Which wine cooler shelves are best?

When you decide to buy a wine cooler and start researching all the best brands and 'must have' features it can be a mystifying time! Who would have thought your choice of wine cabinet may come down to the type of shelves inside? And yet many wine lovers choose their wine cooler exclusively for the shelves especially as almost all reputable wine coolers, and certainly all of the brands featured on CoolerSomm, already contain all the latest wine cooler technology, as standard.

So what is the difference between wine cooler shelves, how do they differ from one another and why would it even matter?

Wine cooler shelving is often what adds cost to a wine cooler, customers are often surprised when we quote for new shelves for their current wine cooler that each additional beech wood or mahogany shelf can run anywhere up to £100 each (so if you think you'll need a lot of shelves it's best to get them within your initial purchase).

Wire wine cooler shelves

Shelving in the lower priced of our premium range starts with wire shelving, these are often grooved to a Bordeaux bottle shape and can only hold a certain type of bottle and at a certain weight. They are mostly fixed in place and can't be moved around to accommodate larger bottle format. Wire shelves tend to come in smaller wine coolers of less than 50 bottles or in larger, but cheaper, wine cabinets meant for long term maturation. They are functional and lack the aesthetic appeal of wooden shelves. Some wire shelves though add a wooden front, to at least give the appearance of wooden shelving within the unit.

Why do wine fridges have wire shelves?

Wine fridges come with a range of shelf materials, the cheapest of which is wire shelving bent into the shape of half bottles of wine, these keep the wines steady and are cheap to produce. Wire shelves are found on entry level wine fridges, they have less give in them than wooden shelving which handles vibration better and are not ergonomically designed like the top shelving 'Main du Sommelier' from Eurocave wine fridges.

Beech wood wine cooler shelves

All our premium brands contain beech wood shelves in their standard models. Beech wood shelves are the go-to choice for many reasons, not only do they look attractive but they also dampen any small vibrations (important for wine maturation) and the wood is premium and yet readily available - thus affordable. Beech has a fine, uniform grain that adds to the attractiveness of the shelves and yet is hardy enough to cope with the weight of the bottles plus the sliding action either mounted or static. Although most domestic customers are not constantly pulling out their shelves, wine coolers are often made for restaurant use so need durable shelves. To summarise, beechwood is good looking, hard working, durable, stable, and sustainable.

Sapele/Mahogany wood wine cooler shelves

Brands like Swisscave also offer Sapele wood in their top of the range, WLB series of wine coolers. This wood is rarely used in other wine coolers simply due to the expense. This is a premium wood that has all the benefits of beech, but has a premium look and feel. Mahogany has better water resistance and is less likely to warp in sunlight, although, with UV protected doors as standard, none of your wine cooler shelves should ever be exposed to sunlight.

Mahogany polishes up beautifully and is more resistant to wear and tear than beech wood too. If you're looking for durability and will frequently be opening and pulling out your shelving, as a restaurant does, these Sapele wood shelves are a great option.

Why do wine fridges have wooden shelves?

Wooden shelving, set amongst metal runners, is the most common shelving variety for mid-premium range wine fridges. Beech wood is the most typical thanks to its price of production, aesthetics and vibration resistance with mahogany as option in more expensive wine fridges. There are five main reasons wood is used;

  1. Stability and Durability: Wood is a sturdy and durable material that can support the weight of wine bottles. It provides stability for the bottles and prevents them from shifting or falling during temperature changes or when the fridge is opened and closed.
  2. Shock Absorption: Wood has natural shock-absorbing properties, which can help protect the wine bottles from vibrations. Constant vibrations can disturb the sediment in wine and potentially affect its flavor and quality. Wooden shelves can mitigate these effects.
  3. Humidity Regulation: Wood can absorb and release moisture, helping to regulate humidity levels within the wine fridge. Maintaining the right humidity is crucial for preserving the quality of wine, as excessively dry conditions can cause corks to dry out, leading to wine oxidation, while too much humidity can encourage mold growth.
  4. Aesthetic Appeal: Wooden shelves often contribute to the overall aesthetic of wine fridges. They can add a touch of elegance and sophistication, enhancing the visual appeal of the storage unit.
  5. Insulation: Wood has natural insulating properties, which can help maintain a more stable temperature inside the wine fridge. This is important for keeping the wine at the ideal storage temperature.

