Over the last couple of months I’ve received a few emails/Facebook comments/carrier pigeons with notes attached to them, from people looking for advice on purchasing a wine fridge.
I’m therefore going to defer to the superior knowledge of my good friend Curtis Dahl, co-owner of Joseph & Curtis. His company builds some of the best wine cellars known-to-mankind, and they also stock an impressive selection of wine coolers (as in refrigerators, not the drink…that would just be weird).
I fired some wine fridge questions (a combination of my own and questions I’ve received) off to Curtis, and this is what he came back with:
Why do I need a wine fridge?
“Keeping wine stored at the optimum temperature is essential in allowing the aging process to successfully take place. A wine fridge or cooler will keep your wine drinkable for a much longer period of time and will even improve the taste of many wines.”
Are there any benefits/constraints with a wine fridge over a wine cellar?
“The main benefit is cost…a wine cellar is $10,000+ whereas most well made wine fridges tend to be in the $500-2,500 range depending on size,durability etc. A wine refrigerator is not a wine cellar. A wine refrigerator or cooler is a short/medium-term storage device.”
Why can’t I just store wine in my regular fridge at home?
“Humidity. Household refrigerators are designed to remove the humidity from the air in your fridge, while wine fridges are designed to maintain the humidity inside the unit…this is important as the humidity will help keep your corks wet and hence slow down the aging process. The other issue is storage (home fridge has no wine racks) whereas a wine fridge will have shelf’s specifically built to hold wine bottles.”
What is the ideal size of a wine fridge? How many bottles should it hold?
“There really is no correct answer…one should look at how much space you have as well as how many bottles you are looking to store. Think about your buying/collecting/drinking habits and try to factor in how many bottles you will need…as I always say go big!”
I really like the look of those under-the-counter fridges, what are your thoughts? Are there options associated with them?
“They’re certainly very popular right now, and look great in just about any kitchen or bar area.
They can be made with a black cabinet and stainless steel door, or all stainless. The coolers can include roll-out wood and metal shelves and easy-to-read digital display with adjustable temperature control. You can also specify front-vented exhaust, which would allow it to be built in as an under counter wine cooler or left freestanding. Make sure the venting is adequate or you will risk the chance of the compressor burning out quickly!”
Does it matter if the wine fridge has dual temperature zones?
“A dual-zone refrigerator has independent temperature controls and displays for each zone. The best dual-zone wine refrigerators and coolers will allow a full temperature range in each zone (i.e. both compartments can achieve 45 – 65°F, instead of 40 – 55°F in one and 55 – 65°F in the other). So if you want to be able to control a cooler temp for white wines then a dual zone is the way to go…otherwise always store whites on the bottom as cold air sinks.”
Is there any problem with buying a used wine fridge or one from a big box store etc.?
“Used is used…I would not be comfortable buying a used fridge without knowing how much life is left on the compressor, how was it stored (in a hot area etc?). It’s just not worth it…find a dealer who specializes in wine storage.”
Are there any brands that are better than the rest?
“Just like cars,clothing, jewelry etc of course there is…but I happen to be biased to the wine fridges we carry at J&C! We tested a bunch before we settled on that brands that we now stock.”
Any other advice when buying a wine fridge?
“Know your needs, space, and budget…the rest will kind of fall into place! One thing to keep in mind: You can estimate the capacity you need by multiplying the amount of wine you drink each week by 52. One bottle of wine a week means a 52 bottle capacity, two bottles a week means a 104 bottle capacity”
NB: Bad news for me, as this means I would need a wine fridge that holds over 13,000 wine bottles! :)