Though summer is pretty much over now that Labor Day has come and gone, temperatures across the country continue to set records. That’s good news for beachgoers, but bad news for your wine collection.
All that heat and humidity may have you thinking you need a wine fridge just to keep your bottles from going bad, and you may be right. Wine refrigerators help preserve that precious vino by shutting out damaging sunlight, keeping the temperature consistent, optimizing humidity and keeping those corks from drying out. In short, a wine fridge is a good investment for anyone from beginner collectors to serious oenophiles.
Now that you’ve decided to get a wine refrigerator, though, here are the six questions you must ask in order to find the right one for you.
What’s your budget? As with most purchases, the first and most responsible questions you can ask is, how much am I willing to spend? The good news is, there are wine refrigerators for pretty much every budget. They start at around $150 and range up into the thousands.
How many bottles? Are you just starting out, or do you have a collection that you want to find a home for? The number of bottles you both have and plan to buy is the second most important factor in deciding what kind of refrigerator you’ll need. Some are tiny and hold just six bottles – perfect for the drinker constantly cycling through dinner parties and new wines. Others hold dozens or even hundreds of wines. So if you’ve been buying a few cases a year, you might need to consider upsizing. If you’re not sure quite yet, but you have some cash to spare, start with a fridge that holds about 30-40 bottles. It won’t be too expensive (under $500 generally), but it will give you room to grow.
Built-in or freestanding? This goes hand-in-hand with the last question, but depending on exactly where you envision keeping your wine fridge, you might want to get a built-in one that will fit under your countertop versus a freestanding one that you can plug in pretty much anywhere. Just beware that freestanding fridges usually vent from the bag, while built-ins vent from the front, so if you do stow that freestanding fridge in a tight space, be sure there is room behind it and on the sides so that the hot air exhaust can dissipate properly.
Dual or single-zone? This is a good question if you’re going to store different kinds of wine. Single-zone refrigerators have just one temperature control, so the whole interior is set to the same degree. With dual-zone fridges, you can set two different temperature controls, one for your reds and one for your whites. This also opens to the door to all kinds of fun wordplay, like wine-centric uptown-downtown or eastside-westside rivalries. You want a Pinot – better step on over to the westside, son!
Energy use and noise level? No matter how new your regular fridge is, chances are it makes a bit of noise when it flips into cooling mode, and you can find its energy-use ratings on a sticker when you buy it. The same will be true of your wine refrigerator, so be sure to read up on its power requirements and decibel level before committing and putting it in, say, your home office where its hums and whirs might distract you. If this is a significant element for you, opt for thermoelectric rather than a traditional compressor cooling system.
What other features do you want? Even the simplest coffeemakers come with various features, and as with coffeemakers, the fancier you want your fridge to be, the more you’ll pay. However, some of those bells and whistles can be well worth it. Some come with pull-out shelves so you can store different-sized bottles. Others feature UV-proof glass so sunlight doesn’t damage your wines. Some have humidity monitors. You can also opt for digital thermostats, remote controls, remote monitoring systems that you can alter via WiFi, and even LED lighting to impress your guests…or just to be able to read the labels easier without opening the door.
Just as a wine collection is an investment, so, too, is the refrigerator in which you store it. As with any major appliance, ask yourself what exactly you need, how it will be a part of your life, and, most importantly, which one will make your friends most jealous!
Now that you have a few basic guidelines, I’d suggest heading over to Wine Enthusiast’s store for a great, comprehensive shopping resource and some of the best models on the market.
Got any other questions? Feel free to tweet me @clustercrush.