Wine has been a valuable and delicious part of many human societies for thousands of years. A fine wine is not just a drink, it’s an experience. Whether you’re relaxing with a chilled Riesling on a hot summer’s day, curling up with a glass of full-bodied pinot noir on a cold winter’s night, or celebrating with a bright chardonnay, getting wine right can make all the difference. Building up a good wine collection is a tasty hobby and could even become a lucrative investment.
Now, how do you keep and age your wine collection in the perfect conditions to protect its taste and value? You could dig a wine cellar, although if you live in an apartment your downstairs neighbours might not appreciate it. You could use your refrigerator, but then where would your groceries go?
A specialised wine fridge can take care of your wine and keep it ready to drink at any moment. But what makes a wine fridge different from a regular fridge or a bar fridge? Let us guide you through the world of wine fridges in this review.
What are wine fridges?
Wine fridges are specialised refrigerators for storing and aging wine. Standard fridges (including bar fridges) are usually colder than recommended for long-term wine storage. Furthermore, if you like more than the occasional glass, it’s just not a practical storage solution. Wine fridges are designed to create the ideal storage environment for wine, with the right humidity, the right temperature, and purpose-built shelves to keep your wine secure – and show off your collection.
Why get a wine fridge?
The storage conditions of wine can have a significant impact on taste and longevity. Wine keeps best in cool, dark, humid conditions. This can be difficult to achieve in the Australian climate. It’s rare for an Australian house to have a cellar, and unless you keep the air conditioning running 24/7 there may not be anywhere to keep wine protected from the sun and heat. Meanwhile, a regular fridge is simply too cold and too dry for long-term storage. A wine fridge can be a good way to preserve and age wine, as it provides control over temperature, light, and humidity.
Plus, if you like keeping multiple wines on hand to drink cooled, a dedicated wine fridge can save you room in your regular fridge.
How should wine be stored?
The importance of maintaining ideal storage conditions really depends on the type and quality of the wine. Fans of the $5 bottle probably don’t need to worry too much beyond keeping it out of the heat. For example, leaving it sitting in a hot car for a few days probably won’t do great things for the taste.
- Aging wine is something that isn’t widely understood outside of the high-end wine aficionados. Most wines don’t really benefit from aging. You may find you don’t even like the taste of aged wine.
- Corked wine is the most vulnerable to environmental factors, compared to cap-sealed bottles. The cork is sensitive to rapid or extreme changes in temperature, which can weaken it and allow oxygen to get in and affect the quality of the wine.
- UV rays from sunlight can also degrade wine, especially over a longer period of time. Wine fridges usually have dark interiors and use tinted glass (if any) to protect its contents from light exposure. Some wine fridges come with interior lights that emit little to no UV light so you can see your wine without harming it.
- One of the factors that wine fridges are very good at controlling is humidity. According to Wine Spectator, the ideal humidity level for wine is 70%, but anywhere between 50% and 80% is perfectly safe. It’s unlikely to be a significant problem unless you live in a desert or a tundra, or have very delicate wines. A wine fridge can take away any concerns about storing wine in too dry or too damp conditions.
- Above all, temperature is the most important factor to control for optimal wine storage. The ideal place to keep wine is a cool dark cellar, but they’re pretty rare in Australian homes. Temperatures above room temperature (24°C) can age wine too fast and develop unsavoury flavours. Some wines are hardier than others in the heat, so if you prefer delicate wines such as Riesling you’ll need to take more care.
Kitchens, laundries, or anywhere that experiences heat are not good places to store wine. Cooler spots to keep wine are usually found somewhere closer to the middle of the home, where hot weather is less likely to reach it. This depends on the home though. If even your coolest spot gets too warm or it’s not a reliably safe place to keep wine, a wine fridge may be necessary.
How much do wine fridges cost?
As with any fridge, the price of a wine fringe varies by capacity, included features, and build quality. There’s quite a range of models available at different price points so it’s a good idea to explore what’s available to help you find the best choice for your budget.
Below is an indicative range of prices for wine fringes from major retailers at time of writing:
Single Temperature Zone Wine Fridges
|Bottle Capacity||Lower End||Higher End|
|10 – 40||$349||$3,110|
|41 – 100||$729||$1,900|
|101 – 150||$1,899||$3,089|
Dual & Triple Temperature Zone Wine Fridges:
|Bottle Capacity||Lower End||Higher End|
|30 – 100||$729||$3,999|
How do I choose a wine fridge?
Everyone has different needs for their wine storage. Here are a few matters to consider to help you find the right wine fridge for your collection:
- Capacity: How many bottles of wine do you want to store? Given a wine fridge is a bit of an investment, also consider whether it’s likely you’ll want to grow your collection size in the future.
- Space: As much as you may want to build an impressive wine collection, if you’re living in a tiny apartment can you fit a large wine cabinet? Consider how much room you have to keep your wine fridge, and where you would like to put it.
- Freestanding vs built-in: Some models can be installed under countertops, while freestanding wine fridges can come in a range of heights and widths to fit your space. Attempting to build-in a freestanding wine fridge can be very dangerous – they don’t have the specialised ventilation required to be installed under a bench or countertop.
- Temperature zones: Different types of wine are best stored at different temperatures. If you only drink one type of wine, you’ll probably only need a single storage temperature. Multiple temperature zones allow you to keep a variety of wine types.
- Locks: If your collection includes valuable bottles, it may be worth looking for a lockable wine fridge.
- Shelves: The two most common types of shelving are chrome and wood. The only differences are price and aesthetics.
Should I get a wine fridge?
As useful as wine fridges can be, they’re not worth it for everyone. If you’re an avid fan of $5 wine, or just drink the odd bottle here or there, it may not be worth the investment when there’s far cheaper DIY options to keep your wine safe. Wine fridges are also quite energy intensive, so they may not be so attractive if you’re watching your environmental footprint or want to keep your electricity costs low.
However, if you want a reliable way to store, age, and display your wine collection, you could hardly do better than a wine fridge.