Wine Cooler/Refrigerator Reviews:
The wine industry is experiencing solid growth as Baby Boomers near retirement and have plenty of discretionary income to spend on items like wine. Also, the younger generation now has access to wine bars in all major cities and their taste for fine wine is increasing too. The need for home wine refrigerators used to be a niche market but it's gaining steam as younger and younger wine drinkers are buying wine coolers to put in their homes. If you are just starting out, like I am, consider a smaller wine refrigerator (40-50 bottles), but nothing too small. A general rule of thumb amongst wine guides is to buy a wine cooler that has double the capacity of what you think you will use. The thinking behind this is that your collection will probably grow over time and the need for available space will increase. You want a wine fridge
that has quality insulation and will keep your bottles at a constant 55 degree temperature and at about 50-70% humidity levels. When storing wine, temperature and humidity are key factors in maintaining the quality of the wine. If the humidity is too, the cork will dry out and if it's too high you can get mold. There are other factors consider when purchasing a wine cooler and we will cover those below.
For the interior of any wine refrigerator, you want ones that have aluminum (preferred over plastic). Aluminum interiors in wine storage systems will conduct cold and heat more effectively than the cheaper plastic wine fridges. For humidity control and maintenance, try to find wine refrigerators with a pebbled lining. Unlike regular kitchen refrigerators that have solid doors, many wine coolers come with glass doors so the owner can view the wine or show it off to his/her guests. The glass doors are actually more expensive than those with solid doors and they don't insulate nearly as well. Keep any glass doored wine refrigerator away from sunlight or get it protected with a UV finish since wines that are exposed to sunlight can be damaged. Vibration control is another feature to consider when buying a wine refrigerator. Wine should not be shaken and the compressors on fridges vibrate a little when they are turned on or off. To alleviate this problem, many wine fridges come with specially coated racks that grip your wine or champagne bottles and limit vibrations. Others have compressors that are mounted on rubber blocks to eliminate the shaking. The vibration control devices are most commonly found in high end wine coolers from Viking or Sub-Zero. The interior shelving is definitely a feature you want to look at closely. The better units come with wood racks while basic models have only chrome/wire shelves. If the shelfing rolls out your job of stocking the wine cooler will be much easier. Test this aspect in the store when you go to look at some. Dual zone wine refrigerators are great for storing both red and white wine at different temps. Lastly, some models have locks (great if you have smaller children or teenagers) and alarms to let you know if you accidentally left the door ajar. Undercounter wine fridges range in price from about $500-$3000 (depending on bottle capacity and other factors listed above). The top manufacturers and brands are Avanti, Haier, Danby, Marvel, Sub-Zero, Viking, Vinotemp, Cuisinart, Electrolux, and EuroCave. We did extensive research online reading reviews on Amazon.com and visiting forums with discussion boards about wine refrigerators at Gardenweb.com
and Letstalkwine.com. We also looked at an article in Food and Wine Magazine with their top picks for wine fridges. Our overall findings are below with the "best choices" in each category. If you are looking to buy online, consider browsing through the best-selling wine refrigerators here
- they carry Vinotemp, Haier, Avanti, and others.
Best Wine Cooler:
EuroCave and Vinotemp are two top names in the wine cooler industry and they get rave reviews from owners and experts alike. We had a hard time determining which model should be chosen as the "best wine refrigerator" so we gave it to both the Eurocave Compact 50-Bottle
($1000) and the Vinotemp VT-45
($1100) which stores 45 bottles. The Vinotemp wine cooler is a dual-zone, two compartment design that stores both white and red wines. There are digital controls for both sections so you can get exact temperature adjustments. The stylish stainless steel cabinet looks great in any home and the wood shelves slide out easy giving you full access to all your wine. There's even a display rack at the bottom of the wine cooler for extra storage. The EuroCave Compact is designed to be built-in to cabinets, bookshelves, etc. requiring less than 2 square feet of floor space. Comes with 1 rolling and 1 adjustable shelf, 1 temperature zone, an interior digital control panel, and a maple cabinet finish. We heard nothing but positive feedback in online forums for EuroCave wine cellars and this latest cooler follows in the same footsteps. You can check out more of the Vinotemp wine refrigerators here
Luxury Wine Cooler:
In terms of sheer luxury, very few brands can compete with the elite name of Electrolux. The Electrolux Icon Designer Series E24WC160ES
($3500) is a 160-bottle capacity wine cooler that gets praise from wine enthusiasts, but it's so new we couldn't find any actuall reviews on the unit. It's a 24" freestanding wine cellar that will store your finest wines with a vibration free environment that is absolutely quiet. Unlike other wine coolers that use compressors, the Electrolux uses "absorption cooling" to give you the precise humidity levels and temperature. The Viking Wine Refrigerator VUWC141FLSS
($2000) is another expensive wine cooler that holds up to 54 bottles and received excellent ratings.
Budget/Value Wine Refrigerator:
The Danby Silhouette DWC512BLS
($650) got mixed reviews in wine forums, but we found enough positive things on this model that we decided to include it here. It's certainly not a high end model, but owners say the "value" is there and they like the way it was designed to be both freestanding and a zero clearance built-in undercounter model. The Danby wine cooler holds 51 wine bottles, has dual temperature zones for red and white wine storage, 7 full width wooden shelves, a tempered glass door with stainless steel frame, and a humidity reservior. The Dandy has a 5-year limited warranty. Owners say it can be a little loud at times and they also wish it had aluminum interior instead of the plastic.
Top Rated Small Wine Refrigerator:
Whether you are just starting a wine collection or have a tiny apartment, buying a small wine refrigerator may be the answer. Some hold only 6 bottles, but we say go with something that is closer to 20 (6 fills up pretty fast). The Avanti WC262BG ($200) is a 24 wine bottle storage unit that is countertop size. The temperature range is 48 to 62 degrees F, it has an adjustable thermostat for temperature control, and it does well at maintaining the proper humidity for wine. Other features include a reversible tempered double-glass door and coated racking for individual bottle storage. The Avanti wine refrigerator is great when working with limited space and it's the ideal gift to any new aspiring wine collector in your family.
Champagne Cooler Refrigerator:
Champagne refrigerators are definitely a niche product since many of use don't own that many bottles of bubbly. The Marvel Chateau Collection 3SWCC-BS-GX Champagne Cellar
($1900) is a truly unique cooler that has been specially designed to hold large circumference champagne bottles (18 in total). The stainless steel facings and racks, dual-pane tinted glass, electronic thermostat, and auto defrost, are all features that set this unit apart from others.