Many people put their wine bottles in regular fridges. While this is an excellent way to store an open bottle for one or two days, it’s not the optimal solution for long-term storage. A better place for keeping your precious wines is a wine fridge.
What Is a Wine Fridge?
A wine fridge is a special refrigerator that is designed to provide the best storing conditions for wine. That means especially a higher temperature and humidity as well as less vibration and noise than a regular refrigerator.
In the following article, we will discuss the features and advantages of wine fridges in detail. We will also talk about how and where to set up a wine fridge and how to maintain it. But first, here are the answers to the most frequent questions about wine fridges.
What Is the Difference Between a Wine Cooler and a Wine Refrigerator?
There is no specific difference. Wine lovers and manufacturers use the terms wine refrigerator, wine fridge, and wine cooler synonymously to describe the same device: a refrigerator that is designed to provide the optimal storing conditions for wine.
How Cold Is a Wine Fridge?
Typically, wine fridges support temperatures between 40 and 65°F (5-18°C).
How Much Does a Wine Fridge Cost?
Wine fridges with a capacity of 10 to 15 bottles are available for around 150 USD. Refrigerators for about 50 bottles cost approximately 500 to 800 USD, and for models that hold more than 100 bottles, you have to pay 1,000 USD or more.
Read on for more information about the different models and shopping recommendations.
Why Should You Use a Wine Fridge?
A wine fridge is a significant investment, and as a wine lover, you rightfully ask if it’s really worth it. Actually, it is.
The regular fridge, where you store your food, doesn’t provide the optimal storing conditions for wine. And in the worst case, keeping your wine there for a long time might harm it. A wine fridge is much better suited for storing wine for several reasons. Let’s discuss them in detail.
The Proper Temperature
The most important difference between a wine fridge and a regular refrigerator is their temperature. Your standard fridge runs at 37 to 40°F (3-5°C). This temperature is optimal for preserving food items, including fresh vegetables, meats, and dairy products.
For wine, that’s too cool, though. Although the cold will not harm your wine, it slows down its maturing process. So especially reds that tend to develop new delicious aromas over the years might need more time to rise to their full potential. Besides, a wine bottle that comes from your refrigerator is too cold to be served immediately.
Thus, the temperature of a wine fridge usually ranges between 40 and 65°F (5-18°C), with 55°F (13°C) being the most common setting. At this temperature, the aging process can take place unhindered. And when you are ready to open the bottle, most wines are close to the optimal serving temperature.
More Details on Serving Temperatures: WHAT IS THE RIGHT SERVING TEMPERATURE FOR WINE?
The Right Level of Humidity
Regular fridges are designed to have a dry interior because humidity promotes mold that causes food items to spoil.
For wine, these dry conditions are not ideal. Most wine bottles have cork stoppers, and corks will dry out if you store the bottles in arid environments. If that happens, they can crumble, and pieces might break off them. In the end, that can result in a leak.
Wine fridges provide more favorable conditions for wine. As they never are as cold as regular fridges, they also are never completely dry inside. So the risk of drying out corks in a wine refrigerator is much lower.
Another critical difference is the level of vibration they create. Regular as well as many wine fridges have a motor and a compressor. These components constantly vibrate, and even more when they are old and need cleaning.
These vibrations are a problem for wine. Especially older wines suffer from constant shaking because that prevents their sediments from settling down. The result can be a very unpleasant, gritty taste.
Wine fridges don’t cause this problem because they contain special compressors that cause almost no vibrations. Some thermoelectric models don’t contain compressors at all, and thus, are completely free of vibration.
No Harmful Odors
Another problem that might occur when storing wine in a regular fridge comes from smells. Food items, and particularly heavily spiced leftover meals, often produce intense odors. When stored next to wine, these odors can invade the bottle via the cork. In particular, when a cork is dry and leaking, the food items can impart their smells on the wine and ruin its aromas.
The Optimal Spacing
A regular fridge has different places for different items. Typically, it has several shelves for bigger and smaller items, one or two drawers for fruits and vegetables, and various compartments for bottles and cans in the door. Many models also come with a built-in freezer, an ice maker, or a water dispenser.
