You’ve made the right choice in searching for a wine chiller to store your bottles. But there are a lot of areas where you could go wrong, from installation, to cleaning, and more. Here are 10 worst wine chiller mistakes you can make and how to fix them faster than a sommelier says no to boxed wine.
#10 — Buying a wine chiller that doesn’t lock
Whether you have a curious crawler, an inquisitive toddler, or a terribly thirsty teenager, parents with kids of any age need a built in wine chiller with a locking door. None of the above persons will be able to get into the alcohol collection unless they have the included key to that door. If you make the mistake of getting a non-locking unit, you’ll have to worry about broken glass shards, spilled wine, or a phone call that your teen’s been making trouble.
Similarly, wine chillers can be an integral appliance for parties, but sometimes you don’t want everyone and their mother getting into your prized vintages. A locking wine cooler will come in handy for parents and non-parents alike who entertain often and want to prevent guests from “accidentally” yanking out that bottle of W & J Graham’s Vintage Port they’ve been saving.
#9 — Buying a wine chiller for your beer
Wine and beer are often said in the same breath, especially with the craft beer revolution in full swing. But a wine chiller is called a wine chiller for a reason — it’s not quite the right appliance for all types of beers. This is because many brews taste best when they’re kept colder.
Most beverage/beer fridges have a temperature range of 34-64°F. Most wine coolers have a range of 40-64°F — in other words, they have a higher lowest temperature setting. Since light lager beers are best drunk at around 35°F, getting a wine chiller to keep your cold ones optimally cold isn’t the most savvy purchase.
# 8 — Getting a wine cooler that’s way too small
Forward-thinking makes the world go round. Okay, so momentum and gravity and the sun and all of that make the earth go round, but in the wine world, you should realize early on that a bigger wine cooler is ultimately a better wine cooler. Give yourself room to grow from the get-go, because once you store one bottle properly, you’re going to want to store all of your bottles properly.
So while a 6 or 12 bottle wine cooler is cute, it should really just function as a complement to your main cooling unit. Any capacity upwards of thirty bottles is a better investment for the long term, and if you’ve really, really got the wine storage itch, you should look into 100+ bottle wine chillers.
#7 — Flipping the wine chiller upside down
Once you get your hands on your wine chiller, you need to avoid doing certain things if you want it to work properly, such as flipping it upside down. We know you wouldn’t intentionally sabotage your own cooler, but we’ve all seen those videos where a guy tries a pick up a heavy object, lifts it, does a stutter-step to the left, does a stutter-step to the right, and then topples over with the thing cartwheeling on top of him.
Don’t be that guy. Jostling or inverting a wine chiller can damage the cooling system. And that’s why when you first open the box, you have to let it stand upright for at least 2 hours to let the coolant settle from handling during transportation (do this before you plug it in). So don’t make the mistake of picking up your wine chiller — ask a friend for help.
If you don’t have any friends, then look for a reliable brand, such as NewAir, that offers free white glove delivery service for certain wine cooler models.
#6 — Exposing the wine chiller to sun and heat
Sun is bad both for wine and any wine chilling appliance. When vino gets exposed to UV rays, the phenolic compounds in it — aka the stuff that makes wine taste and smell great — start to break down. A wine chiller is not a suit of armor: direct natural light can affect your bottles even if they’re seemingly safely stashed.
Excessive direct sunlight can also affect the cooling unit’s exterior coating. Furthermore, sun and/or placement next to hot objects, like a wall heater, force the cooler to work harder to drop the temperature. This results in more electricity consumption, with extreme hot (or cold) ambient temperatures resulting in the cooler not working at all.
To avoid this rookie mistake, set up your wine chiller in a dark area away from hot appliances, where the ambient temperature is between 50- 80°F and doesn’t fluctuate too much. If some sunlight is unavoidable in your space, look for a cooler with a UV-resistant glass door, so that your vintages won’t be affected if by the solar glow.
#5 — Sticking the wine chiller right against the wall
No matter what type of wine chiller you get, you need to give it room to breathe. Your wine chiller puts in work even while you’re not looking. Hard work generates heat and that warmth needs somewhere to go, especially since the goal is to chill your wine bottles. Most freestanding wine coolers have back vents, and if you make the mistake of jamming the wine chiller right up against any adjacent walls, it won’t be able to cool off properly.
This causes the cooling system to work harder and use more electricity. At the same time, the appliance can start to overheat, affecting the temperature inside the fridge, and eventually causing the chiller to stop working completely. So give the cooler at least 5 inches of breathing room in the back and between any adjacent walls, and don’t place it in compact, closed-up closets.
