Wine coolers aren’t for storing wine forever. They’re forgetting it ready to drink. We talked to four wine experts, tested fridge temperatures, and drank our fair share of chilled rosés, all to find a good looking wine cooler with buttons that worked, could accommodate temperatures from 45–65 degrees and didn’t develop freezer burn.
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How We Found the Best Wine Cooler
Good temperature range
First, we made sure our fridges could keep both whites and reds at the optimum temperatures for serving, based on recommendations from Wine Spectator:
- Light dry whites, rosés, and sparkling wines: 40 to 50 degrees
- Full-bodied whites and fruity reds: 50 to 60 degrees
- Full-bodied reds and ports: 60 to 65 degrees
We cut any cooler without that full range of 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
If shelves can’t be adjusted, you are limited in the number, size, and shapes of the bottles you can store — not ideal for anyone with a varied collection, let alone an upcoming dinner party. With removable shelves, you can fit more bottles by stacking them like firewood, plus have the option of storing opened bottles standing up.
The amount of energy a wine cooler uses depends on how many hours per day the fan or motor is running, plus variables such as how often you open the door and the ambient temperature of the room. It’s measured in kilowatt hours per year (kWh/year). In general, manufacturers are not actually required to list energy consumption for wine coolers as they are considered luxury items. However, some manufacturers do estimate the energy consumption of their coolers; 15 of our contenders used 400 kWh/year or less.
As we whittled down the contenders, we got our hands on six wine coolers. From there, we tested things like the controls, shelving, door mechanism, etc. We played around with them all, pushing buttons and pulling out drawers, then tested each unit to find the accuracy of their temperature settings at 49 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit and how easily they could accommodate wine bottles of different sizes.
How to Find the Right Wine Cooler for You
Ask yourself what kind of wine you prefer
If you lean heavily to just reds or just whites, a single-zone cooler will work great. If you prefer to mix it up, choose a dual-zone model. But don’t forget: all wines can be kept at 55 degrees until a few hours before being served when you can pop them in the fridge to cool down or leave them out at room temperature to warm up. If you’re looking more for a short-term storage option (as opposed to a ready-and-waiting-to-be-consumed solution) a single-zone cooler with a limited temperature range could still be a great choice.
Assess room temperature
Thermoelectric models, while more efficient, struggle in anything but ideal temperatures. If you live in Florida and plan on keeping your wine cooler in an un-air-conditioned garage, a compressor model will definitely be the way to go.
Determine where you want the wine cooler
Most freestanding coolers don’t have a front vent, so they need several inches of breathing room around the back, top, and sides so they don’t overheat. For a more streamlined look, go with a built-in model that matches your appliances or cabinetry. Also, consider your space: Do you want a tall-skinny guy? A cube? Something else?
Are wine coolers reliable?
Experts warn that smaller free-standing units can be fickle. Matthew Goldfarb says that many smaller, off-the-shelf units only work well for a few years, and that larger, built-in models have more structural integrity. “I’ve had mixed success with the smaller freestanding coolers,” agrees Erik Liedholm, wine director for several of chef John Howie’s restaurants. The wine coolers we tested all had one-year warranties (except the Jenn-Air, which had a two-year warranty), but Goldfarb emphasizes that if you have invested in a quality wine collection, it’s worth it to invest in a quality cooler or cellar.
Will a wine cooler match my decor?
Wine coolers come in all finishes: wood, stainless steel, sleek black. They come in all sorts of shapes too: tall and skinny, small like a microwave, as giant as a dishwasher, and even the size of a full room. This is an appliance that’s going to be sitting on your countertop or taking up some floor space in your kitchen. Luckily, there are a variety of aesthetics to choose from.