Wine is serious business to some people. Knowing where the wine is from, what it pairs with, and how best to store it are all part of the experience for many. As part of that, it is important to make sure the wine is properly stored so as to maintain flavor and prevent it from going sour. Wine vinegar is useful, after all, but is best bought separately and not as wine first. One of the most important aspects of wine storage is temperature. Certain wines need to be stored at certain temperatures for maximum safety and retention of flavor. As noted by The Wine Spectator, “Heat is enemy number one for wine. Temperatures higher than 70° F will age a wine more quickly than is usually desirable. And if it gets much hotter, your wine may get “cooked,” resulting in flat aromas and flavors. The ideal temperature range is between 45° F and 65° F (and 55° F is often cited as close to perfect), though this isn’t an exact science. Don’t fret too much if your storage runs a couple degrees warmer, as long as you’re opening the bottles within a few years from their release.”
Conversely, keeping wine too cool for too long can also create problems. Many amateur wine enthusiasts have left their stock in the refrigerator for too long only to notice that it isn’t nearly as good as when first purchased. Though great for temporary storage of wine and many other uses, a household fridge is not designed for the middling, consistent temperatures wine needs to retain flavor. The question then is where to store wine, if not the fridge? Some people are lucky enough to have a properly suited basement, but those aren’t exactly common in today’s economy, and most apartment landlords tend to frown on tenants digging under the building. A conveniently placed closet can also be used, but, by and large, the best way to store wine for the long term for a lot of people will be a dedicated wine cooler unit.
Wine cooler units, not to be confused with wine coolers, are a versatile and excellent option for lovers of wine to properly store their collection. Whether for recent consumption or to let it age, coolers provide the ideal environment for their wine to stay fresh and flavorful. The question then, is, what type of cooler to purchase. This question has two aspects to it. One, the budget and spacing availability of the wine lover in question, and two, whether the cooler is used for long or short term storage, as both of these questions can affect purchasing. The Wine Enthusiast points out that “Long term storage of wines is typically anything past about 5 years. Less than 5 years is considered short term storage. So if your goal from the start is to age your wine for the long-term, than you probably want to look at an actual wine cellar.”
By wine cellar, the article doesn’t mean to start digging, but to buy a wine cellar unit not too different from a wine cooler. On the other side of the coin, for short term storage, such wine coolers are ideal. However, not all coolers are the same, as they come in a variety of styles for a variety of wine needs. they also feature different technology to produce different results. The two most common wine coolers on the market are thermoelectric wine coolers and compressor wine coolers. Wine on my Time explains some of the differences. As they explain, “A thermoelectric cooler uses the Peltier effect to act as a solid-state heat pump. The Peltier effect is the conversion of a temperature gradient into an electric voltage through a thermocouple. It’s also known as the thermoelectric effect. This effect creates a temperature difference by transferring heat across two electrical junctions. When a direct current (DC) flows across the terminals of two joined conductors, heat is removed from one junction, and there is cooling.”
That’s a fancy way of saying these types of coolers use electricity to move heat away from the wine, which creates a cooling effect. Compressor wine coolers work differently, obviously. Compressor wine coolers work much like your refrigerator, as the appropriately named PopularWineCoolers.com explains that “A liquid refrigerant circulates and produces cold air inside the refrigerator and expels the hot air. It has an advantage that it can reach to very cold temperature as low as 39 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best suited for chilling wines and also keeps food and beverages at safe storage temperatures. But there is one disadvantage of the compressor is that it produces a lot of noise as there are a lot of moving parts.” Compressor wine coolers are great because they can get to cold temperatures some wines need to stay fresh and properly aged. Since they’re designed for wine, you don’t have the problems of storing your wine in a fridge where you need to keep the temperature cool, but not too cool because stuff might freeze on the bottom shelf. As noted, however, the big downside to compressor technology is compressors can make a lot of noise and have a lot of parts. Thermoelectric coolers don’t get as cool, but they’re also not as fiddly or loud.
The question on which is better largely depends on the type of wine being stored, why it’s being stored, and how good your hearing is when you buy the cooler. It’s also important to take into account outside factors. For example, thermoelectric coolers tend to not work well in warm environments, so putting one in the boiler room is definitely not a good idea. If you live in a warmer client, thermoelectric might not be able to keep your wine properly cooled. On the other hand, compressor coolers will keep the wine at an ideally cool temperature, but they can be noisy and heavy. They’re also likely to be more expensive than thermoelectric and more difficult to install. Compressor coolers have another disadvantage depending on the type of wine stored, one not a lot of amateur wine enthusiasts might consider. WineCoolers.com notes that “compressor cooling systems give off micro-vibrations which may affect the aging of your valued wines by disturbing the sediments. Though these vibrations are minor, they can actually be harmful to fine wines. If you plan on drinking most of your bottles within a certain timeframe, this shouldn’t be a major issue, but if you simply want to store your wines for an extended period of time undisturbed, this is something you may be concerned about.”
Thermoelectric coolers don’t have this problem. For the environmentally conscious wine lover, these types of coolers are also greener thanks to their electric-based technology. They also tend to be free-standing, meaning you can put one pretty much wherever you want as long as you take into account ambient temperature and spacing requirements. Compressor coolers tend to require specialized instillation if they’re not already built in to where you want one, as anyone who has had to replace a fridge is probably aware. As previously stated, which cooler is better is largely dependent on outside factors, such as where the cooler will be installed and what sort of wine it is storing. Compressor coolers are ideal for wines that require storage at temperatures below 44 degrees Fahrenheit, but some wines might become disturbed as their sediment is agitated from the compressor’s vibrations. Thermoelectric coolers can’t get as cold as compressors but are quieter, gentler, and easier to install. This makes them useful for long term storage of wines that don’t mind warmer temperatures as long as the temperature can be kept consistent.
There is the also the green angle to consider for those so minded. Thermoelectric wine coolers are more environmentally friendly because they don’t use harmful coolants like fridges do. As NewAir.com explains, “Cooling units that use vapor compression refrigeration, which include freezers, air conditioners and wine coolers, depend upon a chemical coolant to function as a heat sink and carry heat from one location to another. In the early days of refrigeration technology, refrigerators used ammonia, but that substance can be highly toxic to humans. Next came Freon, a chlorofluorocarbon that turned out to deplete the ozone layer in the Earth’s atmosphere. In the last two decades, a lot of science has gone into manufacturing substitute refrigerants, and those in use today are much less destructive than their predecessors. But these coolants still emit greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.” To break it down, compressor wine coolers are less expensive to operate, can reach colder temperatures, can keep wine cool even in a warm area, and are also generally larger for more storage. Thermoelectric coolers are cheaper to buy at the onset, quiet and don’t agitate sediment with vibrations, can be bought in smaller sizes than compressor wine coolers, and are more environmentally friendly. Personal preference, space availability, preferred wines, and budget are all important factors when deciding which kind of cooler to purchase.