There is an old Spanish saying that “good wine ruins the purse; bad wine ruins the stomach.” Storing wine improperly may lead to a host of problems, all of which result in ruining a good (and expensive) bottle. If you want your good wine to stay that way, avoid the perils of poor storage and invest in a wine chiller. Pronto’s Wine Chiller Buying Guide will help you find the wine chiller that fits your needs and your budget.
For optimum wine aging, choose wine chillers with horizontal or downward-angled storage to ensure that the cork doesn’t dry out. Look for tinted glass that offering UV protection if the wine chiller will be kept in a room that gets sunlight.
Choose a wine chiller with 20% to 30% more storage than you think you need. Countertop wine chillers hold 3 to 6 bottles of wine, mini-fridge or under-the-cabinet mount styles will hold 20 to 50 bottles and full-sized wine chillers will store up to 100 bottles of wine.
Generally, all wines can be stored safely at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. To store multiple types of wine, look for a dual-zone model or a wine chiller that offers a separate compartment that can chill wine prior to serving. Consider separate wine chillers for optimal aging of red, white and sparkling wines.
Purchase a wine chiller that achieves and maintains 65% humidity to prevent corks from drying or forming mold. Antivibration mats and thermoelectric cooling systems reduce air flow vibrations that can upset aging wine. If your collection is extensive and/or expensive, choose a wine chiller with a backup generator in the case of a power outage.
Wine chillers with thermoelectric cooling are the quietest and emit the least amount of vibration. Choose wine chillers with rigid foam insulation instead of fiberglass for the best temperature retention and greatest energy efficiency.
A wine-bottle stopper made from corkwood or synthetic material. Corks should be kept moist to preserve wine integrity, as a dried cork may crack and allow too much air to enter the bottle, which decomposes the wine. Many winemakers are now replacing corks with screw-off caps, in part because 5% of corks, on average, are contaminated with bacteria.
A wine chiller that offers two separate, independently controlled compartments or one that maintains different temperatures at the top and bottom of a single compartment. This feature is useful for storage of different types of wine or for chilling a bottle you are about to serve.
The amount of moisture in the air. If wine is stored in an area with less than 65% humidity, the cork may dry out, and can then shrink or crumble, threatening the integrity of the wine. At humidity levels above 65%, mold may form and damage the cork and wine.
A cooling method that uses variations in the flow of heat in different metals that are electrically charged to generate cold air.
Movement from air flow or compressor movement that can upset the equilibrium and normal aging of wine.
Wine chillers range in size from compact countertop models to full-sized appliances suitable for restaurant-quality wine cellars. A variety of styles and finishes are available, as are models that mount inside kitchen cabinets. No matter which size and style you want, there are a few key design points to look for to ensure optimum functionality.
First, look for wine chillers that will fit inside your designated space. Some wine chillers may need clearance to permit air circulation, so keep that in mind when looking at models that have an external venting system for the compressor. If space is a concern, look for a wine chiller on casters that can be moved from room to room as needed.
Next, be sure the wine chiller you’re looking at holds wine bottles either horizontally or at a downward angle, so as to prevent the cork from drying out. If you store your bottles horizontally, be sure to rotate them periodically so that the entire cork stays moist, which prevents cracks and impurities from forming. If your wine collection includes odd-sized bottles or you regularly drink champagne,look for wine chillers with adjustable shelves.
If you’re using your wine chiller outdoors or in an area that gets direct sunlight, look for a tinted or opaque door that will keep the sun from raising the temperature inside the wine chiller. In general, wines that you want to age should be kept in a place that gets no sunlight, as ultraviolet rays from the sun can penetrate the bottle and affect the aging process. If you must age wines in a wine chiller, look for one that offers glass that blocks UV rays.
Other design features worth considering are pull-out shelves, door locks and interior lights. None of these affect how your wine is stored, but they may be conveniences you consider valuable.
Countertop wine chillers accommodate 1 to 6 bottles of wine on average, while wine chiller mini refrigerators can hold anywhere from 20 to 50 bottles. Full-sized wine chillers are designed to store 50 to 100 bottles of wine.
How much storage you want your wine chiller to offer comes down to the size of your wine collection. If you’re uncertain how to estimate your storage needs, the rule of thumb is to shop for a wine chiller that is 20% to 30% larger than you think you need. Keep in mind that most people tend to buy more wine after they’ve purchased a wine chiller.
A wine chiller’s purpose is to store wine at the optimal temperature for aging and serving. If wine is stored in a basement, garage, or any area that experiences large fluctuations in temperature, those fluctuations can trigger chemical reactions that compromise the integrity of the wine. It’s good to know the correct temperatures for storing different types of wine. Generally speaking, it’s safe to store all wines at around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, although wine aficionados may wish to store red, white and sparkling wines at different temperatures and purchase separate wine chillers for each.
Wine chillers handle temperature control in a couple of ways. Some wine chillers offer separate compartments for long-term storage and short-term chilling for wines you intend to serve. Some wine chillers feature dual-zone temperature controls.
Look for a digital thermostat to ensure that the desired temperature is maintained consistently. If you have an extensive and expensive wine collection, choose a wine chiller that includes a backup generator in the case of a power outage.
Humidity and vibration are two stalwart enemies of proper wine storage. Monitoring and compensating for both are key considerations when choosing a wine chiller. Most homes and businesses are maintained at 20% to 50% relative humidity: good for people, bad for wine. To prevent corks from drying out or forming mold during long-term storage, you need your wine chiller to create and maintain a consistent humidity of 65%.
Vibrations disturb the equilibrium and normal development of wine. Look for wine chillers with antivibration mats that reduce the vibrations from air flow, or choose a wine chiller with thermoelectric cooling that emits fewer vibrations than traditional air compressors.
The biggest complaint about the first generation of wine chillers was air compressor noise. Today, most wine chillers use thermoelectric cooling. Not only is there less vibration to upset your wine, but there’s less noise—a key point to consider if your wine chiller will be kept in an area of your home where you spend lots of time.
How energy efficient are wine chillers? Depending on the model you choose and the energy costs in your area, a wine chiller can cost anywhere from $15 to $35 per year to operate. To ensure that your wine chiller is as energy efficient as it can be, look for wine chillers with rigid foam insulation, which is more effective than fiberglass and retains temperature well.