As much as we like buying a good bottle of wine and drinking as soon as we get home, most, if not all wines benefit from being aged. The ageing process brings out the full flavours, aromas and subtle tasting notes that wouldn’t have appeared if you opened it without maturing it.
However, like most Australians, if you don’t have a cellar built into your home already, a wine fridge is your next best option. Buying a wine fridge is often a big step from being a casual drinker to a wine collector, so knowing what to look for in a wine fridge can be daunting if you have little experience.
Wine Fridge FAQ
What is a wine fridge? A wine fridge works as an electronic substitute to a wine cellar. They allow you to store your wine in optimal ageing conditions through controlling the temperature, humidity, vibrations and more.
How do they differ to a household fridge or bar fridge? Your household fridge or bar fridge are designed to keep food and drinks at a far lower temperature, while a wine fridge is specifically designed to maintain a higher temperature (typically between 12 and 18 degrees) with a higher humidity.
What size wine bottles can a wine fridge store? Most wine fridges are able to hold standard 750ml Bordeaux bottles (standard red and white wine bottles) and Burgundy bottles (standard Champagne bottles). Bigger and smaller sizes may require adjustment to the racks.
How big are wine fridges? The size of a wine fridge is dependant on how many bottles it can store. Smaller built-in wine fridges typically hold less than 30 to 50 bottles, while larger wine cabinets can hold over 400 bottles.
How much do wine fridges cost? Depending on capacity, brand and quality, wine fridges range from a couple hundred dollars to well over $5,000.
The best part about cellaring your wine is drinking it once it’s aged!
Optimal Temperatures for Storing Wine Varietals
To unlock the full aromas and tastes of your wine, you’ll need to keep it at a consistent temperature for a long period of time. On average, most wine is best stored at 13 degrees, however, red wine and white wine do prefer different temperatures to age at.
When cellaring your bottles in a wine fridge, you will also need to keep the humidity in the unit at around 70%. This not only stops the cork from drying out but assists in the long-term ageing process of the wine.
Red Wine: 12 to 19 degrees
White Wine: 8 to 12 degrees
Champagne/Sparkling Wine: 5 to 8 degrees
Storing wines above or below these temperatures may lead to the wine ageing rapidly or the wine becoming oxidised. Therefore, to get the most out of your wine, you need a wine fridge.
Typically, wines are stored from one to ten years based on the varietal, vintage, acidity, tannins and more.
Key Wine Fridge Features
Single Zone vs Dual Zone
Single zone fridges store wine at one specific temperature and are a good first step into cellaring your wine at home.
Better suited to storing one type of wine only (eg. just red wine or just white wine) or simple collections
Can come in smaller capacity and sizes, making it great for people with limited space to house a wine fridge
Typically costs less than a dual zone wine fridge
Dual zone wine fridges are able to store wine in two different sections at two different temperatures. These are better suited to people with more complex wine collections featuring many different varietals.
Allows you to store two or more types of wine in the one wine fridge
Often comes in larger capacities than a single zone wine fridge
The overall size of the fridge is generally larger due to the second motor and electronics involved in the machine
If you have a large, wide-ranging wine collection filled with all different types of varietals that require separate ageing conditions, a multi-zone wine fridge that is capable of supporting three or more temperatures is what you need.
Able to consistently manage three or more temperature ranges at once
Only comes in high capacity models, typically over a 100 bottle storage
Very expensive to buy and operate
A dual zone wine fridge lets you store a range of different varietals at two separate temperatures.
Compressor vs Thermoelectric
The two most common type of cooling systems for wine fridges are compressor and thermoelectric. However, there are subtle differences between the two that are worth considering.
Compressor Wine Fridges
Using a similar system to your household fridge, a compressor fridge uses an array filled with coolant gas to expel the heat from the interior of the fridge.
Compressor fridges are able to operate at lower temperatures than thermoelectric fridges, making it easier to store Champagne and sparkling wine
Compressor units use far less power than thermoelectric appliances but cost more to buy initially
Due to the moving parts of the compressor system, minuscule vibrations are created by the motor. Some wines are more sensitive to vibrations than others and could speed up the ageing process of them
The compressor motor can be noisy when under increased load, which may disturb you if the fridge is located in a quiet living space
Thermoelectric Wine Fridges
Based off 19th-century technology, thermoelectric wine fridges remove the warm air through an aluminium heat sink which is then vented to the outside.
Since there is no motor or moving parts, a thermoelectric fridge is silent and doesn’t create any vibrations
Thermoelectric wine fridges are more environmentally-friendly, as they don’t emit any harmful substances and can be recycled far easier than a compressor fridge
You’ll be able to find thermoelectric wine fridges in smaller sizes as they don’t have a motor attached to them
Thermoelectric wine fridges cost less to buy outright but are more expensive to operate as the need to be turned on permanently while storing wine
Some wines are sensitive to vibrations caused by a compressor motor in a wine fridge…
Wine Fridge Capacity
The amount of wine in your collection and where the fridge will be located in your house are the two most common factors that dictate which size wine fridge you’ll need.
Wine fridges vary in capacity from small fridges that hold less than 30 bottles, to sizable cabinets that hold well over 300.