The interior design of a wine fridge is more straightforward: It has only shelves to hold wine bottles. Usually, these shelves are adjustable for different bottle sizes, and they are built to fix bottles so they can’t roll around. This design saves space and maximizes the fridge’s capacity.
Different Types of Wine Fridges
Although all wine fridges share the purpose of providing the best storing conditions for wine, you can find various models that differ from each other. Depending on your wine preferences, some of them might be more or less useful. Let’s discuss them.
Freestanding vs. Built-In Wine Refrigerators
Most wine fridges are freestanding. That means you can place them basically anywhere, where the conditions are favorable (more on the optimal location for a wine fridge later in this article). They exist in all sizes, with capacities of less than 10 to several thousand bottles.
For a freestanding wine fridge, you need some extra space. Not only for the device itself but also a bit of free space around it, so the ventilation system works properly.
In smaller apartments, that can be challenging. If space is rare, you might want to go for a small countertop wine fridge. It’s freestanding as well, but so small that you can put it on any surface, including tables, counters, and sideboards. Most variations hold around a dozen bottles, which is not much but better than nothing.
In contrast to freestanding models, built-in wine fridges are designed to be put into a counter or cabinet. For this purpose, they have a special cooling system with a front ventilator. That takes away the necessity to have much free space around them.
Typically, built-in wine refrigerators are medium-size, so they fit into a standard counter and don’t take away space for other furniture. These models hold around 20 to 40 wine bottles. You can also find bigger devices for in-cabinet installation that allow you to store up to 200 bottles.
Advantages of Freestanding and Built-In Fridges
Compressor vs. Thermoelectric Wine Fridge
Wine fridge manufacturers use two different technologies to construct their devices: compressors and thermoelectric systems.
Compressor wine fridges work similarly to regular fridges. They contain an evaporator that cools down a coolant gas. This gas is cycled through a tube system into the fridge’s interior, extracts the heat from it, sends it to the outside, and thus lowers the interior’s temperature.
Thermoelectric wine fridges work differently. Their main component is a metal plate made from two materials. An electric current is sent through the plate, and because of the different materials, it creates a heat flux. This heat flux cools down the side of the plate that faces the interior. The plate’s cool side extracts the heat from the fridge’s inside and leads it to the other side that gets warmer. Finally, the warmer side sends the warmth to a heat sink, releasing it into the surrounding air.
Because of these different technologies, the two types of wine fridges also differ in some other characteristics:
- Compressor fridges get cooler than thermoelectric fridges. The latter typically won’t go below 50°F, so they are not the best choice for chilling down sweet white wines and sparklers. Also, thermoelectric models have a hard time working properly in hot environments. So if you are a fan of bubbly wine or live in a region with a very warm climate, better go for a compressor fridge.
- Compressor fridges need less energy. While thermoelectric wine fridges run on a constant level to keep the temperature inside steady, compressors turn on or off automatically depending on the actual temperature and the need for adjustments. Thus, they use less energy and logically also cause lower electricity bills. And the bigger the fridge is, the higher the operating cost advantage of compressor models is.
- On the other hand, a thermoelectric wine fridge is usually cheaper when buying it. The retail price of a compressor model with a similar capacity might be up to 50% higher.
- For these two reasons, most high-capacity wine fridges operate with a compressor. So, if you want to cool down a big wine collection, it might be challenging to find a matching thermoelectric model.
As thermoelectric machines run constantly, they are also more likely to break down and need repair. So compressor wine fridges tend to have a longer lifespan.
- Thermoelectric refrigerators are less harmful to the environment. Compressor models contain hazardous coolants and need to be disposed of with special care when the device is discarded. In contrast, thermoelectric fridges don’t contain harmful substances.
- While all wine fridges are relatively silent compared to regular refrigerators, they create a humming noise nevertheless. But thermoelectric wine fridges generate less noise than compressor fridges.
- Finally, thermoelectric devices also cause less vibration.
Advantages of Compressor Fridges and Thermoelectric Fridges
Single-Zone vs. Dual-Zone Wine Fridges
Some wine refrigerators offer a special feature: They have two different temperature zones. Thus, they are called dual-zone fridges. Typically, they are at least medium-sized, so they hold at least 20 to 25 bottles.
