Factors to Pay Attention to Before Purchasing a Wine Fridge
Selecting a wine cooler that best suits your needs and budget requires some research due to the many brands and models available.
We created this wine cooler buying guide to help you gather all the information you’ll need to select a quality home wine refrigerator.
Take your time to consider and compare the most important features and first and foremost make sure you know what type of wine storage unit you need regarding the number of zones, bottle capacity and available space in your home.
Price is another important factor but don’t let it be the most significant one when you decide on which wine cooler to buy.
In most cases a high quality and well-built wine refrigerator cooler is a better investment in the long term though the price might look a bit steep at first.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Wine Cooler or Wine Refrigerator
First of all you have to know what’s the difference between a wine cooler/refrigerator and a wine cellar.
Why should you buy a wine cooler when you already have a fridge?
A wine cooler or refrigerator maintains constant temperature for cooling and/or chilling wines so that you have ready-to-serve wine at hand all the time.
Wine refrigerators are meant for short term storage of wines for maximum 1 year.
For aging wines and for long term storage you’ll need a more sophisticated wine cellar: you can either build one or install a walk-in wine cellar.
Visit our wine cooler and wine storage FAQ page to get more information on what to pay attention to when buying a wine storage appliance.
Our page about Types of Wine Cooler Refrigerators gives you an overview of different wine coolers & refrigerators regarding cooling method, installation (freestanding or built-in) etc.
TIP1: Search and compare prices of the most popular wine cooler refrigerators.
TIP2: learn about our Wine Cooler Review & Rating System.
Capacity of a Wine Cooler Refrigerator
Wine coolers are available in many sizes from small wine cooler refrigerators storing 6-20 bottles of wine to large models capable of holding 100-200 or more bottles.
Collectors owning or planning to own a few hundred bottles of wine or more might consider buying a capacious wine cabinet or wine room.
A general rule is that you should buy a wine cooler that can hold at least twice as many bottles as you currently have. You’ll fill the storage space up quickly, especially if you’re on a constant look out for buying good wines.
It pays to get a large enough wine storage cabinet so that you won’t end up getting 2-3 smaller wine storage units which would cost more than 1 wine cabinet with enough space for a sizeable wine collection.
Although the shipping cost of a capacious wine cabinet is slightly higher but if you compare the total cost of two smaller wine fridges the larger unit will turn out to be the better investment.
Note that for the built-in feature you have to look for a zero-clearance unit specially designed for built-in purposes. These wine coolers have front venting meaning that the hot air is forced out in the front of the appliance instead of the back so that you can install the fridge flat against the wall.
Some wine fridge models are for standalone use only while some manufacturers offer models that can be installed both as built-in and as freestanding.
But it’s still better to keep your wines in a wine cooler at a temperature that’s perfect for short term storage than leave them on a wine rack in a hot, sunny kitchen. It’d be a shame and waste of money if your prized wines perished at 25°C – 30 °C.
There’re some great slim wine cooler refrigerators specially designed for those who’re limited on space.
Price of Wine Coolers
Perhaps the second most important factor to take into account is that how much you can afford to buy a wine cooler.
In general we can say that the cheapest an appliance the less reliable it is. That’s true for wine coolers and wine refrigerators, too.
On the other hand you might not want to spend an exorbitant amount on a high-end wine cooler refrigerator when you can find a good one with features that suit your wine storage needs at a more reasonable price.
If you’re tight on budget it’s a good idea to look for discounted wine coolers or refrigerators that have slight dents or scratches on their cabinets. Ebay is a good place to find such wine storage units at reduced price.
Just to give you a rough guidance on how much wine coolers cost, consider paying for
- a 6-20 bottle wine fridge between $100-300,
- wine coolers with medium capacity sell for $300 – 600,
- large wine refrigerators cost around $1000-2000 depending on features and brand.
You can spend way more than $1000-2000 on luxury wood wine storage cabinets (wine credenzas) like the ones made by Le Cache or Vinotheque, or on complete wine rooms (Cavispace, Espace, GE Monogram) if you have space for it in your home.
When comparing wine cooler prices use price per bottle (total price divided by wine bottle capacity) to get a more realistic value of the appliance.
TIP: see our list of the Best Electric Wine Cooler Under $500 which includes good-value small-medium capacity units that cost around $500 or less.
Main Features of Wine Coolers/Refrigerators
After you’ve decided on the capacity and the price range I recommend that you compare wine coolers in terms of main features and benefits.
Many small wine coolers use thermoelectric cooling technology which has the advantage of virtually noiseless and vibration-free operation. However, a compressor-run wine refrigerator usually is more efficient in producing cool air. Compare the pros and cons of a traditional compressor-operated cooler with and that of a thermoelectric wine cooler.
Most wine coolers are designed for indoor use (with ambient temperature of maximum 25 ºC and 70 % humidity) however if you plan to use it outside look for models developed for outdoor placement like Franklin Chef’s outdoor beverage center.
