Wine fridge buying guide

Are your precious bottles collecting dust in the corner of your garage? There are other options available.
 
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01.Wine fridge buying guide

Inside of wine fridge

Wine 'fridges' (technically wine cabinets) are different from standard fridges as their job is to control humidity and maintain stable temperatures between 12°C and 18°C (different temperatures for different wines) — or colder if used for serving white wine. 

There are different types of wine fridges, ranging in price from quite low to extremely high. 

There are compressor and thermoelectric models that claim to be suitable for cellaring, short-term storage (and some for readying wine for serving, depending on the temperature you set them to). Models can range from less than 85cm high (so can fit under a kitchen bench) to as high as a tall fridge and they can accommodate standard sized bottles.

When considering buying a wine fridge, think about a couple of things so you can narrow down the model search.

Doors - all the wine fridges we tested had glass doors, ostensibly for being able to look into your wine fridge and see what you want prior to opening the door and letting the temperature change. There are solid doors which may help with insulation and the amount of UV that your wine is exposed to.

Bottle capacity - Are you a wine hoarder? Then plan for either a larger model or a number of large models. If you need an underbench model, plan on the space you'll need and buying more than one if you want to keep a lot of wine. If you specialise in keeping a stock of champagne, you may want to check if the wine fridge can accommodate these typically wider bottles.

Shelving - the cheaper models in our testing tend to have metal shelving, which is harder to adjust when you're pulling out your favourite wine. The more expensive wine fridges have wooden shelving with good sliding mechanisms which means less vibration and a more pleasant ease of use. Check out the shelving before buying, as some have wooden shelving that has no sliding mechanism.

Locks - Some wine fridges have a lock to protect your wines from theft.

Lights - Some wine fridges come with an LED light so you can see deeper into the back of the fridge.

Vibration

Like fridges, all the compressor-type wine cabinets vibrate somewhat, particularly when the compressor runs. Whether vibration ‘agitates’ and effects the quality of wine is contentious. 

CHOICE couldn’t find any definitive evidence about the effect of vibration on the maturation of wine, regardless of the degree. However, some anecdotal information suggests that increased vibration during cellaring is probably detrimental to some extent.The thermoelectric cooling system claims to be vibration free, however vibration still occurs (but to a lesser extent) from a fan.

Currently draft Australian Standards are being decided on to include these types of fridges in the Fridge standard.

Wine storing tips

The Australian summer is great for barbecues and days at the beach, but it certainly doesn’t provide the best climate for wine storage, with ideal storing temperatures (those found in a cellar) generally being around 12–16°C. Wine should also be stored in the dark, with a humidity level around 70% or so (so the cork doesn’t dry out). 

Temperatures should never become so hot as to spoil the wine or reduce its quality as it matures, and it’s always better to go too cold (but not freeze) than too hot, to avoid spoilage. 

If your house gets hotter than around 25°C and you’re keen to cultivate a collection of fine wine, a wine fridge is certainly an option. Our 2007 tests revealed it’s not a perfect one, but if your home is a really unsuitable temperature it’s probably better than nothing.

Other storage options

If a wine fridge isn't on the cards, here are some hints on how to store your wine:

  • Store it out of the sun and away from sources of direct heat and cold.
  • Never store wine in a garage. They’re usually poorly insulated and can become very hot from the car’s engine.
  • Store it in a well protected area — not in a draughty or well ventilated space that’s likely to get hot or cold breezes frequently.
  • An area near the centre of a home is best, away from hot external walls, heaters, ovens, etc, and preferably low down to get the coolest air.
  • Putting wine in well sealed foam boxes or similar can insulate it from changes in air temperature.
  • Use a min/max thermometer to check what temperatures you’re getting where your wine is stored.
  • Find a place that’s likely to get the least variation in temperature — both day to night and summer to winter. Fast temperature change inside the bottles is worse for the wine than slow temperature change.

What about a bar fridge?

A bar fridge isn’t a good alternative for wine storage: they’re usually too cold and you can’t adjust them to be warmer. They tend to have very large temperature fluctuations, and they don’t control humidity in the same way as a wine fridge. Also, they don’t have purpose-built shelves.

 
 

 

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