You can set the temperature for each zone individually to create the perfect conditions for different types of wine. Many wine lovers set up one zone with a higher temperature for red wines and the other with a lower temperature for white wines. But of course, you are free to adjust the settings to your needs.
You might also come across dual-zone refrigerators that hold wine bottles in one zone and other beverages such as beer or soft drinks in the other. You can recognize these models easily: Their second zone is divided differently to hold cans and smaller bottles instead of big wine bottles.
Dual-zone wine fridges are perfect for all people who enjoy different beverages and like to have bottles of each type at hand. Whether you like reds and whites, still and sparkling wines, or wine and beer, you definitely should consider a dual-zone refrigerator.
In contrast, a single-zone wine fridge lets you set one temperature for all of its content, just like a regular fridge. Most small models with capacities of less than 20 bottles are single-zone fridges.
If you have a strong preference for one wine type, for instance, bold red wine, a fridge with one single zone is right for you. But even if you enjoy different wines, a single-zone refrigerator is absolutely fine. Although you can’t set the perfect temperature for each wine type, the storing conditions it provides are much better than in your regular fridge.
Both single- and dual-zone fridges are available as freestanding and built-in models.
Advantages of Single-Zone Fridges and Dual-Zone Fridges
Glass Door Wine Fridge vs. Solid Door Wine Fridge
Another differing factor is the fridge’s door. Many wine fridges have glass doors. There are two main reasons for choosing a glass door:
- The most common is aesthetics: Glass doors let you showcase your bottles and thus simply look better. As you can find many different styles of glass-door wine fridges, it’s also easier to find one that matches your personal preferences and fits into your apartment’s style.
- Glass doors also allow you to find a specific wine faster. That minimizes the time you need to keep the door open and helps keep the interior temperature constant.
Instead of glass doors, you can also choose a solid door wine fridge. They look more like regular fridges and are less aesthetically pleasing. Nevertheless, there are good reasons for buying a wine refrigerator with a solid door:
- Solid doors are better isolated than glass doors. Logically, solid door wine refrigerators can better deal with heat.
- Another advantage of a solid door is that it shields UV light (namely sunlight) completely. So if your wine fridge stands near a window or a skylight and is exposed to sunlight occasionally, a solid door is safer to protect your wines than a glass door.
- The same is true if you plan to install your wine fridge outdoors. Solid door fridges are better suited to withstand outdoor conditions, so consider one for your patio. Be aware that even a solid door wine fridge should have a roof above it when installed outdoors, so it won’t get wet when it rains.
Advantages of Glass Door Fridges and Solid Door Fridges
More Wine Fridge Features to Look For
Besides the characteristics we’ve already discussed, there are more features that might be important for you:
- If you have children, you might need a wine fridge with a lock.
- LED lights are energy-efficient and also minimize UV rays. Their color matters, too: Blue is optimal because it’s less intense than other colors.
- High-end models often have carbon filters that keep potentially harmful odors out of the fridge. If your wine fridge stands in a place where it is exposed to aggressive smells, a carbon filter is a must-have.
Which Wine to Put in a Wine Fridge?
Generally speaking, you can put all wines in your wine fridge. There are no wines that will suffer from it, given you set the proper temperature. In case you have to sort some out because you own more bottles than your wine refrigerator’s capacity, follow these rules:
- Wines meant for aging should go into the wine fridge first. If you plan to keep some bottles for years, they should definitely enjoy the fridge’s optimal storing conditions.
- Sparkling wines should always have priority. They probably will go off first when not chilled, or at least lose their delicate bubbles.
- If you have to choose between still reds and whites, better put the whites into the fridge. Reds are typically higher in alcohol and tannins, and both help preserve them.
- Due to their high alcohol contents, fortified wines are the least vulnerable of all wines. They even tolerate being stored at room temperature for some time. So, if you lack space in your wine fridge, sort out the fortified wines such as Port and Madeira first.
More Details on Fortified Wines: FORTIFIED WINE EXPLAINED (WITH EXAMPLES)
Can a Wine Fridge Be Used for Food?