Another feature to consider is the number of temperature zones in the cooler. Dual-zone wine cooler refrigerators have two separate compartments with independent temperature controls for storing red wines and whites.
This feature sounds good but you don’t necessarily need a wine cooler with two zones. If you’re going to store wines – both reds and whites- in the unit for a longer duration then a single zone wine cooler might be sufficient because the upper part of the cabinet interior is always warmer than the lower part so you can keep reds on the top racks and store whites/sparkling wines at the bottom racks where the temperature is lower.
Other features to look into when comparing various wine cooler brands & models include:
- temperature range – a decent wine cooler should have a fairly wide temp. range, at least 45 – 65 ºF.
- temperature control – is it digital or mechanical? – a digital control is more easier to use and considered to be more precise.
- insulation of the door – most wine coolers have glass doors so that you and your friends/guests can admire your wine collection. Glass doors however are less good at keeping warm air getting into the fridge from the outside so always look for wine coolers with double pane, tempered glass doors.
A tinted glass door is another useful feature because it’s designed to filter out UV rays that can be harmful to wines in case of long-term exposure.
- also check the opening direction of the door: in case of some models you have to specify whether you need a left- or right-hand door swing while other wine cooler units have reversible doors.
- humidity control – according to wine storage experts proper aging requires 50-75% humidity level. This feature is especially important if you live in a dry climate. Kept in too dry environment the top of the cork can dry out and develop cracks, allowing air into the bottle . Too much humidity (above 80 %) isn’t beneficial either because mold is likely to develop coating the label and the cork.
Cheaper wine cooler models most likely don’t have adequate humidity level but your purpose with a small wine fridge is not wine aging but short-term cooling or chilling. If you live in a dry climate place a wet sponge or a plastic container filled with water inside the cabinet to increase moisture content of the air.
More advanced wine refrigerators like the ones manufactured by Sub-Zero are equipped with evaporators for maintaining constant, moderate (50-60%) humidity.
EuroCave wine cabinets have advanced humidity system with the unique feature of displaying humidity level and warning of inadequate humidity level.
- racking system: note that many wine coolers can accommodate only standard 750 ml wine bottles. If you tend to purchase wines in wide, non-traditional bottles or if you want to cool magnums then always check what sort of shelving the cooler has.
You’ll find that most wine refrigerator models have chromed wire racks, other more expensive units come with metal racks with wood front, and all high-end wine coolers have wooden shelves.
Wire racks have the disadvantage of bending under the weight of bottles after some time and they can accidentally scratch the labels on the bottles. Wooden shelves however take up more space leaving less room for wine bottles especially for wide ones.
- automatic defrost – to avoid build-up frost: a built-in timer warms up a heating coil to melt possible ice layers. More advanced fridges are equipped with energy saving defrost systems called adaptive defrost control that monitors usage of the appliance and how long does it take for the evaporator coil to get totally frost free.
- Decor – consider what color and style match the best the room furnishing where you’re going to place the wine cooler. What sort of customization does the manufacturer offer? Manufacturers of higher end wine refrigerators (e.g. Sub-Zero, Marvel) offer several customization options like custom finishing of wood rack fronts, custom door frame etc.
Additional Wine Cooler Refrigerator Features to Consider
- Door lock – if you’re buying a wine cooler to be placed in a restaurant or bar make sure the unit is equipped with door lock and key. You might also want to have a safety lock on the cooler if you don’t want your kids to be able to open the cooler and have access to your wines.
- Leveling legs – allow hassle-free placement and proper leveling of the cabinet.
- “Sabbath” or “Black Out” mode – this feature lets you set the wine cooler to disable lighting and display functions during religious occasions. Marvel, U-Line and Sub-Zero wine storage units incude Sabbath mode)
More Wine Cooler Buying Tips
- Check the length and other terms of warranty the wine cooler or refrigerator carries – what parts are included in it? Is the compressor included in the warranty? Manufacturers and retailers don’t always state their warranty terms clearly so it pays to ask about them.
- Does the manufacturer offer some sort of money back guarantee?
- Does the manufacturer have extensive service network? Do they have a service representative nearby your home? The consumer complaints on some Danby Dual Zone Wine Cooler Refrigerators are worth taking a look at.
Use this wine cooler buying guide to narrow your choices down to 2-3 wine cooler models that you think suit your needs and budget the best. To decide which wine refrigerator model to buy, do a last comparison and read reviews provided by other users of the unit.
Comparison Charts on the Most Popular Wine Coolers & Wine Cabinets
To help compare wine coolers and wine cabinets we prepared comparison charts on the most popular units according to size and price range. On the main wine cooler comparison page you’ll find links to all the comparison charts on this site.
Wine Storage Options – Video Presentation
- For additional help see our article about the best wine coolers and wine refrigerators.
- Cheap Wine Cooler Refrigerators – reviews of some inexpensive wine refrigerators.
- Wine Coolers as Christmas Gifts – recommended wine chillers as presents for Xmas.
- Wine Cellar Cooling Units – for those who want to build their own home cellar.