Wine refrigerators, or wine chillers, are units designed to store your wines at an ideal temperature between 45-64 degrees (depending on whether you are storing whites or reds). There are a variety of prices, bottle-capacities, and dimensions.
The Pros and Cons
Wine refrigeration units provide an economical way to store a wine collection. They usually offer compact storage, a constant temperature setting, store bottles on their sides, and protect your wine from light.
However, wine refrigerators have one big drawback, especially if you are looking for storing wines for the long-term, to maximize their aging evolution in the 10+ years range. These units do not have the capability to control humidity levels and typically maintain a relative humidity of 30%, where optimum cellaring conditions for aging wines calls for a relative humidity of 60-70%. In dry environments, even with a wine stored on its side, a wine’s cork has a greater chance of drying out. As the cork dries out, it becomes more brittle and begins to shrink causing a small fissure in the seal that starts at the top or exposed portion of the cork and works down to the wine. This ultimately can allow air to permeate the wine, resulting in destructive oxidation that promises to take a nasty toll on the wine.
So for long-term aging, wine refrigerators can be a bit more risky; however, for keeping your wines healthy and happy in the short-term, they fill a great niche. If you are concerned about a wine refrigeration unit’s inability to control humidity levels, then it would be worth looking into wine storage cabinets, which generally offer both temperature and humidity settings to ensure the best possible storage outcomes for your wine collection.
There are two main types of cooling systems for wine refrigeration units. The first and most common being the vapor compression system, the same as that used in a standard refrigerator. The second option, and most energy-efficient, is the thermoelectric system, which performs best in homes that are not kept much warmer than 75 degrees and where the wines will not require temperatures that are cooler than 50 degrees.