No, you shouldn’t put food into a wine fridge for several reasons:
- Food needs temperatures not higher than 40°F (5°C) to minimize the risk of spoilage. As wine fridges typically run at 45 and 65°F (7-18°C), they’re too warm for food.
- Food items need a dry environment because humidity promotes mold that can spoil them. On the other hand, wine bottles need a little bit of humidity, so their corks don’t dry out. As wine fridges are designed to provide the best conditions for wine, their interior typically isn’t completely dry.
- Many food items have intrinsic aromas that can invade wine bottles via the cork and ruin the wine’s flavors. Thus, you should keep wine and food apart from each other.
Can You Put Liquor in a Wine Fridge?
In general, yes, you can put liquor in a wine fridge. You should be aware that wine fridges won’t chill your liquors as much as a regular fridge, though. So when you are planning to serve a cold shot of vodka or Jägermeister, you better put the bottle into your regular fridge (or the freezer).
Can a Wine Fridge Be Used for Beer?
The answer to this question is similar to the previous question: In general, yes. But if you like your beer cold, you might not be satisfied because a wine fridge’s temperature simply is too high.
Consider a beer froster instead. These fridges run at around 23°F (-5°C), so your beer will be ice-cold when you take it out.
Where to Put a Wine Fridge?
Before buying a wine fridge, you should make up your mind about where you want to install it in your house. There are a couple of things to consider to find the best spot:
Provide a Constant Temperature
Obviously, a wine fridge’s job is to keep wine cool in a warm environment. Nevertheless, its cooling ability is limited, especially if it’s a thermoelectric wine fridge. Keeping an internal temperature that is about 20°F lower than its environment is no problem. But the higher the difference between the surrounding temperature and the desired internal temperature, the harder the fridge has to work. That means it uses more power (and causes higher electricity bills) and has a higher risk of malfunction. To limit this risk, you should choose a spot where the fridge’s surrounding temperature doesn’t rise above 75°F (24°C).
Choose a Shady Place
A shady location that isn’t exposed to direct sunlight is a great choice. Conversely, that means that you should avoid places close to windows or skylights.
Keep the Fridge Away from Water
You also should shield your wine fridge from water. Thus, don’t put it next to a pool or a jacuzzi. And of course, it should always have a roof above it, so it isn’t affected by rain.
Make Sure It Has Sufficient Space
Be aware that a wine fridge needs some additional space beyond its measurements. Freestanding models require 2 to 3 extra inches (5-8 cm) on each side and above them for proper air circulation. And of course, the door needs space so you can open it without a problem. Also, make sure that the device is close enough to a plug. Using extension cables isn’t recommended by most manufacturers and can even nullify your warranty.
Avoid Spots Close to Vibrating Devices
Another essential factor when searching for the right place for your wine fridge is vibration. Many electronic devices such as regular fridges and freezers, air conditioning devices and fans, washing machines, and tumblers create vibrations when switched on. We’ve already discussed that vibrations can harm a wine’s aging process and that wine fridges are low-vibration machines for this reason. For the same reason, you shouldn’t put your wine refrigerator next to a vibrating device.
Can a Wine Fridge Sit on Carpet?
No, you should avoid putting your wine fridge on carpet floors. Carpet typically doesn’t provide a flat surface so that the fridge won’t stand completely stable.
If you have no other spot for your wine fridge, here’s a workaround: Put a plastic mat underneath it. That will increase the stability significantly for a safer stand.
Can I Put a Wine Fridge Next to an Oven?
No, you definitely should not install your wine fridge next to an oven. Wine fridges need some space around them for ventilation. So it’s in general not a great idea to put them directly next to another electronic device.
But there is another reason: As mentioned before, you shouldn’t expose your wine fridge to suddenly changing temperatures. The proximity to a running oven would require the fridge to work much harder to keep your wines chilled. And as a result, your electricity bill would go up. Besides, the harder the fridge has to work, the earlier it will need repair.
Will a Wine Fridge Work in a Garage?
