Most wine enthusiasts don’t have the room or the budget for a wine cellar, but a wine refrigerator or chiller can be the next best thing. Here’s what to consider when shopping for a wine chiller.
Size/type. Wine chillers come as countertop, freestanding, or under-countertop units. To determine which unit you’ll need, consider these questions. Where do you plan on installing it? How big is the intended space? How many bottles of wine do you plan to store?
Tip: According to Wine Enthusiast, you should buy a model that offers a 50 percent larger capacity than you think you’ll need based on how many bottles you have right now. The reason? Most wine collections grow over time, and it’s nice to have extra space when you’re serving guests.
Cooling unit. Wine chillers employ two main types of cooling mechanisms: thermoelectric or compressor units. The right one for you depends on your environment and storage needs. Thermoelectric units are ideal if you need short-term wine storage and want a quiet unit. They are not the best option in tight spaces or warm environments. Compressor units are similar to regular refrigerators. Because of this, they can reach lower temperatures and perform well even in higher ambient temperatures. They also offer increased longevity compared with thermoelectric models. On the other hand, compressor units are noisier and heavier.
Energy use. In general, wine chillers use a lot of energy, but some use more than others — up to twice as much as other models, according to Consumer Reports’ testing. Thermoelectric models tend to be more efficient than compressor models, but make sure to check energy use information when shopping.
Temperature zones. New wine chillers come with two options for temperature control: single or dual zones. If your chiller’s intended use is storage, a single temperature unit is fine since all wine should be stored between 53 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit. For those connoisseurs who want to store some wines and keep others at serving temperature, a dual zone unit is the best option.
Features. Once you’ve selected a type of wine chiller, take a closer look at features to determine the best model for you. Some units offer adjustable shelving for flexibility and easy removal of bottles. External digital temperature controls are convenient and may help maintain more consistent storage temperatures. Other models offer preset temperatures for white and red wines. Some chillers offer trays to catch humidity drips that could cause damage to corks and labels. Tinted-glass protects against harmful ultraviolet light, while interior lights can add extra style and make it easier to display and find your favorite wines.
Budget. Wine chillers range in price from about $300 to more than $1,500. The good news is that most wine chillers, according to Consumer Reports, perform well in maintaining set temperatures, so even if you can’t afford a high-end model, your wine will be well protected.