#4 — Constantly opening and closing the door
Remember when Dad yelled at you to stop opening and closing the fridge because you were going to let all the cool air out? The same rule applies here. We know you want to admire your wine bottle collection in every way possible, but allowing for proper cooling is the best form of respect you can give your vintages.
Wine coolers don’t like temperature fluctuations and constantly opening and closing the door is like your own little temperature fluctuation factory. Not only will your bottles be exposed to the ambient conditions each time you crack the door seal, the wine chiller has to work harder to account for the hot or cold air you let in.
Also, the warm air that you welcomed into the wine cooler has nothing to do but Netflix and chill once it’s inside. Once it reaches a low enough temperature, and if it was humid enough, condensation will form inside the chiller. You know you’ve got a condensation problem when you can’t see through the door because the wet fog on it’s too thick. While this moisture isn’t bad for your wine, it can ruin the labels, which true connoisseurs know is something to cry about.
An even worse but related mistake is to leave the door open. If you don’t shut it tightly after each bottle retrieval, your cooler won’t be vacuum sealed and won’t be able to keep in the cold air. Then what you’ve got is a pretty cabinet that uses a lot of electricity without keeping wine chilled.
#3 — Setting the wrong temperature
This mistake advice is for the wine lovers out there. Oh wait, that’s all of you? Then you should probably listen to this one. Different types of wine need to be stored at different temperatures. If you really care about chilling wine for the purposes of experiencing it with the best flavor, aroma, mouth-feel, etc., then you need to set your cooler to the temperature best-suited to that type of wine. If you don’t, then your wine might still be good, but it sure won’t be great. For example, white wines prefer living in the range of 46-56°F, while red wines like things a little warmer at 58-68°F.
Many wine coolers allow you to adjust the temperature in increments of 1°, so you can calibrate it to a T. However, don’t think that by setting the control to 55°F that the wine chiller will actually achieve that setting. You have to account for the outside temperature too — if it’s hot outside, you may need to set the cooler thermostat lower.
Tailoring temperature to specific wine types is easiest with a dual zone wine cooler. These appliances have two separate cooling areas with independent temperature controls. If you love both reds and whites and want to store them properly, then don’t make the mistake of getting a single zone wine chiller.
#2 — Installing a freestanding wine chiller in your cabinetry
So you have the bright idea of saving floor space by installing your freestanding wine cooler in the cabinetry where your trash compactor used to be. Stop, drop, and roll away as fast as possible before you make this mistake. If you look back up at the #5 worst mistake, you’ll notice that freestanding wine coolers generally vent from the back. If you stick one of these in an enclosed space, you’re going to run into the same issue of the chiller heating up because it can’t ventilate — only 10x worse (we like things in tens around here) because it’s boxed in all around.
Only a wine cooler with a vent on the front can be installed in cabinetry. The hot hot heat comes out there, leaving your wine nice and chill and the chiller nice and chill as well. That being said, you have to follow the same rule for a front-venting wine chiller: don’t accidentally block the vent with something like a towel or a dog’s bed.
#1 — Not cleaning your wine chiller
Everything in the world needs to be cleaned. Even cleaning needs to be cleaned, somewhere. So that means your wine chiller is also subject to this law of life: you have to wipe down the inside and the outside to keep it operating efficiently.
The first time you can make the mistake of not cleaning is when you first get the chiller. In the manufacturing process it gets exposed to dust and fingerprints. It’s better to be safe than sorry before you begin storing your bottles, especially since corks are sensitive to the surrounding atmosphere. Cleaning the interior surfaces of the wine cooler with a soft cloth/sponge and lukewarm water will ensure that nothing taints your wine. This should also help eliminate the “factory odor” you may encounter when you first open the cooler. After cleaning, make sure to let the interior cabinet dry completely.
Annual cleaning, at-minimum, of the wine cooler will prevent mold and other nasty odors from building up, seeping through the cork, and affecting the wine flavor. If the wine cooler has a condenser, this MUST be cleaned every six months to prevent malfunction because it can accumulate dust over time.
Be sure to unplug the cooler and remove everything before you start maintenance. For the inside, wash with a warm water and baking soda mixture, and for the outside, use a mild detergent and warm water — nothing too harsh or you’ll damage the nice finish on your chiller. Also remember to rinse the water reservoir at the bottom of the cooler. And finally, please don’t make the mistake of using flammable liquids to clean the chiller, and especially hot parts of the appliance. You’re just playing with fire if you do that.