Wine Refrigerator Guide

10 Questions to Ask Before You Buy



So, you’ve read all the articles on wine cellars, and have come to the conclusion that you need to buy a wine fridge. Now what? There are a lot of questions to consider when buying a stand-alone wine cellar, and it’s a good idea to run through them all before you start shopping around.

We all want the best when it comes to storing our wine, but sometimes there are gonna be trade-offs. Being systematic as you shop for a wine cellar ensures that you end up with something that meets both your needs and your budget.


1.) How many bottles do you want to store?


This is the easiest question to ask, and the one people most frequently answer incorrectly. You’re buying a wine fridge to store your wine over time, and your rate of consumption will tend to rise over that time, so be prepared for your future buying habits. If you think you need a fridge that holds fifty bottles, you'd better buy one that holds 150. After all, nature abhors a vacuum and wine buyers love to buy wine!

2.) How accurate is the capacity listing?


Once you’ve settled on the right number for your wine fridge, check -- and then double check -- the stated capacity. If you’re going to be cellaring a lot of Burgundy bottles or fancy California cult bottles, be prepared to lose some space in your fridge. Ditto for Champagne bottles, and, of course, magnums. If you want make your life easier and install some pull-out shelves (an option with some brands), you’ll see your capacity drop even further.

3.) Will it maintain proper cellaring conditions where I’m planning to use it?


Most stand-alone wine fridges are designed to be used inside your home. They will do a great job of maintaining the ideal 55F to 60F temperature, as long as you place the unit in a moderate environment. Stick it in a 90F garage or leave it in your un-air-conditioned, south-facing apartment for a couple of months and you’ll not only burn out the compressor, but end up cooking your wine while you’re at it. Make sure to opt for insulation and compressor upgrades for extreme environments.

4.)  Will it fit?


Yeah, kind of funny right? Not really. I know of one person who did everything right, measured the doors and all the angles and was sure the large fridge he chose would fit perfectly in his dining room alcove. It would have, if it had fit in the elevator! Make sure to measure!

5.) Will the floor support it?


Another stupid question, right? Well, better safe than sorry. A full wine fridge can weight close to a ton. Almost all modern construction can safely support that kind of weight, but if you have any doubt, find out before your place your order.

6.) What do you want it to look like?


Will you be hiding this thing away in a closet or guest room, or will this be the centerpiece of your kitchen or dining room? The finishes of many stand alone wine fridges are serviceable if not terribly attractive, but some are down right elegant.

7.) What sort of options do you want?


I’ve already mentioned the optional roll-out shelves that some manufacturers offer, but the options list certainly doesn’t end there. How about glass paned doors or a custom finish? And then there’s that heavy-duty insulation and compressor upgrade I mentioned early.  And how about dual temperature zones, saving you the effort of moving that Chablis from the wine cooler to the fridge!
 

8.) How much is your budget?


Ok, so now you’ve narrowed to your choices to what you want, but it’s time to consider what you can afford. You may have to forgo the glass door or pull out shelves to be able to swing the bigger unit that I’m telling you you’re gonna need. Remember this is a tool first, and a hulking big piece of furniture second!

9.) Why can’t I just use a refrigerator instead?


Well, technically you most certainly can. A wine fridge is little more than a gussied up refrigerator, with a few very specific modifications. Regular refrigerators are designed to work at much cooler temperatures that a wine fridge, which isn’t much of a problem if you’re handy. Just swap out the thermostat for one that’s designed for the wine storage temperature range and you’re off. Sort of. Problem two is a bigger issue: Humidity. Household refrigerators are designed to remove the humidity from the air in your fridge, while purpose-built wine fridges are designed to maintain the humidity inside the unit. The last issue is one of storage, since there are no wine racks designed to fit the inside of normal fridges. So, if you’re willing to install a humidity work-around, in addition to a thermostat, and to build yourself some racking, then maybe a regular fridge isn’t such a bad idea for you after all. Though, after doing all that you might find that you really haven’t saved any money, and now have a glorious French door refrigerator as the centerpiece of your dining room!

10.) Who makes the best wine fridges?

