Wine cooler/refrigerator recommendations

ilovepoco(z5 Boston USA)

I'm thinking of buying a unit to keep white wines cool --- to ensure that there are always chilled bottles available, to free up space in the refrigerator, etc.

My husband has been researching wine coolers and now we are both confused. It seems from reading people's online feedback that many of the dedicated wine coolers can't handle tall bottles (how tall is tall?), wide bottles (as in champagne) or opened (upright) bottles.

Are we missing something obvious here? I would think champagne and tall white wine bottles are some of the basic types you'd want to keep chilled.

We're starting to think it would make more sense to just put in a second undercounter fridge and forget the "wine cooler" concept entirely.



Comments (4)
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Susan - I'll try to help.

You said you want to keep white wines cool. Any reason? Is it just to chill them before drinking or is it to store them for some time? If the latter, you want to keep your reds just as cool as your whites - in other words don't keep either on top of the fridge for six months or six years.

But if it's just to get them to a good drinking temp, put them in the freezer for 15 minutes or so. I do it with both reds and whites if I'm not taking them from my cellar - whites a little bit longer. If you have the wines out on the counter, and you keep the house around 70F or warmer like most Americans, the wines are way too warm.

Back in the 1970s, the US standardized on the "fifth" of a gallon which is roughly the 750ml size bottle. There were many different shapes and sizes of bottles in Europe but they wanted to sell in the US so most of them adopted that size.

In terms of shape, there is basically the "Bordeaux" bottle and the "Burgundy", or "Rhone" bottle. The first is generally like a cylinder with a neck. It's about 13 inches high. The Rhone shape is gently sloping and much wider at the bottom than the top. You can look them up and you'll understand in a second.

The Bordeaux shape is easy to stack and if I ruled the world, ALL wine would come in those bottles, although to be honest, I think the other ones are nicer looking. In any event, the Bordeaux shape is about 3 inches diameter. The Rhone shape is about 3 1/2 inches at the widest point and while you can stack them, the stack isn't nearly as stable and you don't want to stack them too high.

When they measure the capacity of wine coolers, they measure by the Bordeaux shaped bottle. At the bottom of a bottle is an indentation, called a punt, and you can put the neck of one bottle into the punt of another so they take up less space. If your fridge is stacked to the max with those bottles, that's the capacity of your fridge.

It's complete BS.

Most people have some Rhone shapes and some Bordeaux shapes. You can also put them neck to neck, but the extra 1/2 inch on the Rhone shapes will reduce your capacity, both standing and laying down.

And then you have all the other shapes. Maybe 80 percent of all bottles come in the shapes I described, but then you have the odd shapes and sizes.

In Tokaj, they use a 500 ml bottle. In Germany they have long, skinny bottles. In Italy, they're all over the place - some producers use the French bottle shapes described, others have long (meaning longer that 13 inches) or odd shapes. Even square shapes.

And some producers, in the US and in Europe, use super heavy and huge bottles. In CA for example, Turley uses a bottle that's an extreme version of the Rhone shape. It's much fatter at the bottom, made of heavier glass, and it's more dramatically sloped. There are some Beaujolais producers who do the same.

So that's what people are talking about. If you buy a fridge that says it holds 250 bottles, that means fully packed with standard Bordeaux bottles. Even in Bordeaux, Haut Brion has a slightly different shape to their bottle. If the shapes are in any way different, you won't get that 250 bottle capacity. I get about 200 in my cooler, which is why I finally just built a cellar that holds a lot more w/out worrying about the shape.

Now all that said, if you aren't keeping bottles to age for 20 or more years, and if you're going to drink w/in like a year, you really don't need to worry all that much. Just stick them in the freezer for a bit before opening. If you're planning to keep a bottle for a few years, it's worth keeping it cool. Don't worry so much about vibration and light and humidity - temperature is the main concern. Spoilage yeast and other things happen as the wine heads into the mid to high 60s, so either drink fast or store in cool conditions. And BTW - your fridge is just fine, despite what some people claim.

Good luck.

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If anyone still has questions about this, the racks in the NewAir wine coolers can be adjusted to fit the bottle wine you have. We also have the AWC-330E the offers more room at the bottom.

NewAir AWC-330E 33 Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler

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Blake Durand

I have a fairly new website that has a lot of useful information about wine coolers and which ones to go for. I recommend that people check out my article link below to get an idea of what wine coolers to go for as a starting point. Good luck with your wine drinking experience.

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Jason (Zone 10b, San Diego)(10)

Be careful of cheap wine coolers. Ours lasted less than two years. I had purchased an extended warranty, so I eventually got our money back on the wine cooler itself, but almost all of the wine in it went bad. The insurance agency did not cover the contents of the cooler, a huge bummer and a lot of wasted money. We went and bought a refrigerator and store all our wine in there.

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