Basic wine storage is pretty straightforward as long as you remember to keep bottles out of an overly dry environment and concentrate on keeping them cool, dark, still and sideways.
Wine Storage: Wine Refrigerator Units
Wine refrigerators, also called wine chillers, are free-standing units that are designed to store and keep your wines at a specific temperature setting (ideally between 45-64 degrees, depending on whether you are storing whites or reds). Coming in a variety of prices, bottle capacities, finishes, and dimensions, wine refrigerator units are one of the most common ways to store wine for the novice wine enthusiast.
The Pros and Cons of a Wine Refrigerator Unit
Wine refrigeration units are typically the first tier in the world of wine storage and provide an economical way to store a budding wine collection, apart from the basic basement and boxes system. They generally offer compact storage, a fairly constant temperature setting, allow bottles to be stored on their sides and ensure that your wines are exposed to minimal light in the process.
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 riskier; 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.
Cooling Options for Wine Refrigerator Units
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 are 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.
Top Manufacturers of Wine Refrigerators
While wine refrigerators have become a dime a dozen, with a range of models even available in your local hardware store, it pays to stick with manufacturers that are tried and true. Top wine refrigeration companies to keep an eye out for include: Avanti, Vinotemp, Wine Enthusiast's Silent and N'Finity lines of coolers.
For the price, wine refrigeration units are an excellent, entry-level method of storing wines for more immediate consumption. While they are not considered adequate for long-term aging they certainly serve a solid purpose in the realm of proper short-term wine storage. If you are considering a wine refrigeration unit, check out our latest wine refrigerator reviews and recommendations.