A wine fridge (or wine cabinet) is a special kind of refrigerator that is said to offer significant benefits over a conventional model when it comes to storing wine. But why buy one? Are wine fridges worth the money? What benefits do they offer? Read on to find out.
What is a wine fridge?
As the name suggests, wine fridges are designed specifically to provide optimal conditions for the storage and maturation of wine. Wine fridges offer greater control over factors such as temperature, ambient light, humidity and even vibrations compared to normal fridges, as all of these can indirectly affect the way the wine tastes.
What are the optimal storage conditions for wine?
According to Wine Spectator, the most important factor in storing your wine is keeping it at a constant, low temperature. The ideal temperature range is between 12°C and 16°C, though anywhere between 7°C and 18°C is acceptable. The really important thing is to avoid rapid changes in temperature. This will cause the wine’s cork to expand and contract, allowing minute quantities of wine into the neck of the bottle, which can eventually lead to air coming in. Once in contact with air, the wine will begin oxidising and its taste will be irreversibly altered, so this is something you want to avoid at all costs with a good wine!
Another important factor in storage is humidity.If the humidity of the surrounding air is too low, the corks that seal the wine bottles can dry out, shrink and, again, allow air into the bottles. This is less of an issue than temperature, however, as an ambient humidity of between 50% and 80% is considered just fine – though try to avoid extreme humidity, as this can promote mould growth and potentially damage the wine’s labelling (though it won’t affect the wine itself).
The amount of light your wine is exposed to can also affect the taste – intense or prolonged exposure to UV light can cause reactions with flavour compounds in the wine and have an adverse effect on the flavour. Keeping your wine in a dark, sheltered environment is therefore a smart move.
What are some features of a wine fridge?
- The most prominent feature of a wine fridge is temperature control. Standard fridges maintain a temperature of around 4°C, whereas wine fridges maintain a temperature of 12°C -14°C, which, according to Vintec Australia, is the optimal temperature for long-term wine storage. Consequently, a wine fridge shouldn’t be used to store any items that you’d store in a normal fridge, as the temperature isn’t low enough to keep food fresh. High-end units can have multiple temperature zones to allow short-term storage of some wines at colder temperatures.
- Humidity control is another feature of a wine fridge, with most fridges maintaining an ambient humidity of more than 55%.
- Wine fridges tend to have dark interiors and tinted glass (if any) to lower the amount of ambient light your wine is exposed to – the less UV exposure the better. Many models can also have glass doors to allow you to easily inspect your collection – or show it off!
- More expensive wine fridges boast extensive insulation and superior build quality to reduce the amount of vibration the wine experiences from the cooling mechanism in the fridge; while this isn’t a huge factor in affecting the wine’s taste, many enthusiasts will spare no expense to ensure their wine is stored in perfect conditions, especially for long periods of time.
- Wine fridges can be constructed from different materials inside: for example, aluminium conducts cooler temperatures better, whereas wood retains more moisture to maintain humidity. The choice is up to you.
Who should buy one?
A wine fridge is quite a specialised product and is only really useful for commercial settings or for people truly passionate about wine. As its main raison d’être is for storing wine in optimal conditions for long periods of time, a wine fridge is generally only necessary for fine wines that improve with age or are kept as part of an investment or collection – most commercial wines are consumed within a few days of purchase and do not need to be stored in special conditions.
If you’re not all that interested in wine…
Some people invest in stocks, others in real estate, but you could buy a couple of nice bottles of wine today that you predict might age well (ask an expert for confirmation), and then put them away for the future. We’ve even heard of parents locking bottles away when their child is born and giving him the bottle on his 21st birthday – a great idea as either a gift or a lump sum (if you sold it).
Also, while you can’t store perishables or meats in your new wine fridge, certain fruits and vegetables will keep fine in those conditions. Additionally, some cheeses reportedly thrive in the climate of a wine fridge.
All in all, then, even if you’re not quite a bona fide sommelier, you may still find value in a wine fridge.