Wine Chillers & Coolers Buying Guide
Buying a bottle of good wine is only the first step in enjoying it. You have to store that wine correctly to protect your investment. Specialty appliances, like a wine chiller, give wine the stability and shelter it deserves so you can enjoy it long after you bring it home.
Types of Wine Chillers & Coolers
Thanks to the popularity of drinking wine and entertaining at home, the appliance category of wine chillers -- also known as wine coolers or wine refrigerators -- is growing. Now any home, big or small, can upgrade its wine storage with models designed to sit on the countertop, under a counter, or on its own in any room.
This entry-level wine storage is compact and quiet but offers the fewest options and smallest capacity.
The most popular type of wine chiller, built-in models install under a counter in the space of a trash compactor or dishwasher, with bottom vents that exhaust to the front. Models offer a range of capacities and convenience features.
Freestanding wine refrigerators are independent of cabinets and store 250 bottles or more. These models may require 2-3 inches of clearance on all sides for ventilation.
For convenience, security, and dependability, these features are standard on some models and optional on others, according to model size and cost. Most are enhancements designed to protect your wine investment.
If you drink only red wine or only white wine, your storage needs are simple. However, if you wish to store both reds and whites in the same wine cooler, a single temperature is a risky compromise. The safest solution is two independently controlled temperature zones, preferably in separate compartments.
A digital temperature display -- easy to set and view without opening the door -- keeps temperatures accurate and consistent. One drawback: Digital controls may limit you to predetermined ranges, such as 40-65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because ultraviolet light is harmful to wines, look for tinted double-pane glass doors that block UV rays yet still let you see your prized collection.
Whether they're wood, metal, or plastic, all wine-chiller shelves store bottles on their sides so the corks are always wet. Most shelves hold standard 750-millileter bottles. Fixed racks let you stack bottles to store more; adjustable or removable racks make it easy to accommodate larger champagne bottles or to slide out a shelf to view or insert bottles.
Integrated locks protect wine against removal by children or burglars. Adjustable interior LED lighting displays your collection and illuminates labels without damage from ultraviolet or incandescent light. Reversible hinges let you change the direction your door opens.
As with any appliance, a little research will ensure you find the wine refrigerator that best fits your needs. Choosing the right type, size, and location are smart steps to buying a model that is practical for your home and lifestyle. And remember that cost has two components: the purchase price and the operating expense.
Wine refrigerators store as few as six to more than 200 bottles. Even if your collection is small right now, anticipate how it could grow in a few years. In addition, bottle capacity is related to the type of racks you choose, as certain rack options offer greater capacity than others. Consider buying a wine chiller that holds at least four or five more bottles than you usually have so that you can take advantage of sales or vineyard trips.
The federal Energy Star program rates food refrigerators but not wine chillers. Based on your capacity and temperature setting, efficient models cost about $10 per year to operate at an average of 10.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. Thermoelectric wine coolers, which do not contain compressors, can be more efficient than standard electric units.
Where you plan to install your wine chiller affects the type you buy, and vice versa. Operating noise can be distracting if you choose a location in the dining room or family room. Kitchens, pantries, garages, and basements can all suffer from temperature swings that make the appliance work harder to maintain steady cooling.
Look for attractive styling if you want to show off your wine chiller and its contents. If you choose a built-in model, the door's finish will count the most. Consider whether doors of glass, stainless steel, or wood complement your setting before making your final choice. Sleek, hidden handles or chunky industrial pulls also contribute to the overall design.
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