Swisscave Display Shelves

What types of shelves can be found in a wine fridge?

What are fixed shelves?

Typical in cheaper wine fridges, fixed static shelves offer no ability to be pulled out and sometimes are welded into the wine fridge.

What are sliding shelves?

Sliding shelves can be removed from a wine fridge and allow some ability to pull the shelf forward and look at the wines but they may not be telescopic (like a draw or telescope) and allow for the easy extension of shelves on runners to see your wines.

What are telescopic sliding shelves?

Typical in mid-premium level freestanding wine fridges, telescopic shelves allow for the wine shelf to be pulled out around 80% of the way so the wine lover can see the labels of their wines. They are attached to runners and will extend to around 80% of the shelf and then stop, to avoid accidentally pulling the shelf out fully and smashing the wine on the floor!

What are display shelves?

Wine lovers who want to display their wines are often keen on display shelves, they hold the bottles at an angle so as not to harm the maturation process and to keep the cork in contact with the wine inside the bottle (so it doesn't dry out) but to allow the best labels to be displayed.

Display shelves are very common in high profile settings like board rooms, restaurants and designer kitchens as well as in the homes of serious wine collectors. Those looking for display shelves should also look at commercial wine fridges.

What are smart shelves?

In 2021, La Sommeliere launched the ECELLAR185, a large wine cabinet containing a new technology; smart shelves. These shelves are able to detect when bottles are leaving your collection and automatically uploads this information to cellar management tracking software, Vivino. For decades brands like Climadiff had been providing a chalkboard on the inside panel of the wine cabinet to keep track of your wines but this new invention by La Sommeliere may well take the wine cabinet world by storm; you heard it here first!

Smart Wine Cooler Shelves

What are main du Sommelier shelves?

The main du sommelier shelving system was developed by EuroCave to provide a unique and flexible bottle support for all bottle shapes and sizes, fastened to the shelf. It ensures that any vibrations do not affect your cherished wines.

Fixed shelves, removable shelves or sliding shelves?

The disadvantages of fixed shelving will depend on your wine collection. If you have an eclectic range of wines then fixed shelving may put you at a disadvantage as your collection changes over time as you'll be unable to make space for different shaped bottles and will struggle to cellar both Champagne and magnum formats.

Removable shelves are ideal for those with a changing wine collection (for people who actually drink their wine) and as your tastes change from Bordeaux to Burgundy and back again, so can the gaps between your wine fridge shelves.

To stack or not too stack?

If you're storing wine over the longer term and will be infrequently disturbing your wine then it may not be necessary to have every row of wine bottles be a single row in the wine cooler.

Many long term wine ageing cabinets, especially from companies like Climadiff, have just a very few shelves that are reinforced and can hold 60-80 bottles on one shelf. If your wine collection contains many of the same producer or vintage then fewer shelves can be a large saving to the cost of your wine cabinet.

However, if your wine cooler is for service or for a restaurant it is likely preferable to choose a wine cooler with a sliding shelf for every row of wine, giving you quick, easy and instant access to the exact bottle you need.

In conclusion, it's best to consider what your wine collection looks like today and how it's likely to change in the future. Do you need a wine cabinet that can be customised over time to your collection or do you just want to mature a lot of the same kind of wine over the longer term (fewer, fixed shelves). Answering these types of questions will lead you to choosing the ideal wine cooler for you. And if it doesn't, use the chat facility and speak to an expert who'll be able to help!


Sarah newton

Author - Sarah Newton

Sarah Newton has worked in the wine industry for two decades holding senior positions at some of the UK wine industry's leading brands. The MD of Coolersomm, Sarah is WSET certified and our lead wine buyer too.