The Ultimate Wine Fridge Buying Guide
When embarking upon a search for a wine fridge, whether you’ve owned one for years or whether you’re looking for your very first unit, the sheer amount of information and choice can be overwhelming.
To make your search for the ideal wine fridge easier, we’ve put together our wine fridge buying guide to help simplify the process and provide you with all the information and decisions points you’ll need when choosing the wine fridge that’s right for you in one simple guide. Whether you’re a collector, enthusiast, or simply need a reliable wine fridge for your kitchen design our wine fridge buying guide can help you find your perfect match.
Buying a wine fridge comes down to answering a set of seven simple questions. Once you’ve answered those you can narrow down even the most daunting list of wine fridges into a handful of contenders.
- How much wine do I have and what kind of wine is it?
- Do I want to store it/serve it/or both?
- Where do I want to place my wine fridge?
- What features do I need to protect wine?
- How much do I want to spend?
- Which are the most reputable brands?
Before we get into the question set, let’s quickly recap why a wine fridge is necessary.
How does a wine fridge protect your wine and do you need one?
If left out on a countertop for months or years wine can be damaged or its ability to mature into its fullest expression harmed by naturally occurring elements that you’d find in any home, those are; UV light, heat, exposure to bad aromas, vibration and humidity. If your home does not mimic the ideal conditions of a wine cellar then it’s likely your wines are being slowly damaged over time.
How can UV light harm wine?
Light strike, or constant exposure to light speeds up the ageing process in wine this is why a dark cellar, before the invention of wine fridges, was the ideal place to keep wine. Wine cabinets come with solid doors so no light whatsoever can interfere with the maturation process and wine fridges come with double or triple glazed, UV protected doors to also protect your wines.
How can hot or cold or fluctuating temperatures harm wine?
For ideal maturation purposes a constant temperature of 12 degrees Celsius is generally agreed to be ideal. However, if the temperature is in-between 10-14 degrees, the wine will remain protected. Both hot and cold temperatures can ruin the long term prospects of a wine with heat ‘cooking’ the wine and cold interfering with the maturation process. A wine fridge will hold your wines at 12 degrees Celsius if you wish to set that temperature if you’re looking to mature your wine. If, however, you want to serve your whites at 5 degrees or reds at 18 degrees a dual zone wine fridge would be able to do this, although be aware, these wines kept at these temperatures should be readily drunk.
How can vibration harm wine?
Vibrations disrupt and activate the molecules in wine and interfere with the maturation process. Wine fridges have dampers on the compressor and shelves to limit vibration.
How can humidity harm wine?
Keeping wine at the incorrect humidity range (50-80%) could see the corks expand or shrink causing the wine to potentially oxidise and can harm the labels with the glue becoming wet or ink running.
How can bad aromas harm wine?
Older corks slowly disintegrate over time, even in a wine fridge, and their slow failure can allow bad compounds and aromas into the wine causing the wine to spoil. Most wine fridges have a carbon filter or fresh air system to eliminate bad odours.
If your home or wine storage space is subject to odours, humidity, light, heat or vibration, its likely a wine fridge will help you keep your wines on track.
The six questions you need to ask to find your ideal wine fridge…
How much wine do I have and what kind of wine is it?
Bottle type and bottle capacity
Starting with the first half of the equation, it’s important to understand how much wine you have in order to work out the bottle capacity of the wine fridge you’ll need.
If all your wine is from Bordeaux then you can safely opt for a wine fridge with the exact stated capacity of your bottles as all wine fridge capacities are measured in Bordeaux shaped bottles. If you have a mix of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace and Champagne shaped bottles then the stated bottle capacity should be mentally reduced by around 15-35% depending on the makeup of your wine collection.
So for example, if a wine fridge states it holds 100 bottles, this means it holds 100 Bordeaux shaped bottles on the number of shelves that come with the wine fridge. Should you add more shelves, that would take the capacity down, should you have non-Bordeaux shaped bottles that would also take the capacity down. A 100 bottle wine fridge would hold around 70 bottles of a mixed collection.
If you want to buy an under-counter unit be mindful of the space between the rows, these small units often do not have gaps wide enough between rows to fit wide based Champagne bottles for example and some shelf removal would be needed.
The stated capacity of every wine fridge is measured in Bordeaux shaped bottles, but it is also assumed that you will use the number of shelves that come with the fridge. If you take shelves out of the fridge, the space for bottles can grow, if you add shelves, it will decrease.
Under 50 Bottles
If you have under 50 bottles of wine you can invest in an under-counter wine fridge for service or storage or a small freestanding unit that could be placed on a countertop or sat on the floor around the home. There are tall narrow units that store 50 bottles or under, or wide, shorter units too.