Well this is a great question, and one we’re working on answering. We’ve been compiling data for our own review section for stand-alone wine fridges so check back soon to see the results. In the mean time we can suggest the following list of manufacturers as ones worth considering.

Avanti
       
Danby
       
Edgestar
       
Electrolux
       
Eurocave
       
GE
       
Haier
       
Le Cache
       
Marvel
       
Sub-Zero
       
Viking
       
Vinoteque
       
Vinotemp
       
Vintage Cellars
       
Vintage Keeper
       
Wine Enthusiast


This article is part of a series on cellar building and wine cellaring. Previous articles of interest include:


Wine Cellar Racks


How to Build a Wine Cellar

Wine Cellar Temperatures




Mentioned in this article

Comments

  • Snooth User: vonsNYC
    137933 12

    I bought a small Cuisinart wine fridge to store just nine bottles. Great brand name, right? After less than six months it stopped working. It sounds like it's working, but the temperature inside is exactly the same as the one outside the fridge. No cooling at all. Checked online and saw a bunch of reviews with similar complaints. Shame on me for not checking in advance. I recommend keeping away from Cuisinart when it comes to wine fridges.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 12:43 PM


  • Snooth User: Phyllis49
    353542 31

    We bought a Frigidaire wine cooler from Lowe's and it works great. Nothing fancy, but gets the job done right.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 1:26 PM


  • We have owned a liebherr for 2+ years with no issues. 3 temp zone, all stainless steel exterior, glass door, nice pull out wood shelves. After all or our research it was the best value for our money.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 1:36 PM


  • Snooth User: padraig
    100230 15

    Not surprised about Cuisinart -- their fancy coffee maker with the built in grinder died on me too... and the $15 replacement sans grinder I bought from Bed Bath & Beyond made coffee that tastes just as good. On topic: I have two cheap wine refrigerators, one is an Emerson that holds 8 bottles, the other a Vinotemp that holds 15, and both have worked flawlessly for over 2 years.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 1:52 PM


  • I just finished building a great bar and ordered a very pricey Marvel Wine Cooler to go undercounter. It is six months old and has had service four times and it still will not hold a temperature. I have written even to the CEO of Marvel and to date have been ignored. Take them off your list--it's junk and they will not stand behind their product.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 2:00 PM


  • Snooth User: pjb1955
    323810 5

    I have four Edgestar models. Three hold 28 bottles and a 16 which only holds 15 because the thermostat switch is in one of the bottle locations. It will hold a short bottle. The price is right and I have had no problems in 2 years.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 2:08 PM


  • Snooth User: socko33
    Hand of Snooth
    563127 122

    I have a 28 bottle 1 temp Haier...works great and has been for 2+ years, as well.

    I don't mind the one temperature zone - I keep my reds toward the top and whites/champagnes on the bottom and keep the setting on "white."

    Sep 14, 2010 at 2:33 PM


  • Snooth User: genaberg
    439929 7

    I have a Kenmore Elite 48 bottle wine cooler that has worked perfectly for 5 years.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 2:35 PM


  • Snooth User: jmeluzio
    367669 128

    I have to Eurocave 250 bottle units purchased 8 years ago. They have been excellent units, though they were expensive. You get what you pay for. All they need is a filter change annually which is also a little expensive. I doubt they would ever hold 250 and when you start adding shelves it shrinks more. Bordeaux bottles are the easiest to store. The other ones make fit and stability an issue.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 2:39 PM


  • Snooth User: talentlaw
    322288 8

    I bought my 57 bottle cellar 15 years ago when my twins were toddlers. Now they are seniors in high school and have get togethers down in the basement where my cellar sits. I am quite confident that they have no fondness for wine at this stage, however, as my wine and progeny mature, I wish that I had bought a locking cellar and recommend this feature to others.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 2:40 PM


  • Snooth User: swinnea
    483269 16

    I got a good deal on a scratch and dent GE Monogram undercounter that I like. Only problem is that the 50 capacity disappeared pretty quickly.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 2:42 PM


