Wine, as you may know, needs to be served at a specific temperature, and storing it correctly is nothing short of scientific. To keep it drinkable for a long time, it is a good idea to keep it in a wine cooler, and you will find more info here about the models that are the most popular right now.
Here, we will tell you everything you need to know about a wine cooler, what it is, what types are available, and how to choose the right unit. The wine cooler we’re talking about here is a unique refrigerator for wines, and it is not to be confused with the low-alcohol beverage that used to be all the rage in the 80s.
What is a wine cooler, after all?
To start with the basics, here is, in a nutshell, what a wine cooler is. You may find such units listed under terms like wine chillers and wine refrigerators, but they are all the same. A wine cooler is a temperature-controlled appliance used for storing wine.
In this day and age, not everyone can afford to have a wine cellar, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot keep your favorite wine in ideal conditions. A wine cooler is, basically, an invention that can replace a wine cellar, although, obviously not entirely.
A wine cooler, by comparison to a wine cellar, has a reduced footprint and can accommodate only a small number of bottles. However, for someone living in an apartment, there is no better alternative for wine storage.
The cooler offers multiple benefits; it keeps your wine at the right temperature and displays your bottles. A look at a wine cooler will let you know that the racks are designed in such a manner that each bottle is held securely and without the risk of breaking by clashing with the others.
Several things make a wine cooler special. Usually, the door or doors are made with a double panel construction to ensure proper protection for the wine bottles inside. Don’t be surprised to find out that the exterior structure is coated with an anti-UV layer, as it is well known that wine can lose its characteristics if it’s exposed to light.
Another thing that makes a wine cooler stand out is the design of the compressor. It is necessary that the engine of this type of fridge produces as little vibration as possible since that’s another aspect that could affect the wine quality. The compressor that comes with a wine cooler ensures a reduction of vibrations.
The door of a wine cooler comes with a lock that prevents the accidental opening that could affect the temperature inside. Some models even come with an automatic lock that makes sure that the doors close immediately to reduce the loss of temperature.
Do you really need a wine cooler?
Some people may still think, after reading the description of a wine cooler above, that this type of wine storage unit is nothing but a little fancier refrigerator. However, you should know that storing your wine in your regular refrigerator is not a good idea for several reasons.
First of all, the temperature in your kitchen fridge is significantly lower than what a wine cooler provides. That means that you will chill your wine much more than needed. On the other hand, a wine cooler will offer the correct temperature for the wine to hold longer, and also, for aging. That means that a wine cooler can supply the necessary conditions for wine to age and become tastier. Your kitchen fridge cannot do that.
Of course, if you only buy a bottle of wine once in a while and don’t keep it in the fridge for more than overnight, you don’t have to spend money on a wine cooler. But, if you want to start a small collection and even show off your knowledge of various wines to your friends, this type of unit is just what you need.
Here is another thing you might not know. There are wine coolers with double-temperature zones that can be used to store different types of wine, champagne, and other drinks. Serving your alcoholic beverages at the right temperature is the sign of a true connoisseur.
How to pick a wine cooler
If you run a simple search on wine coolers, you will discover that there are multiple options you can choose from, but that can feel, at the same time, challenging. For instance, you can choose between freestanding units and built-in wine coolers. The latter are designed to fit inside a kitchen counter, as other appliances. Freestanding units dissipate heat through the back, so it’s never a good idea to put one inside a kitchen counter.
That said, you can install a freestanding unit in such a manner that it integrates with the rest of your kitchen furniture. As long as you allow enough room for the wine cooler to circulate air for its engine, it will be fine.
The type of cooling used plays a significant role in how you choose your wine cooler. There are thermoelectric models and those that work with a compressor. Compressor-based units are a good option if you plan to place your wine cooler in a large, warm room. However, remember that they are quite noisy. Thermoelectric models are quieter, and they also produce fewer vibrations.
You may also notice that there are models advertised as dual-zone, as mentioned a little earlier. They are ideal if you are interested in storing more than one type of beverage. However, you must bear in mind that a wine cooler won’t go lower than 46F. So, if you like your drinks cooler than that, you should look for other options.
A bit of information on wine aging
At the start of this article, we mentioned that wine coolers could be used for aging wine, not merely storing it. The process called aging is quite complicated for wine, and it involves chemical reactions that can be affected by apparently slight changes in conditions.
A stable temperature is essential for aging wine, and the consensus is that it should be about 55F. Furthermore, the relative humidity must also be constant and around 70%. Don’t forget that you should keep your wine away from light.
Taking all these into consideration, it is evident that a wine cellar is still your best bet for aging wine. However, for decent results, you can depend on a wine cooler, although maybe not for as long as you would when storing your wine in a cellar.
Your wine cooler can do an excellent job of aging wine if the required conditions are met. Set the temperature at 55F, and place the wine cooler in an area where the overall conditions remain the same, without wild variations in temperature and humidity. Even if the wine cooler protects your wine, too brutal intervention from the outside environment can affect it.
Search for a model that has UV-protected glass for the door, so that no light from the surroundings can affect the wine quality. To ensure the relative humidity remains the same, see what units present the most dependable insulation. You will also notice that some models offer you the possibility to control the moisture.
The reason why humidity is so important is related to what happens to the corks that keep the content of the bottles insulated from the exterior. At a humidity level that drops under 50%, the corks will start to dry out, which will affect the quality of the wine.
How to clean a wine cooler
From time to time, you will have to clean your wine cooler. Ideally, you shouldn’t have any bottle of wine left, unless you want to consume it right away. The wine, once taken out of the cooler, will start to be exposed to light, a different temperature, and humidity, and all those together can affect its quality irremediably.
First things first, unplug your unit. Use only a mild detergent and lukewarm water when cleaning the inside and outside of a wine cooler. Make sure that any electrical parts never get in contact with water, to avoid short-circuits or malfunctions later on.
After you cleaned the racks and everything else, use a dry cloth or absorbent tissues to remove all traces of water. Only after that, you can start using your wine cooler again.