Even the most casual of oenophiles or wine drinkers know about serving white wines chilled and reds at room temperatures. The situation is a little more nuanced today with examples like sparkling red Shirazes joining the ranks of the ‘best served chilled’. What if you want to keep your wine in the best condition for longer?
Is placing your favorite wine in a kitchen fridge the solution? Well not really. Wine ages over time, maturing, oxidizing and changing in flavor. Chilling them slows the process but as a rule of thumb you shouldn’t store wine in a kitchen fridge for more than a month. If you want to store your wine for longer then you are going to need something more suited for the purpose.
Your regular kitchen fridge aims for a relative humidity of 0% and a temperature of 32-40° F. You also open the door regularly subjecting the contents to humidity and temperature fluctuations both of which adversely affect the quality of the wine. Okay, so contrast this with wine fridges; their humidity is in the high-50s preventing the cork from drying out so increasing the wine’s longevity and taste. Single zone temperature coolers operate at 54° F which is the best compromise for storing a selection of white and red wine. Dual zone wine fridges can have one compartment set 45 – 50°F and the other at 50-65° F which will allow you to store red wine up to around ten years and white wine for up to three years.
So let’s look at some of the best wine coolers and fridges you can buy today. We have selected our top choices over a range of prices for every pocket. Wine coolers are divided into models by their refrigerating mechanism; either thermoelectric or compressor driven. Compressors are more expensive, take up more space but offer better temperature control. Thermoelectric models are quieter and have no vibration unlike their rivals. All of the following are freestanding models, we will cover built-in wine coolers in a future article.
Thermoelectric Wine Coolers
Magic Chef MCWC12B 12-Bottle Wine Cooler
The Magic Chef is an entry level thermoelectric option and it’s a rather attractive black affair that will add a touch of class to your living area. We love its clean lines and clear, unfussy LED control panel. The Magic Chef has a capacity of 12 standard bottles which are held in spacious, well-laid-out chrome racks. This single zone cooler can be programmed between 54° – 66°F, perfect for storing either whites or reds. In operation this cooler is practically silent thanks to it being fitted with whisper quiet fan.
It’s ideal as a counter-top fridge and is a neat 21.8” x 22.3” x 16.9” (H x D x W) The Magic Chef is fairly flexible with you being able to take shelves out to accommodate larger bottles. We found that it took nearly two hours to get down to its minimum temperature setting of 54°F but that was on a warm day. Once it hit this it happily stayed constant throughout the day. In operation the glass door is quite reflective and its internal lightning illuminates the bottles with a soft glow.
Ivation 18 Bottle Thermoelectric Wine Cooler Quiet Operation Fridge
Ivation do a range of popular freestanding wine coolers that are equally at home on the floor or countertop. This stylish model holds 18 bottles behind its beautiful, tempered smoked glass façade. It has a clean, minimalist frontage that has sleek touch controls and an LCD temperature display that can also be set to Celsius. The cooler’s range covers 54° – 64°F so it’s suitable for either white or red wine. We found the Ivation fridge to maintain a stable temperature which is extremely important to preserve the quality of your wines. The specifications state that it’s insulated with CFC-free solid polyurethane heavy foam and Thermopane doors that block harmful UV light.
The Ivation is designed to hold the larger 750 ml bottles too. We like the unit’s interior soft blue glow that washes over the bottles.
It’s very quiet when running and there is no vibration in the fridge to speak of. Compressor wine coolers can suffer from inherent vibrations that can reduce the lifespan of your wines. So we have a classy cooler, one which won’t disturb the natural build up of wine sediment and did we mention it comes with excellent customer service? Well Ivation proudly guarantees its products and actively asks you to get in touch by phone or email should you have any concerns.
NutriChef 18 Bottle Thermoelectric Wine Cooler
Our second entry into the 18 bottle capacity fridges is this stainless steel chiller from NutriChef. It looks the part in a modern kitchen or living area where clean lines and metal décor abound. Suitable for white or red wines this wine cooler shows off its prizes with soft LED lighting and a reinforced, clear glass door. The circulation fan is impressively reserved, you barely hear its operation. Although it’s designed for floor or countertop placement we would tend towards setting it up on the floor as it’s quite a narrow design. The NutriChef measures 20” x 13.6” x 25.4”. Its thin profile makes it ideal for sliding in between otherwise tight spots or if you live where space is at a premium.
The display is large and clear to read. It’s a simple matter to change from Fahrenheit to Celsius too should you wish and this is without having to open the door. Polished chrome racks make for easy storage and there is space for a vertically stored bottle too. Just bear in mind that a corked bottle will need to be used more quickly if it’s kept upright.