  • 500 bottle Vinoteque. Purchased about 8 years ago. Holds temperature in finished basement without direct sunlight. Not very loud. Looks surprisingly nice for a large wood box. Clearly holds less bottles than advertised but probably over 400. No pull-out shelves - not an issue for me at all. Wine is stored two deep. Buying by the case this is rarely an issue. EXCEPT - those darn Riesling / Albarino bottles which often can only go one deep. Burgundy has fit tight but OK. I've stored Champagne up top in an open area - just stacking it.
    //Inveterate Sampler//

    Sep 14, 2010 at 3:02 PM


  • Snooth User: Seabrooker
    167088 54

    Don't buy Vissani (aka Magic Chef), sold at Home Depot - they are noisy and unreliable. The compressor has failed on one of the units I bought 4 years ago, and the other sounds as if it's got severe gas pain - presumably it will fail soon too. I've been waiting 3 weeks for a (warranty replacement) compressor from Magic Chef, and don't hold out much hope I'll ever get it. They don't do customer service.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 4:05 PM


  • Snooth User: maud130
    228715 51

    W've had a 200 bottle capacity Iberna for 20 years that performs fine. We bought a thermometer/humidity tester to check up on things. We also keep the contents on a computer because we tend to put bottles in frontwards and backwards to utilize the space.
    Two high and two deep.
    Bordeaux stores best, others are like a puzzle. It has been so tight that I keep a rug nearby to unfurl on floor when I open the door.
    A lock is a great idea. We had a doorman who, while feeding the cats, got smashed on '98 Quilceda Creek.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 4:35 PM


  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 3,742

    I have 3 of the Vissani units and haven't experienced the noise or compressor failure you have. I previously had a Haier that failed quickly. Thermoelectric model that was silent but you never knew it had failed until you went for a bottle on a hot day. My Vissani's have the thermometer reading in the window. I always know what is happening.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 4:36 PM


  • Snooth User: ibglowin
    272925 26

    I have been on the fence for over a year looking to purchase a 50+ wine fridge but each time I find one that is a decent price I walk away after reading the online reviews. Not sure if only people with bad stories take the time to write reviews or what but not a single one that had a decent price also had good reviews. Most reviewers said the compressor died after 12 months. Didn't matter if it was a GE Monogram, Electrolux or Vinotemp. A good price to me is 50 bottles for ~$500 clams (or less) Some have horrible reviews and run >$800.....

    I suppose manufacturers think if we are wine connoisseurs we also don't care what an appliance cost to hold our precious juice....

    Sep 14, 2010 at 4:44 PM


  • Snooth User: eyecycler
    579664 3

    We bought an Avanti 155 bottle. Lasted just over a year. Manufacturer said it is out of warranty, find someone else to fix it. Parts have been on backorder for 3 months......so far.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 4:48 PM


  • Snooth User: viljef
    545546 45

    Bought stand alone wine cooler from Wine Enthusist. Within 6 months (right after any warranty expired) two of the three units stop working. I call the company and they have absolutely no solution for me. Now the 3rd one went out so I have 65 spaces for wine as long as you want room tempature. What an absolute rip off.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 4:49 PM


  • Snooth User: bwallis
    309101 1

    I have owned an under the counter GE Monogram (stainless steel) for 4 years. 56 bottle capacity kept at 55 degrees but with removal shelves gives maximum flexibility for magnums, german whites, etc. We love it and yes, as stated earlier, tough to keep it at capacity for this wine lover.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 4:55 PM


  • This articile is correct on buying more capacity than you need today. i originally wanted a 150 btll unit, my wife talked me into one that holds around 260 (Le Cache brand). its half way filled and i am still buying. for budgeting, a good benchmark is $10 per bottle. you can easily pay more than that, but its not necessary, even for furniture type units.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 5:04 PM


  • Snooth User: winecave
    411553 201

    If need a wine cellar we are here to help:
    http://winecave.ca

    Sep 14, 2010 at 5:26 PM


  • Snooth User: mclonghorn
    555676 18

    Have the 60 bottle version mentioned above from Home Depot (Magic Chef) and have had no problems with it at all (had it for 3 years) - also just bought a 166 bottle single zone from Avanti and so far so good - we ordered from Home Everything and got free shipping, no tax and they threw in a 5 year extended warranty. Price was right around $1k for the black door model. Temp fluctuates between 55 & 57 and capcity goes down when you start removing shelves - buy larger than you think you need!!!

