I spent a great deal of time last fall researching wine coolers/refrigerators including the last Consumer Reports review that is a couple of years old. As far as I could tell, they are all manufactured in China, and they all have multiple complaints about breaking down within weeks and up to 6 months or so, and/or arriving in poor condition. I eventually narrowed down to the manufacturer with the least complaints which was Air & Water. In fact, they had reasonably few complaints. I know this is a long review, but I thought sharing my research would be helpful.
Before I get to the model I chose, I need to explain my situation because it seems to be unique among all the reviews I have read for both Air & Water and other manufacturers. My wife and I are what are commonly called ?snowbirds?. We are seniors that decided to leave our wintry mountain home for warmer climes during the winter so we purchased a small condominium in a nice sunny place and plan to spend January through April there each year. That leaves May through December that we will not be there. We will be leaving the air conditioning on at a high thermostat setting during the summer as the outdoor temperatures will some times reach 110-155 degrees.
My wife and I are avid wine enthusiasts, keeping a wine cellar at our mountain home in which we allow the wines to age for 5 to 10 years or more depending on the wine. We brought some of those wines with us to our snowbird home in January and are buying more while we are here. So our need for a wine cooler was to avoid spoiling the wines with high temperatures when we are not in residence.
The first criteria was a 48 bottle versus a 32 bottle model. That gets you into choosing between a refrigerator compressor versus a thermoelectric unit. The thermoelectric unit cuts off at about 32 bottles. Larger than that you will probably have a compressor. I saw 2 advantages for us in the thermoelectric: first, there seems to be a lower failure rate with them; and second, they are generally much quieter (think of the noise your refrigerator makes). So we decided on thermoelectric.
The second criteria was single zone versus dual zone. I reasoned that a dual zone of two 18 bottle compartments would keep the temperature more uniform throughout than a single zone of 32 bottles. So we decided on a dual zone.
Those two criteria resulted in us choosing the NewAir AW-320ED 32 Bottle Dual Zone Thermoelectric Wine Cooler.
Our next consideration was temperature. Our main concern was to keep the wines at the best aging temperature which is 54-55 degrees. That happens to be the factory preset temperature (probably for that reason). We are not concerned with keeping red and white wines at their appropriate serving temperature. We keep a log of our wines and consult it in advance of dinner which is the primary time we drink wine. We choose a wine based on the dinner menu and pull it from the mountain wine cellar or snowbird wine cooler about an hour in advance of dinner so we can open it and let it breath. If it is a white, we put it in the refrigerator after opening it to cool down a little more. If it is a red, we leave it out to warm up a little. So we leave both sides at the factory preset of 54-55 degrees. I might also add that that is the same temperature setting the unit will default to when it comes back on after a power outage. Not a minor consideration given the length of time we will be leaving our condo unattended.
And our final consideration was use of the dual zones, basically the left and right sides of the wine cooler. This gets into fitting different sizes of bottles into the cooler. Putting reds on one side and whites on the other didn?t accomplish anything since we keep the temperature on both sides the same. Plus, we don?t necessarily have the same number of reds and whites at any given time.
For this you need to know the actual interior dimensions of the AW-320ED. The racks are 12-1/2? deep. But the actual unit is 13? (another ? inch beyond the rack) and the door is recessed a ??, so the total available depth is 13-1/2?. That?s important because an ?American? German wine bottle is generally 13-1/4?. It just fits into the recess in the door. I have not tried a real German wine bottle which may in some instances be a little longer. I?ll have to go into a liquor store and check a few I guess. The interior width is 7-1/2? and the interior height is 28?.
The other bottle size to be concerned about is the Burgundy/Pinot Noir/Chardonnay type bottle which is fatter. It generally does not fit into the racks provided by most wine cooler manufacturers including the AW-320ED. But, the AW-320ED actually handles it pretty well.
The stainless steel racks are well made and curved for the bottle to lay in. They slide in and out easily and are easy to remove.
However, it will take 8 Burgundy type bottles without any modification: two in the top (since the top of the unit is flat), and two in the bottom (the bottom being flat as well) on each side. By turning the 4th rack from the top over, you will have a curved rack below (on the 5th rack) and a curved (4th) rack above so the Burgundy bottle will fit. That allows for two more Burgundy on each side. The reversed 4th rack will then only hold a single German bottle in the middle so you are losing 2 bottles of capacity, i.e., the unit will now hold a total of 30 bottles.
I found the 4th rack was the only one that would allow the bottles to be placed flat against the back wall. Otherwise you would be placing the bottoms of bottles over the fan units or other parts. That didn?t look like a good idea to me. So the bottom line is, you can do a total of 12 Burgundy bottles and only give up 2 bottles of capacity.
The unit arrived double boxed and was in perfect condition coming out of the box. Screwing the door handles on was pretty simple. As recommended by the manual (which I read ahead of time on the Air & Water website), I made sure it was level and let it stand for several hours before plugging it in. In the mean time, I figured out the Burgundy bottle placement and set that up including turning over the 4th rack. I then loaded the cooler with the 26 or 27 bottles we had on hand. I then plugged it in. It didn?t make any sense to plug it in before loading and having the doors open while I figured out where to put the bottles. One other point: although the manual doesn?t mention it, there is heat venting out the back as well as the sides so I set the cooler about 2? away from the wall so the heat could dissipate more quickly.
That was about two weeks ago. The unit has run fine with the temperature staying steady between 54 and 55 degrees. The black unit and blue lights do look really nice. It is in my office so I am next to it all day, and I don?t think it makes any noise at all. One warning: the touch controls on the front are very light. I accidently lightly touched the centigrade/Fahrenheit switch on one side without noticing. I turned around from my desk the next day and read 13 degrees on one side! I like to fainted until I figured out what had happened and switched it back to Fahrenheit.