Stocked, under-counter wine refrigerator in kitchen surrounded by brown cabinetry

Wine refrigerator buying guide

Preserving the flavors and aromas of your favorite wines is essential for a satisfying wine tasting experience, and wine refrigerators are designed to help you do just that. Whether you’re a seasoned connoisseur or casual consumer, explore the wine guide below to learn more about what a wine refrigerator can do, how it helps preserve your wine collection and how to choose the right one for your lifestyle. 

Built-in wine refrigerator next to silver top freezer refrigerator Built-in wine refrigerator next to silver top freezer refrigerator

What’s the difference between a wine fridge vs. a regular fridge?

Maintaining the integrity of your wine is a unique task that regular fridges aren’t prepared to perform. To foster an ideal environment for fine wines to thrive, a wine refrigerator varies from a regular refrigerator in three essential categories with differences that come down to temperature, humidity and cost. 

  • Temperature: Regular refrigerators keep perishable items at their freshest when set in the range of 33–40°F (0–4°C), but wine refrigerators generally have temperature ranges between 40–65°F (4–18°C) to best preserve white, sparkling and red wines.

  • Humidity: Your refrigerator captures moist air and funnels it out of the compartment, making it the cold and dry place it’s meant to be. Wine refrigerators, however, maintain a higher level of humidity to help prevent bottle corks from drying out and allowing air to pass through, spoiling the wine. 

  • Cost: Their considerably smaller size and specialized feature set means that, on average, wine refrigerators cost less than regular refrigerators.
Open built-in wine refrigerator filled with various wine bottles Open built-in wine refrigerator filled with various wine bottles

What are wine fridge benefits?

Both wine enthusiasts and casual drinkers can enjoy the benefits of a wine refrigerator, which range from quality conservation and convenience to cost and versatility. Some of these benefits include:

  • Ideal conditions for wine storage: Perhaps the most obvious benefit of owning a wine refrigerator is its ability to preserve wines in an ideal environment. Wine fridges gradually cool wine to the proper storage and serving temperatures, maintain ideal humidity levels, help keep wine from damaging vibrations and provide an optimized storage layout for wine bottles.

  • Small footprint: Most wine refrigerators are relatively compact and fit under the counter or in room corners, so you don’t need a lot of extra space to integrate one into your home’s layout. 

  • Cheaper than alternatives: Wine coolers aren’t the only option for connoisseurs looking to get the most out of their collection, but they’re often the least expensive. Alternatives like large wine cabinets, wine cellars or modified wine rooms often come with a price tag ranging from $15,000 to more than $100,000.

  • Versatile beverage storage: Even though preserving your finest wines is the goal, your wine cooler can do more than that. While you build your collection, utilize dual-temperature control settings for storing beverages like beer and soda to get the most out of your space. 

Stocked, under-counter wine refrigerator in kitchen surrounded by brown cabinetry Stocked, under-counter wine refrigerator in kitchen surrounded by brown cabinetry

Is buying a wine cooler worth it?

Not everyone who drinks wine should invest in a wine cooler for their home, so how can you know if the purchase is right for you? Here are a few factors you should consider:

  • How long you plan to store wine: If you prefer purchasing wine and consuming it quickly then there’s no need to invest in specialized storage, but a plan to age wines for several months or years calls for catered storage solutions that support your investment by maintaining wine quality.  

  • Where you live: Wine is sensitive to temperature changes, so homes that often fluctuate between cold and warm temperatures can cause wine to lose flavor over time. If your home doesn’t have a consistently cool, dark and semi-damp location for wine storage — like an underground basement — a wine cooler may be worth the investment.

  • Your home’s layout: A wine cooler can be a practical and stylish addition to your space, but you need to make sure you have an appropriate place to house it. Wine coolers perform best with proper room for ventilation, out of direct sunlight and away from vibrating or heat-generating appliances like dishwashers and ovens.

Side-by-side comparison of small, medium and large-sized wine refrigerators Side-by-side comparison of small, medium and large-sized wine refrigerators

How do I choose a wine fridge?

Choosing the right wine refrigerator means taking the refrigerator type, size, capacity and feature set into account. Follow the steps below to hone in on which wine refrigerator is best suited to your space and wine storage vision. 

Step 1: Select a type of wine cooler

  • Freestanding: A freestanding wine cooler is designed as a standalone appliance that is often sold at a lower price point than its built-in counterpart. Freestanding wine coolers vent from the rear or sides of the unit, so be sure to place the cooler in a location that allows hot air from the vent to escape safely.

  • Built-in and undercounter: Built-in or undercounter models can be installed beneath the kitchen counter and between existing cabinetry, sitting flush with the surrounding cabinets for a sleek aesthetic. These models feature a front rather than rear vent and can be installed or freestanding, offering more flexible placement options.

  • Wine and beer fridge: These versatile wine coolers can be built-in or freestanding. They’re primarily distinguished by dual compartments that feature shelving on one side for upright beverages and racks on the other side for side-lying wine bottles. Wine and beer fridges offer dual temperature control so each compartment can be independently adjusted to the temperature best suited to its contents. 

Step 2: Consider wine fridge sizes and capacities

Wine refrigerators come in a variety of sizes and capacities, which can help you find the right fit for your unique collection. Common dimensions and capacities can be broken down into three categories, including:

  • Small: Small wine fridges are ideal for casual wine drinkers looking for a better way to store a handful of bottles. These units can be freestanding, built-in or countertop models, often ranging from 10 to 20 inches wide with the capacity to handle anywhere from 2 to 40 bottles of wine. 

  • Medium: Mid-size wine fridges offer enthusiasts the opportunity to store anywhere from 40 to 100 bottles of wine, and are most often built to be 24 inches in width. 

  • Large: Large wine fridges are well suited for the avid wine collector, offering storage capacity for 100 to 200 bottles of wine. While these coolers typically sit at only 24 inches wide, they can span up to 70 inches in height to create a high capacity storage space.

Step 3: Explore wine fridge features

All wine refrigerators are designed to store wine in an ideal environment for proper aging, but that doesn’t mean they’re all created equal. Browse common wine refrigerator features below to help you decide which features best fit your wine storage needs.

  • Single vs. dual zone climate control: Single zone climate control allows you to store all of your beverages at one temperature and is best if you plan to keep only red or white wines. Dual zone climate control divides storage space into two independent sections with their own temperature controls, offering an ideal environment if you plan to collect multiple types of wine with varying temperature needs. 

  • Adjustable racks: The bottles in your wine collection are likely to come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so finding a unit with adjustable racks will help ensure that you have room to fit your favorites. 

  • Reversible doors: Some wine refrigerators feature reversible doors that can be installed to open from either the right or left side of the unit, providing flexible installation options that best suit your space. 

  • UV protected glass: If you plan to store your wine refrigerator in an area prone to plenty of sunlight, UV protected glass can help protect your wine from UV rays that age wine too quickly and cause the taste, aroma and color to degrade. 

  • Finishes: Maintaining the desired aesthetic in your home might be top-of-mind when narrowing down your search for the right wine cooler. Many wine coolers come with a traditional stainless steel finish. Some, like this model from Whirlpool, are also available in black stainless steel for a contemporary twist. 

  • LED interior lighting: LED lighting makes it easy to find what you’re looking for and adds to the sleek and sophisticated aesthetic a wine refrigerator has to offer. Learn how to replace refrigerator lights.
  • Sabbath Mode: When Sabbath Mode is activated, the temperature settings will remain unchanged, but the exterior lights and display will be deactivated in order to make operation of the wine fridge comply with kosher laws.

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