    Sep 14, 2010 at 5:43 PM


  • We bought the Executive Wine Cellar from the Signature Line of Danby.

    It holds 166 bottles, pull out shelves, two temperature zones, and is stainless steel with a black interior. It works well and looks awesome!

    Sep 14, 2010 at 6:13 PM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,034

    Am curious why you list all the names you do when I personally, for example, know of more than two dozen Haier failures in all sorts of circumstances, and nearly that many (under very specific circumstances) for Eurocaves, as well as others on the list. Thermoelectrics have a number of serious issues specific to them. In your upcoming brand reviews what are your standards going to be for evaluation?

    Another set of issues is how realistic it is to expect that bottles can be stored healthily for10 to 20 to 30 years this way. Any discussion of your views on this would be interesting. As would reference to any objective, 'scientific' long term studies....

    Sep 14, 2010 at 6:51 PM


  • Snooth User: cataclysm
    110523 5

    My Haier was poorly constructed and water built up and overflowed because the manufacturer never cut the closed end off the drain through which condensed water should have flowed. There customer service was terrible. They told me they would re-imburse me for the service call and then refused to pay.

    Sep 14, 2010 at 7:56 PM


  • Snooth User: KyGuy
    158900 3

    Eyecycler-

    Bought the same unit, had the same problem although they did send a compressor (took almost 4 monhts) and I had a local guy install it. Not my favorite product and sales/service support out of FL totally sucks

    Sep 14, 2010 at 7:59 PM


  • Snooth User: amteixeira
    154887 19

    You don't mention level of vibration (from the compressor) in any of your considerations. I always thought this was a critical issue, and a major advantage of a proper wine cellar over a wine fridge. Should I worry about vibration levels at all? Doesn't even a small level of vibration cause problems over several years of storage for a wine bottle?

    Sep 14, 2010 at 8:00 PM


  • Snooth User: jabrn67
    258078 51

    I've got a 30 bottle dual zone Danby that works great! My only problem is that I should have bought a bigger unit and nixed the dual zone!

    Sep 14, 2010 at 8:07 PM


  • Snooth User: madonebob
    576230 7

    I purchased a small 48 bottle cooler made by Vinotemp which had a glass door and metal racks - great for bordeaux bottles but not so good for the more expensive wines which are encased in more massive glass enclosures, even though they still hold 750 ml, and don't really fit "standard racks".

    The cooler's capacity was soon exceeded so again I went shopping for a larger unit - still with glass front, only to find that these units are more for "chilling" than they are for serious storage, which I needed. I change aisles and re-grouped - purchased a 550 bottle Vinotemp which so far ( 2 1/2 years) has been good - although it's getting quite tight and I've had to increase consumption and cut back purchases because I couldn't go back to the well a third time for another unit! The unit is utilitarian and is not a furniture centerpiece, but does a great job of storage. There are better looking units, but the price is higher.

    Be careful. Once you get one of these units it's like a mandate to start collecting in earnest; you may have to start doing more verticals for friends to take the pressure off your units' capacity - and your liver and kidneys!

    Sep 14, 2010 at 9:15 PM


  • Snooth User: jamesy
    362251 12

    We have TWO. An EWAVE glass front 25 bottle, a gift that has worked well for 6 yrs now. Wanted more capacity so bought a Vinotemp 450 bottle unit from Costco.com As one of the tips said, its not likely you'll get that many bottles in there, ever, unless they come up with a botl shape that makes more sense. The Vinotemp currently stocks a bit over 300 btl but has to run a lot to maintain 55f even tho our garage is air conditioned... bottom line, I might look elsewhere if I had a do-over. But I plan to move storage into the bar area so I will keep the cooler unit and create custom shelves and insulate like it matters cuz it does, hope this helps

    Sep 14, 2010 at 11:45 PM


  • Snooth User: fmika
    337493 1

    I do recommend to add Liebherr producer to the list. I have their wine fridge for 140 bottles for many years without any problem.
    FM

    Sep 15, 2010 at 12:39 AM


  • Snooth User: lotusguy
    237957 1

    I have a small (12 bottle) Vinotemp wine cooler and after two years, I have replaced the main circuit board three times. This unit does not use a compressor, and there are no moving parts except for a fan that runs continuously over the Peltier-effect thermoelectric module. As such, I expected high reliability. I was very wrong. It also has trouble maintaining 55 degrees if the temperature in the room exceeds 75 degrees. Basically, junk.

