“Wine gets better with time”, so goes the famous saying. However, what the adage fails to mention is that wine gets better only if it is kept under the right conditions. A walk-in wine cellar is an ideal place to keep wine, but owning one is an impossible fete for most people. Therefore, the only viable option is to own a wine refrigerator.
Also referred to as a chiller or a cooler, a wine refrigerator offers the perfect conditions for the proper aging of the wine. There are many types of wine coolers supporting a different number of bottles. However, for this guide, we will look at the ones with 12 bottle capacity. Here are factors to consider when buying the best 12 bottle wine refrigerator.
Types of wine chillers
Wine coolers are classified based on how they function. They are divided into two, compressors and thermoelectric coolers. Compressors have a chemical refrigerant that absorbs heat from the air and releases it outside the refrigerator. They are very efficient but require proper ventilation to expel all the unwanted hot air. They are further classified into two:
· Built-in wine coolers. Also referred to as under-counter wine coolers, they are designed to fit in between kitchen cabinets.
· Freestanding coolers. They are designed to stand alone. They can be kept on the counters or the floors.
Thermoelectric coolers do not use chemicals. Instead, they use small fans that evenly distribute cool air inside the refrigerator. They do not work as normal refrigerators, as they separate hot air from cold air and then pump out the hot air. As a result, they are not as effective as compressor wine coolers.
Should I be concerned about the temperature range of the cooler?
This is probably the most important feature to look out for in any wine cooler. The ideal storage temperatures for all wines, red and white is between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooler should be able to maintain these temperatures constantly for proper aging of the wine. It should, therefore, feature a digital control panel to help you set the right temperature. When it comes to serving temperature, red wine is best served at room temperature (60-65 degrees), while white wine tastes best chilled at around 50-60 degrees.
Since it is not recommended to change the temperatures of the wine cooler, most people choose to either transfer the bottle to a normal refrigerator or in a bucket of ice. This is wrong because the cooling temperature of a typical refrigerator is around 37 degrees F. This is far below the recommended temperature range and may affect the quality and taste of the wine. If you host wine enthusiasts regularly, then the best solution would be to own a dual zone wine cooler. This cooler will allow you to keep wines in two zones, one for long-term storage and the other for frequent serving.
What about humidity levels in the cooler?
Humidity is also as important as the temperature, especially for corked wines. Proper humidity levels should be between 50% and 70%. When the humidity levels are too low, the corks will dry out and shrink. This will expose the wine to air and bacteria, which will penetrate through the gaps left out by the shrunk cork. When the conditions in the cooler are too moist, due to very high humidity, molds may start to grow. You, therefore, need a perfect balance between humidity and temperature.
Should I be worried about the noise?
If you are easily irritated by noise, then you should go for a thermoelectric cooling system. They are very quiet in comparison to compressor coolers. However, thermoelectric coolers are not as effective as compressor coolers when it comes to keeping wine chilled. They separate hot air from cold air, expel the hot air and keep the cool air in circulation. Compressor coolers are better equipped at keeping wines at the right temperature range. They have thermostats that keep track of temperature changes in the cooler. The compressors, however, produce a humming sound and vibrations, which may be hard to stomach for some people. The good thing is that the sounds and vibrations do not affect the wines.
Is sunlight a factor?
Many factors can lead to a chain of reactions in wine and sunlight is one of them. The reason why wine cellars offer the perfect environment for wine aging is that they are usually shielded from sunlight. UV rays cause discoloration and affect the flavors of the wine. A good cooler should have UV protection feature to block out both heat and light from the sun and kitchen.
What other special features should I look forward to?
There are various features you should look out for to make your work easier. For instance, if you have small kids, then the cooling unit should come with a key and a lock to keep them away from the beverages. Also, an interior LED lighting feature is a great addition to the refrigerator, as it will enable you to select the perfect bottle easily.