and can be assembled from kits, by plans, or by a custom wine cellar builder.

So, how do you choose which wine cooler is best for your needs? First, you need to determine your personal storage needs. Here is a helpful wine cooler buying guide.

The most important factor, once the essential features of temperature control, humidity control, and avoidance of light are dealt with, is the capacity of the wine storage unit. The advice we’ve heard most frequently (almost a mantra), is that size matters. People universally recommend buying a unit with at least twice the capacity you think you’ll need. (We’ve experienced this first hand, having built in wine bins in our new home, only to have them full within a month, and needing to store “overflow” bottles in the cartons they came in, within our storage area). Also, keep in mind that not all wine bottles are the same size – the “standard” size used to determine a unit’s capacity is typically that of a Bordeaux bottle, while Burgundy and Champagne bottles are wider, while bottle for Rieslings and others are longer. So, as in many other areas, the advertised capacity may vary from the usable capacity.

Choosing a Wine Cooler

Now, it comes down to choosing a wine cooler. Just like anything else, there are many, many wine coolers to choose from, in wildly varying price ranges. We've put together our own list of  wine refrigerator quick pick recommendations to get you started choosing the right wine cooler for you or for a friend.

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