New collectors that only have a few bottles that they want to store should start with a smaller fridge. More experienced collectors with large amounts of wine they need stored for personal or commercial use will need a larger fridge. There’s no need to buy an excessively sized fridge if you only plan on storing a handful of different wines. Choose one that is suitable for your collection and then upgrade your capacity as it grows.
Where you plan on keeping your wine fridge will also limit you to the capacity of your unit.
Built-in: This type of wine fridge is typically installed into a space in your kitchen or cabinetry. Built-in wine fridges are often smaller than freestanding units, as they need to fit the limited space of where it will be located. Built-in wine fridges also need special consideration to the space around it so the appliance still receives adequate ventilation.
Freestanding: This type of wine fridge is similar to your household fridge, where can be placed in a room without needing to be built into the home. This allows freestanding wine fridges to come in larger capacities than a built-in wine fridge.
Many renovators and new home buyers opt to have a wine-fridge built into their home, so it becomes a focal piece of their kitchen or outdoor living area. Those who need a larger fridge or want to be able to move their wine fridge easily should consider a freestanding version.
Typically, the more features you want in a wine fridge, the more you’ll have to pay.
Other Features to Consider
Much like your household fridge, the technology and features will differ between brands and models. Consider the following features that you might want in your future wine fridge:
Lighting: Some wine fridges feature LED lights which allow you to easily see the contents of your fridge. Most emit a soft purple or deep blue light, so as not to disturb the wines. Avoid any wine fridges that emit any ‘bright’ or harsh interior lighting.
Controls, screens and touchpads: More advanced and expensive wine fridges feature modern touchpads that allow you to control most aspects of your fridge from the single panel. Other fridges may have different control methods such as buttons and dials. Some wine fridges also have a humidity controller, which allows you to manually select the humidity that you want your wines stored at.
Rack material: Natural wooden shelving absorbs vibrations and provides a ‘softer’ cradle for the wine, however, they tend to take up more room than metal racks, leading to a slightly smaller capacity. Metal racks, on the other hand, have the potential to scratch labels if not properly rounded but take up less space in the fridge than wooden shelving.
Door lock: Depending on the type of lock, they can stop children from accidentally opening your wine fridge or deter would-be thieves from your collection.
Tinted glass door: Most wine fridges have a glass door which allows you to see your collection. If you will be housing your wine fridge in an area that receives a lot of light (eg. living room), be sure to find one that has a tint over the glass to reduce harmful exposure.
Tempered glass door: Investing in a tempered glass door to stop hard bumps from breaking the glass is crucial if you plan on storing the wine fridge in an accident-prone area (eg. kitchen or walkway).
Vibration reduction: Generally only found on compressor wine fridges, padding can be placed in the fridge near the motor to reduce the vibrations which may agitate the wine. This feature is useful if you store your wine for long periods of time (three years or more), as prolonged exposure to vibrations has shown in studies to harm ageing wine.
Power interruption reset: More technologically advanced models are able to automatically reset themselves and ‘remember’ the previous settings if the unit suddenly loses power. This feature is important if you spend a lot of time away from the wine fridge or want the peace-of-mind that your priceless collection won’t spoil if a power blackout occurs.
Burgundy bottle shelving: Typically, wine fridges are designed to hold standard 750mL Bordeaux bottles. Champagne and sparkling wine bottles often feature a larger diameter bottle, which is not always accommodated for in the fridge. If you plan on storing mostly sparkling varietals, check whether the fridge has the shelving capabilities to hold them.
Vertical and display shelving: If you want to really show off one of your prized wines, some wine fridges allow you to have a special space to display your pride and joy. Some wine fridges also allow you to cellar your wine vertically, rather than on its side like normal. However, extra measures will need to be taken to make sure the cork remains wet so as not to let the wine oxidise.
A cosy fireplace and a delicious glass of red – does it get any better?
Placement In Your Home
When choosing where your wine fridge will be located in your home, there are a number of factors to consider that will assist in the storing of your wine:
Find a space that doesn’t experience large fluctuations in temperature. Typically, the closer to the centre of your home, the more consistent the temperature is
Keep away from appliances that emit large bursts of heat, like your oven or barbeque
If you want to place it in your kitchen, try to find a space under a benchtop or in a cabinet for it
Try to keep two to three centimetres of clearance around the unit for ideal air circulation
Keep it away from windows and skylights that provide direct sunlight onto the unit
If you’ve chosen a freestanding wine fridge, it’s recommended you place some spare carpet or waterproof material below the fridge to stop any leaks that may occur underneath it.
If you’ve crafted a space around a built-in wine fridge, make sure the rear has plenty of ventilation so the unit doesn’t overheat.
If you plan on housing your wine fridge in the kitchen, keep it away from appliances that create large amounts of heat such as the oven and stovetop.
With such a huge variety of wine fridges on the market, it’s a fairly straightforward process in finding one that suits your collection and wine-drinking lifestyle. Many new collectors opt for a small, 30 to 50 bottle single zone wine fridge that won’t break the bank.
While this is a great investment for the first few years, as your collection grows and you need a place to store more wine varietals, then upgrading to a dual zone high capacity wine fridge is a logical next step.
That all being said, the best part to storing your wine is drinking it once it’s aged, so don’t forget to take a sip from your collection every now and again!
Check out the full range of wine fridges on the Myer Market today!