Yes. In most cases, a garage is a proper place to put a wine fridge. The lack of sunlight is great, and also, the fridge’s humming won’t annoy anyone there. However, there are some things to consider:
- If you live in a region where it is extremely hot (or extremely cold) from time to time, your garage should be air-conditioned. Room temperatures that are above 75°F (24°C) or below 32°F (0°C) for a significant time can cause problems for the fridge. Thus, you should only put your fridge into the garage if it provides a stable room temperature. If unsure, think of a weatherproof wine fridge with a solid door. These are better suited to deal with challenging conditions.
- In case you store chemicals such as wall paint, cleaning agents, or heating oil in your garage, better don’t put your wine fridge there. Most wine fridges are airtight and shield your wines from outside odors. But anytime you open the door, the chemicals’ aggressive smells might sneak in. And in the worst case, they can invade the wine bottles. To be absolutely sure that doesn’t happen, better separate your wine fridge from chemical agents.
- Many people use their garage not only for their car but also for all kinds of DIY work. If you belong to this group, your garage is not the best spot for a wine fridge. Sawing, grinding, sanding, spray painting, and similar activities produce particles that can get into the fridge’s ventilation system and seriously damage it. Thus, better don’t place your wine refrigerator in a room where you work with wood, metal, or paint.
The Best Places to Install a Wine Fridge
In terms of temperature and sunlight exposure, a room in your basement is the best spot for a wine fridge. A cool and dark environment is just perfect for wine, and it won’t require your fridge to work too hard. Keep in mind not to put the refrigerator next to vibrating devices, chemicals, or workstations that produce particles.
Putting a wine fridge in the kitchen is perfectly reasonable. The kitchen is well-tempered, (hopefully) clean, and free of potentially harming particles or chemical odors. Also, having your wines close to where it’s served and consumed makes much sense. Make sure to keep some distance between the wine fridge and the oven, though.
The dining room (or the living room) is another logical choice. It might be a little tricky to find a spot that gets no sunlight, but if you find one, that’s just perfect. Be aware of the noise, though. Although wine fridges are less noisy than regular refrigerators, you will sense their humming. That might be annoying for some people, so it’s a topic worth discussing before making the final decision.
In your home bar, you probably have similar conditions as in your living room, so it’s a suitable room for a wine fridge. If it’s located in your basement, that’s even better. Again, consider the humming noises and keep some distance between the wine refrigerator and other devices.
Under the Stairs
In a multi-story house, you might be able to place a refrigerator under the stairs. This location is typically not exposed to heat or sunlight, and there is no better use for this empty space than a wine fridge.
How to Set Up a Wine Fridge
Setting up a wine fridge is no big deal. There are just a few points that you should have in mind before you switch it on:
- First, when bringing the refrigerator to its new home, transport it standing upright if possible. Turning it upside down can severely damage the cooling mechanism, so avoid it at all costs.
- Place it on a flat, even surface. It must stand level and stably without wobbling to prevent the wine bottles from rolling around inside. Most models have adjustable feet to deal with slightly uneven floors, so make use of them.
- Make sure to provide sufficient free space around the wine refrigerator. Freestanding models need at least 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) on each side, including the back and the top, so their ventilation works properly and doesn’t overheat. In-built devices are an exception; they usually have a front ventilator, requiring only 1 inch (2-3 cm) of space on each side.
- After putting the fridge into its final location, don’t switch it on right away. The coolants in the cooling system need some time to settle down after transport. Thus, you should wait for at least 2 hours before switching the fridge on.
- In case the fridge “smells new”, it makes sense to wait a little longer before filling it with your precious bottles. Leave its door open for a night (or longer) until the odor has disappeared.
What Is the Optimal Temperature for a Wine Fridge?
As mentioned, wine fridges typically are set to a temperature between 40 and 65°F (5-18°C). If you want to store different types of wine in the same fridge, aim for the middle: 55°F (13°C) is a good temperature for all of your bottles.
If you plan to store only one type of wine (or if you have a dual-zone fridge), you can alter the temperature. These are the optimal storing temperatures by wine type:
- full-bodied reds & fortified wines: 63-64°F (17-19°C)
- light- & medium-bodied reds: 54-61°F (12-16°C)
- dry whites: 46-54°F (8-12°C)
- sweet whites & sparkling wine: 41-46°F (5-8°C)
How to Maintain a Wine Fridge
A wine fridge is a costly investment. Thus, you should take good care of it so it can preserve your delicious wines for as long as possible. The following maintenance tips will help to maximize its lifespans.