Over 50 Bottles
If you have over 50 bottles of wine you will not be able to fit this into any kind of under-counter model. The solution would be either to buy two under-counter wine fridges and fit them side by side, or to go for a larger full size built in wine fridge or a freestanding model and place that somewhere else around the home or garage.
Over 100 Bottles
Depending on whether these are wines for long term ageing or service, those with around 100 bottles of wine to store are limited to either full height built in wine fridges or freestanding wine fridges and wine cabinets.
Over 200 Bottles
At the 200 bottle mark only freestanding wine fridges and wine cabinets are an option due to the depth limitation of a kitchen unit. Those with a serious number of wines for service or cellaring often opt for wine cabinets around this bottle capacity. These have the benefit of being more energy efficient than wine fridges.
Do I want to store wine/serve it/or both?
If you need a wine fridge solely for wine service, for parties or a restaurant and do not need to mature your wine over the longer term then there are several features you do not need to spend money on like carbon filters or solid doors. Your wine will happily live in a single zone (for one temperature) dual zone (two temperatures) or multi zone (3-6 temperatures) wine fridge and you can set your wine fridge at the temperature you enjoy your wines at.
Most people with a varied wine collection who want to serve wines at service temperature opt for a dual zone wine fridge to serve reds and whites at their ideal (but different) serving temperature.
If you need to store wine over the longer term then a wine cabinet, with their solid doors, carbon filters and energy efficiency are generally the way to go. Wine cabinets tend to hold anywhere from 100-300 bottles and come with either solid doors or UV protected doors. They often come with winter systems too for garage use.
Wine Service and Wine Storage
For those with some bottles for service and some for storage, a wine fridge with a carbon filter and a dual zone is often the ideal solution allowing part of the fridge to be used for serving wines and the other part for long term maturation. You can keep one half of the fridge at 12 degrees and the other at 5 or 18 for example.
Where do you want to place your wine fridge?
The most important question you need to answer is where do you want to place your wine fridge? This matters a lot because not all wine fridges will work in every position. For example, a freestanding wine fridge, which vents hot air from all around as its working, can not be placed under a kitchen counter as it would overheat and break. It’s vital you buy the right wine fridge for the right space or you could invalidate the warranty.
Under-counter or Built-In Wine Fridges
For designer and built-in kitchens, under-counter wine fridges sit neatly under the kitchen counter and can be as slim as 15cm wide or a regular fridge or dishwasher size at 60cm wide.
Under-counter wine fridges where the front of the fridge is covered by a door are called ‘integrated wine fridges’.
Built-in/under-counter wine fridges come in single and dual zones and, if a carbon filter is included, can also be used for the long term maturation of wine.
Most wine lovers who purchase an under-counter wine fridge are using the unit for wine service where one half of the fridge is kept at white wine serving temperature and the other at red.
These wine fridges, because they are encased in carpentry, vent from a front panel which can be exposed or covered with a plinth to fit into your kitchen design.
Freestanding Wine Fridges
Freestanding wine fridges vent from all around and can not be enclosed. They need at least 30cm above them of free space and 5-10cm all around them in order to expel air safely.
These wine fridges can be placed anywhere around the home, and those with a winter system can also be placed into colder environments like basements, cellars or garages.
Freestanding wine fridges can hold as few as 20 or as many as 200 wine bottles.
Brands that create great value freestanding wine fridges include mQuvee and La Sommeliere and Swisscave.
Integrated Wine Fridges
Integrated wine fridges are for the wine lover who wants to blend their wine fridge into their kitchen design, either completely, placing the unit behind a closed door, which would require a self-ventilating wine fridge, or lifting the unit off the floor like a built in oven for example.
Integrated wine fridges are generally for wine service although some units do come with carbon filters for the long term maturation of fine wine. The best brands for an integrated kitchen look are Dunavox and Liebherr.
Wine cabinets are for wine collectors, either with solid or UV protected glass doors and large internal capacities, they often have few shelves and few lighting and design features as they are created to house a large amount of bottles in cellar like conditions and run with great energy efficiency. Great wine cabinet brands include Eurocave and Swisscave followed by Climadiff.
What features do I need to protect wine?
All wine fridges protect your wine to some degree and are preferable to leaving your wine around the home, the very least they will do is keep the wine at a constant temperature and avoid light strike as all have UV protected doors too. However, not all wine fridges protect equally against bad odours, humidity or vibration so it’s important to understand which features matter IF you want to protect wine over the longer term.
A carbon filter (sometimes called a charcoal filter) helps to neutralise bad aromas that may enter the wine cabinet. They typically need changing a least once a year to remain effective. These are essential for the fine wine collector.
If you wish to house your wine fridge in a garage, cellar or anywhere in the home that drops below 12 degrees Celcius then you’ll need a winter system or the unit wont hold temperature. A winter system gently warms the unit to ensure wines are brought up to temperature when the ambient temperatures are low.
