When should you use a wine cooler instead of a regular refrigerator?
When you’re a wine connoisseur, you may one day wish to convert your love for wine into a notable collection that reflects your personal tastes and passion for the hobby. In fact, for some of you, this may already be the case, and you’ve already amassed several bottles of wine that you plan to hang onto for when the occasion calls for it.
However, even from that very first bottle in your collection, you want to make sure you’re storing your wine properly.
For those not fortunate enough to have a cool cellar in which they can store their collection (at the proper humidity level and temperature, no less), the ideal way to keep your wine at the optimal 55°F is to purchase a high-grade wine cooler.
While many may be tempted by the size and space offered by your average fridge, a conventional refrigerator just won’t cut it. Here’s why:
Keep Your (Wine) Cool
Aside from keeping your wine chilled to serve at the ideal temperature all year long, a wine cooler’s purpose is to protect your collection from environmental changes, including fluctuations in humidity.
For most wines, the ideal temperature is between 45°F to 65°F (or an average of 55°F). A typical fridge is designed to escalate temperatures quickly and dry out humidity. A wine cooler, on the other hand, will gradually lower temperatures and maintain a high and effective humidity level at all times.
The fragile makeup of wine cannot survive in an environment where a wide array of cold and dry perishables coexists at an average temperature of 40°F. The temperature in a traditional refrigerator is also inconsistent, because it is being opened all throughout the day.
Many high-grade wine coolers also feature convenient temperature controls and separate cooling zones for tempering and storing your red and white wines. Whether you want to serve your wine at the perfect temperature with dinner or store it for a longer period, a wine cooler ensures an even temperature throughout, always.
As a quick rule of thumb, for white wines, you want to keep the temperature a little colder around 45°F to 52°F. For red wines, you may want to go on the warmer side around 58°F to 65°F. Of course, if you’re serious about hitting the perfect temperature, you’ll want to go with what the vintner recommends.
Vibration + Wine = Bad Times
Another enemy of your beloved wine is vibration. All-purpose refrigerators vibrate because they run on a compressor. This vibration can disrupt a wine’s natural maturation process, causing it to age and degrade faster, not to mention cause a mechanized racket.
Although some wine fridges are also powered by compressors, they have a unique vibration absorption system that greatly reduces the impact of tremors and noise, allowing your wine to quietly and adequately mature. There are also thermoelectric wine refrigerators that don’t vibrate at all, but are better suited for already cool environments.
Outside Odors & Wine: Not A Winning Combination
There are many hazards lurking about your traditional fridge that can adversely affect your wine’s quality. If left in the same space too long, it’s possible to get a hint of General Tso’s Chicken in your Pinot Noir.
Why does this happen? If the cork in a wine bottle shrinks (as it will in a fridge) and becomes too porous due to improper humidity levels, the surrounding odors of the bread, bologna, beer, and whatever else you’re storing can seep into your wine.
Remember, regular refrigerators are engineered to suppress humidity, not sustain it. Wine fridges are crafted to maintain an ideal humidity level so that your wine cork stays impermeable and moist, not allowing outside air to intrude the bottle and spoil your wine. You also won’t be as tempted to store your leftovers in your dedicated wine cooler, meaning there’s even less of a chance of the two ever meeting outside of a meal.
Internal Storage: More Space Means More Wine
Wine coolers utilize wire racks or adjustable shelves specially contoured to the body of the wine bottle for safe keeping.
While a fridge may have enough room to store your wine collection safely, it doesn’t make getting to your sandwich or salad any easier.
Features Focused on Wine Storage
Your typical fridge many feature different compartments for meat and veggies, but it won’t include amazing features and aesthetics designed with your wine in mind. High-quality wine coolers offer a plethora of outstanding features, in addition to their convenience and wine-maintaining characteristics.
Some of these components may include:
- A secondary cooling system
- An LED-illuminated interior so you can easily find which bottle you are looking for (LEDs are also cool to the touch and won’t inadvertently heat your wine)
- Adjustable and stackable shelving so that you can fit as many (or as few) wine bottles as you’d like
- An energy-efficient compressor to save you money
- A compact fit to accommodate any room in your home (some wine coolers can even go in cabinets and under counters)
- A front-venting grill for freestanding placement or a built-in option under a counter
- A digital thermostat to give you precise control over your wine’s temperature
For wine lovers, the optimal way to store wine is within a cellar or wine cooler, not in the fridge. With changing temperatures, noisy vibration, a lack of features, and pesky odors, your wine will be much better off in a dedicated wine refrigerator.
Ready to buy a wine cooler, but not sure where to start? Check out our picks for the best wine refrigerators of the year.