Functionally this fridge drops to the desired temperature in less than an hour depending on ambient temperature. It’s well insulated and the door makes a reliable air-tight seal. Its build quality is good all round and we could see the NutriChef giving you many years of trouble-free use.
Compressor Wine Coolers
24 Bottle Thermoelectric Wine Cooler Standing Compressor Counter Top Refrigerator
With a slightly bigger budget in mind we think that the MeyKey wine cooler is definitely worth your consideration. This compressor cooled fridge rapidly gets to the temperature you set it to and thanks to forced-fan circulation the chill is spread evenly throughout. The specifications give the cooler’s range as being 41° – 64°F and it took a little over 50 minutes for it to reach that bottom end for us. The MeyKey weighs 48.5 lbs and is reassuringly stable when its feet are adjusted. It gives you confidence that when it’s fully loaded with 24 bottles that it won’t easily tip!
Thermally it’s very secure, the solid iron construction with reinforced glass door and air-tight seal keep the contents at a stable temperature. Its timeless matt black appearance looks great and certainly complements our décor. This cooler is the first on test that comes with a handy locking mechanism – ideal if you have young kids (or teenagers!) in the home.
Its dimensions are 17.7” x 16.9” x 28” which takes up a bit more space than a cooler without a compressor but its internal layout makes a good use of the available 70 liters volume. The cabinet is awash with soft LED lighting that you can turn on or off as desired. The touchscreen controls are simple to use and the blue LED temperature display is easy to read and accurate. We also like the integral handle recessed into the side of the door – no exterior bulk to compromise its stylish looks.
Smad 28-Bottles Wine Refrigerator
If you’re in the market for something with a little more capacity without breaking the bank then this Smad wine cooler will comfortably store 28 bottles. This single zone cooler has a spacious 88 liters volume with five full wire shelves and a pair of half wire shelves. The tempered, clear glass door gives you an ample window to see what’s on your shelves. The stainless steel finish on the door and surround looks really crisp and professional, its recessed handle preserving the stylish exterior.
In operation the Smad reaches 39 dB which is remarkably quiet for a compressor-based cooler. It’s the equivalent of the ambient sound in a library for example.
The blue LED temperature display looks great and can show either Fahrenheit or Celsius. When you set the temperature you’ll notice what an impressive range this cooler is capable of: 39 – 55°F for champagnes and white wines, and 55 – 64°F for your reds. A big plus for hassle-free use is its frost-free cooling system.
Koldfront BWC300BL 30-Bottle Wine Cooler
The well-crafted Koldfront wine cooler is designed to hold 30 standard-sized Bordeaux (750 ml) bottles. It has six full-size, slide-out wire shelves and one smaller one. To save space the racks have reverse design to allow you to store six per shelf. The Koldfront is a joy to live with for another great reason – it’s one of the quietest compressor-based fridges on the market, in part due to the rubber anti-vibration bushes which act to dampen the sound. Another bonus for flexibility is that it comes with a tool to allow you to hang the door for right or left-handed wine lovers.
The internal temperature is uniform throughout the cabinet courtesy of an amazing combination of powerful compressor and internal fan. The double-paned glass door works well to insulate the contents from the surroundings. The adjustable temperature range is 40 – 65°F and is easy to set through soft-touch controls and is clearly visible on its blue LED display.
It’s a mere 15” wide which means that it fits in spaces that are too narrow for other uses. It’s quite a find if you are looking for a cooler that has a generous capacity while remaining an option for smaller apartments.
Firebird 45 Bottles Dual Zone Compressor Touch Control
The Firebird holds a special place in our hearts as it has so much going for it. This amazing cooler is our only one on test that has the dual temperature zone compartments for white and red wines. Its climate can be set between 40° – 66°F (40° – 50°F in the upper compartment and 50° – 66°F in the lower one). It’s naturally a larger appliance but at 19.5″ x 22.75” x 33″ (W x D x H), it never seems overpowering.
There are seven removable internal shelving racks which are carved wood instead of the more usual metal. They add a little extra touch of quality to the owning experience. Externally it looks the part too, its strong stainless steel construction completed with a clean brushed stainless steel finish. The interior is lit by soft blue LEDs. The doors are double-paned clear glass with a subtle lack dotted pattern that is a nice design touch.
Topping off the package, the Firebird comes with locks to both compartments to keep your bottles safe from unwanted attention.
We will continue reviewing the latest and best wine coolers to help you make the perfect purchase. If you are keen on buying a built-in model then most of the above are available with that in mind. Our built-in coolers review is available at The Best Built-in Wine Coolers.