All wine cabinets have automatic humidity management but some allow the user to override and set their own humidity levels. This may be important to the collector who needs absolutely to preserve labels or who has very ancient bottles whose corks need special care.
Wine collectors often prefer 0% UV light and so opt for solid doors on their wine cabinets. This is one feature that actually takes the price of the wine fridge down as glass is more expensive.
Most, but not all, premium wine fridges have audio and visual temperature alarms. If your wine fridge starts to falter, it’s important that the fridge has the technology to alert the user.
Lock and Key
If you are cellaring expensive bottles and your wine fridge is in a communal environment such as a restaurant or a home with inquisitive children, a lock can often be the only way to stop bottles going missing under strange circumstances.
Any wine fridge under 39dB could be considered very quiet. The quietest wine fridges on the market are around 35dB and come from kitchen specialists Liebherr. A wine fridge over 42dB would be considered too noisy for a modern kitchen but may be fine if left in a conservatory, garage or cellar.
How much do I want to spend?
The additional features mentioned above tend to impact the overall price of a wine fridge, as does it ventilation capabilities and its bottle capacity, basically the bigger the unit, the better it is at protecting your wine and the more technology it has inside for limiting decibels and energy usage, the more expensive a wine fridge is.
When considering the question of cost, it is important not only to consider the cost or purchase but also the cost of running your wine fridge, for what you may save on a cheap wine fridge, you may lose out on with running costs thanks to a cheap build. Some wine fridges of exactly the same size can be twice as efficient as one another and thus cost double the amount to run per year. Multiple that by ten years and that cheap wine fridge doesn’t look cheap anymore.
A basic, single zone wine fridge, with the capacity to store around 50 bottles from a reputable brand will cost from around £500.
A tall dual zone wine fridge that stores around 100 bottles will cost around £1000.
A tall dual zone bottle that stores 200 bottles with a carbon filter, winter system, dual zones will cost around £2000.
As the bottle capacity increases and the tech does too; the prices increase.
All wine fridges will use from 100-200kWh/annum and can cost around £50-£100 per year to run, depending on the cost of electricity at the time.
Which are the most reputable brands?
Alongside Eurocave, Swisscave is the premium wine cooler brand available in the UK. With three models, the Classic, Premium and Kitchen editions, and a range of sizes, almost all Swisscave wine fridges can be used as either freestanding or built in units and come in either single or dual zone thanks to their front venting systems. All Swisscave units come with premium features like winter systems, lockable doors and carbon filters which make the fridges ideal for the serious wine connoisseur.
We recommend Swisscave to the serious wine collector with bottles to cellar and bottles to drink whose units can be built into your kitchen or stand alone in the home or restaurant. If you do buy a Swisscave you'll be keeping good company as these are the wine coolers of choice with Gordon Ramsay restaurants and the Savoy Hotel London plus many other Michelin star restaurants throughout the UK and Europe.
The originator of the wine fridge and arguably still the best brand on the market, Eurocave wine fridges are generally accepted in the industry as the very best on the market, however, they are also priced at that level. Their champagne fridges are not only extremely efficient with expert design features but are so attractive as to actually offer a centerpiece to your home.
Eurocave are the longest lived brand with a team on UK based engineers to assist should any fault develop. Eurocave is the brand of Bordeaux and Burgundy collector whose passion for mature wines allows them to invest up to £15k in their preservation.
Hands down the quietest and most energy efficient wine coolers in our range. Liebherr undoubtedly offer very attractive, high quality wine coolers that are built to last and at a range of price points. Liebherr produce quality refrigeration products for the home and all of the wine cooler in the Liebherr range must be placed within the home as they do not come with winter systems.
Liebherr are the clear leaders in the premium kitchen market for wine fridges and hold that #1 status in most European countries. Our top selling Liebherr EWTgw3583, full height integrated model looks stunning in any kitchen setting. The most popular undercounter unit is the Liebherr Uwtes1672 thanks to its dual zone and attractive stainless steel design.
The Liebherr brand of wine fridges comes in three ranges, Vinothek, GrandCru and Vinidor, each appealing to a different type of customer with the Vinothek range designed for long term maturation at a economical price, the GrandCru range for the long term maturation of fine wines with carbon filters and quality shelving and the Vinidor range aimed at those who also want partial service from their wine cabinet.
The Dunavox growth story is driven by their kitchen range but it's their freestanding range that offers real bang for its buck. Dunavox not only create beautiful wine coolers aesthetically, they also offer some of the longest warranties in the wine cooler industry with 3 years on parts and 5 on the compressor.
The Dunavox units look fabulous around the home, whether that's the ever popular, small freestanding unit ideal for the living room, the DFXH-54.150 or the magnificent Grande units that grace many a stately English home, visitors won't fail to be impressed by the good looks of a Dunavox.