How Do You Know Whether It's Time to Buy a Wine Fridge?

How Do You Know Whether It's Time to Buy a Wine Fridge?

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Ariel Knutson
Mar 5, 2015
(Image credit: Thom Filicia)

So, you're starting to get into wine. You find that you've amassed a variety of bottles in your home – hidden in cupboards, or loitering next to the tequila on your bar cart. Is it time to organize your collection? Maybe buy a wine fridge? And if you do decide you want a wine fridge, what do you even need to consider?

This is the situation in my household right now, so I decided to ask the experts.

(Image credit: Jill Silverman Hough)

I live in a small, warm apartment in Brooklyn with my boyfriend, James, and we've collected a couple bottles that we don't want to open right away. James also has been interested in buying bottles that he wants to age. As a result, we've been looking into buying a wine fridge. Searching for a wine fridge, however left me confused – do we really need one if we have fewer than 10 bottles? What do I even need to look for besides physical appearance?

To answer these questions, I turned to experts, both of whom have written about wine for The Kitchn. Mary Gorman-McAdams is a New York-based Master of Wine and an advisor to the Bordeaux wine council for North America. Jayme Henderson is a full-time sommelier based in Colorado.

(Image credit: Liebherr)

4 Things to Know Before Buying a Wine Fridge

1. How do you know it's time to invest in a wine fridge?

Besides that it looks pretty cool, do you really need to have one in your home for a handful of bottles? And does the temperature in your home matter? Here's what Mary and Jayme had to say about these questions.

Depending on where you live and whether your house has a stable storage area you may or may not need to buy a wine fridge. If you have say more than 20 to 30 bottles on average of wine in your house or apartment at any one time then it is time to start considering wine storage. This is especially true if you live in an overheated NYC apartment (or abode of similar ilk). – Mary Gorman-McAdams
Keeping the storage temperature stable is very important, so if it is really hot (70 degrees or higher) or if the temperatures vary drastically, it is time to invest in a wine fridge. If your collection consists of a few bottles that you're hoping to age, a wine fridge is also necessary since improper storage conditions will negatively affect your wine. – Jayme Henderson

2. What are the benefits of owning a wine fridge?

How is it different, say, then just keeping bottles of wine in your cupboard or in your fridge?

Wines can be pretty fragile. They are sensitive to temperature, light and humidity. By storing your wine in a wine fridge you know that you are keeping it at an ideal and constant temp and in ideal storage conditions. Even after 2 to 3 weeks a wine stored in an over-heated apartment will taste dried out and dead. Your kitchen refrigerator is too cold and not humid enough. A cupboard is going to be too warm, inconsistent, and far too dry. – Mary Gorman-McAdams
A wine fridge provides the ideal setting for properly storing wine. There is a constant and correct temperatures (55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit), stability, horizontal storage, no bright lights, and no exposure to heat. Storing wines in the fridge is fine for wines that you're going to drink that week or even that month, but it is not the ideal spot for long-term storage. – Jayme Henderson

3. What do you need to consider when purchasing a wine fridge?

A simple search on Google will show you just how much wine refrigerators vary in price. So, what do you need to really consider outside of physical appearance? Here are a few of the main criteria Mary and Jayme offered.

  • Size and space "Don’t just consider the number of bottles you currently own but look forward," Mary advised. "Do you plan to grow your collection? And space, especially if you live in an apartment, where will you put the fridge? Wine fridges can be quite big."
  • Noise level – Jayme pointed out that noise level is an issue, especially in small homes. "Where will you be keeping your fridge? Our wine fridge is built into our cabinetry, but it is located right beside our dining room table, so we opted for a low-noise, compact edition."
  • Temperature options (and reliability) — "Some wine fridges come equipped with two separate temperature zones," Jayme explained. "In my research, I noticed that many of the dual-zone fridges, especially the small varieties, are prone to breaking down more often."
  • Humidity control — This is especially important for long-term storage.
    "Keeping humidity levels above 50 percent and below 70 percent," Jayme said, "will ensure your special bottles' longevity."
  • Hardware — Some fridges have fancy wooden racks, while others boast stainless steel racks. "Honestly, the only difference in these is aesthetics and personal preference," Jayme said, "but one costs more than the other."

4. Does it matter how you organize your wine fridge?

So you bought your wine fridge – is it important to organize it in a certain way?

It is really key to keep a record of everything that goes into the wine fridge and then organize so that you know how to find something when you need it. I have not always been so diligent and have forgotten about so many delicious bottles that were ready to drink. Easiest is to organize by color and style – whites (light, unoaked vs full bodied and oaked), reds (light, fruity vs robust and full-bodied), sparkling. Depending on the size of your wine fridge you may organize by vintage. – Mary Gorman-McAdams
Not really. It doesn't do anything to maintain the quality of the wine; it is simply a matter of preference. Ours is rather haphazardly arranged: dessert wines are on top, aging wines hang out on the bottom, and wines we want to drink now are stored in the middle. – Jayme Henderson

Do you own a wine fridge? What are some of the factors you considered when you decided to purchase one for the first time? Are you happy with your fridge?

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