Don’t Overload Your Wine Fridge
You should never force more bottles into the fridge than the manufacturer recommends. If you do, you might not only risk damaging the refrigerator; you also risk shattering bottles when you open the door next time.
Make Sure to Keep the Door Closed
The more often your fridge’s door is open, the harder it will be to keep the interior temperature constant. So only open it when you actually want to put a bottle in or out of it. Also, give the door a firm push every time you close it to ensure it’s really sealed airtight.
To avoid searching for a specific bottle while the door is open, consider a management system for your wine collection, so you always know where to find your wines.
How to Clean a Wine Fridge
The optimal cleaning interval for your wine refrigerator depends on how you use it. If you open it often, then you should clean it once every six months; if you open it only rarely, once per year should be fine.
Before starting to clean, unplug the device and remove the bottles as well as the shelves. Clean the fridge’s interior with a soft cloth. It can be slightly moist but not soaked. You won’t need any chemical cleaning agents; water is fine. Do the same with the shelves. Wipe everything dry or let the interior air dry for one or two hours.
Finally, replug the fridge and put the bottles back in as soon as it’s cool.
Do Wine Fridges Need to Be Defrosted?
In general, you don’t need to defrost a wine fridge. However, there are some exceptions. When your fridge is located in an area with a high humidity level, there is a slight chance that ice builds up inside. Also, setting it to a very low temperature increases the likelihood of frost.
If you spot frost inside your wine fridge, follow these steps to defrost it:
- Remove all bottles as well as the shelves from the fridge.
- Unplug it.
- Leave it standing with the door open until all ice disappears. That might take up to 2 days. Be aware that the ice will melt and turn into water, so use towels to catch it before it leaks onto the floor.
- Clean the interior with a soft cloth and a mix of lukewarm water and baking soda. 2 tablespoons of baking soda mixed with 1 liter of water (¼ gallon) should work fine.
- After removing all remnants of frost, dry the interior properly.
- Leave the device alone with the door open for another hour to ensure it’s completely dry inside.
- Close the door, replug the fridge, and give it some time to get to the right temperature. Then put your wine bottles back in.
Never use ice picks, knives, forks, or other metal objects to chip ice away. You could damage some crucial components located directly behind the compartment walls and effectively destroy the wine fridge.
What Is the Best Wine Fridge to Buy?
There is no such thing as a universal wine fridge. Which model is the best for you strongly depends on your needs. By asking yourself the following questions, you can narrow down which type of wine refrigerator is best for you:
How many bottles of wine do you own (and how many more do you want to buy)?
- less than 15: a thermoelectric countertop fridge is probably sufficient for your needs
- 15 – 50: consider a thermoelectric in-built or freestanding model
- more than 50: better go for a compressor fridge
Where do you want to install your wine refrigerator?
- living room, dining room, home bar: use a thermoelectric model with a glass door because it’s less noisy and fits better into your home design
- basement, garage: as noise and look doesn’t matter here, choose a compressor refrigerator with either a glass or a solid door
- kitchen: choose either a thermoelectric or a compressor fridge with a glass door that fits into your kitchen’s look
- outdoor patio: go for a compressor fridge with a solid door
Do you live in a region with a hot climate?
- yes: a compressor model can deal with higher temperatures better
- no: choose either a compressor or thermoelectric fridge based on your capacity needs
How much space do you have in the room where you want to install the fridge?
- not so much: consider a countertop or built-in model
- plenty: go for a freestanding wine fridge
Do you like one specific wine type, or do you drink different types? What about other beverages such as beer or soft drinks?
- only one wine type: a single-zone fridge is perfect for you
- different wine types: choose a dual-zone model
- wine as well as other beverages: consider a wine & beverage fridge
Do you have kids?
- yes: make sure to get a wine fridge with a lock
- no: a lock probably isn’t necessary
Buying a wine fridge might be challenging because there are so many different types and models with various advantages and disadvantages. With the details from this guide, you are prepared to find the model that perfectly serves your needs. So think about getting a wine fridge to provide the optimal storing conditions for your favorite beverages.