    Sep 15, 2010 at 1:24 AM


  • Snooth User: spotless
    580056 7

    According to your experience which fridge would you recommend for approximately 100 bottles ?

    Sep 15, 2010 at 4:19 AM


  • Snooth User: Mbmixer
    106764 9

    I have a Vintage Keeper 220. I had it delivered and assembled it myself. It is a nice looking unit although the walls are not real wood as it looked like. The fan unit is good but can be loud. Keep it away from humid conditions as the unit tends to sweat on the outside. I had to replace a door that got ruined because of humidity. You also have to vacuum out the fan unit once a year to make sure it works well. A new cooling unit is almost as expensive as buying a new one. I have had it for 8 years now and it works well but I know I am out of luck when the fan dies as I will have to buy a new one. I will probably upgrade to a Eurocave although their rack system looks finicky to me.

    Sep 15, 2010 at 5:31 AM


  • Snooth User: tbrou13
    548450 27

    Consumer Reports would probably be a good place to check they are usually thorough and unbiased from what i have found.

    I'm not a subscriber so I cannot look up the actual review but I buy their magazine from time to time.


    From consumerreports.org home and garden blog.

    "So, for our latest tests, we completely filled each cellar with 750-ml plastic bottles of water. We attached thermocouples (temperature sensors) to the exterior of some bottles, for a total of five thermocouples in each separate compartment.

    Using thermocouples in that arrangement is important because more companies are making cellars with separate compartments that, they claim, allow you to store different wines, such as sparkling, white, rose, and red, optimum temperatures for those wines within the same unit.

    Over the course of our tests, we varied the ambient temperature within our testing chamber from 70°F to 90°F, from 90°F to 70°F, and from 70°F to 55°F. That allowed us to determine how well each unit maintained a uniform temperature in each part of the compartment despite changes in room temperature. As you can see in our ratings (available to subscribers), we found good performers at every price point."

    http://blogs.consumerreports.org/ho...

    Sep 15, 2010 at 9:02 AM


  • Snooth User: KyGuy
    158900 3

    OK, so it's a problem, I admit.

    In additina to the Avanti we've got a 48 bottle Haier and a 56 bottle Vinotemp. That wasn't enough space. So...I built a 3'x8' wine cellar in part of the garage. I used two existing walls (one interior, one exterior) and the existing ceiling. I framed two walls and the raised floor using 2"x4". I packed the space between the studs with rigid insulation. I rapped both sides of walls and floor with 2 mil visqueen, sheetrocked the walls and used a nice grade of plywood for the floor. I installed a door with window, light and an outlet and a ChillR wine cooling unit. I added two racks and have too many bottles so some are on the floor. It's a great cellar. Part of it is used to store other stuff. The ChillR uint is great. Going on three years and not issues what-so-ever. Net cost was less than a 550 bottle Vinotemp.

    Sep 15, 2010 at 12:47 PM


  • Snooth User: RexSeven
    567379 78

    I bought a 12 bottle Emerson countertop model about 18 months ago at Target. Still works great. Less than $100. Small, fairly quiet. No complaints.

    Sep 16, 2010 at 11:01 AM


  • Snooth User: SD Diver
    534709 10

    I had picked up a 120 bottle Franklin that worked "ok" for two years. Water would tend to pool at the bottom which required frequent cleaning. It died 6 months ago. I replaced it with a Vinotemp 500EC from COSTCO AND LOVE IT. $1999 + tax, shipping included. Matches the 600EC on the vinotemp website, except that the 500EC has the larger 2500 cooling unit. Have it set at 53F, which yields a measurable 57F air temp top and bottom. Have a number of magnums, boxed cases, and even a few Methuselahs on the top of the racking. This is made to be in a garage, and it has no problem with the SoCal coastal conditions. Quite happy with it!

    Sep 18, 2010 at 2:33 PM


  • Snooth User: cbass99
    623533 1

    I've had a small ~30 bottle Haier for the past 4 or 5 years, and it has done a fantastic job maintaining the temperature appropriately without any issues. I'm upgrading to a Eurocave 200 bottle model, and will provide thoughts on that in approximately a year (want to give it time to fail if it's going to).

    Oct 28, 2010 at 7:31 AM


  • Snooth User: erniex
    634476 60

    A comment to the option of rebuilding a normal fridge - DONT! apart from the issues mentioned, a normal fridge running is doing so with some degree of tremor. Not much, but plenty to keep your wines constanly exposed to movement which is just as bad or even worse as temperature fluctuations.

    My cellar is not optimal as it ranges from around 12 to 18 celcius from winter to summer. But! Its not a sudden change in temperature, and I would say that unless you are storing for 20+ years and/or are in need of proving good provenence for auctioning or otherwise, this is plenty fine for most peoples need. I have so far to experience a bottle from my cellar in poor condition due to storage, or for that matter wines that are overdeveloped to their age, so do think again before you invest too heavily in custom build cellars. Nice as they are (dont take me wrong, Id love one) they are not always that necessary... And crazy expensive if you need start from scratch.

    Watch out for direct lights though.. that will kill your wines in no time...

    BTW I have a small (50btl) Barrique fridge in addition to my cellar. A little something for the living room. A fairly simple one zone unit but works with no complaints after 3 years.

    Nov 08, 2010 at 1:25 AM


  • Snooth User: Canaan
    1125462 15

    Great information, much appreciated! But it's a shame that you did not mention Summit wine coolers, their reliability is second to none, and the design of their wine fridges is beautiful!

    http://winerefrigeratornow.com/

    Aug 05, 2012 at 9:05 PM


  • Bought 2 Costco theromelectric 50 bottle Vinotemps 3 years ago...one just went out, the other is still going OK. Looking for reliability, but Costco's return policy makes up for uncertainty, so Costco here we come.

    Dec 22, 2012 at 6:36 PM


  • Snooth User: nyerr
    981559 11

    Canaan-
    couldn't agree more about Summit. Best value and reliable. They are not made in China, they are right here in the USA, located in New York. Parts don't need to come from overseas and they answer their phone and emails. And they look great too. I have the 108 bottle 2 zone model.

    May 06, 2013 at 11:50 AM


  • Snooth User: Chriswpl
    1384622 1

    Have found a decent resource... these guys seem to be updating reviews of different brands on a decent frequency

    http://www.winecoolerreviewsguide.com

    Oct 20, 2013 at 2:44 PM


  • I have found Vinotemp VT-188-MBSH Butler Series Wine Cellar with 160 bottle capacity and 48° - 65°F. range temperature. You simply need to set the coldest desired temperature and adjust accordingly.

    http://www.appliancesconnection.com...

    Feb 10, 2014 at 4:15 AM


  • Snooth User: jnhkkm
    1496459 13

    I really like wine enthusiast wine coolers since they have high quality, quiet operation wine coolers at a great price. They also have really great design as well. You can find some great reviews at http://yourminifridge.com

    Apr 25, 2014 at 9:34 AM


  • Great guide for beginners that are uncertain with their upcoming purchase.
    Two of my favorite brands for Wine Coolers is Sub-Zero and Thermadore; I currently own a 315W Sub-Zero Wine Cooler that has worked great since day 1, never had any issues with it (2 years later).

    I will also point out that if your on a steep budget, Danby is an alright choice. My previous Wine Cooler was a Danby and we had it for over 5 years. We decided to upgrade when we wanted more space, and less noise. The Danby now sits in my cottage, and still works (though its gotten a little noisy).

    I purchased by Wine Cooler from Goemans, and been happy with it since
    http://www.goemans.com/gmen/applian...

    Apr 28, 2014 at 1:41 PM


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