You know you’re a wine lover in need of a wine cooler when you start struggling to fit groceries in between the stacked bottles in your refrigerator. It might also be time to get a wine fridge if you’re starting to collect more serious vintages, and don’t have access to a cool, dry cellar for safe, long-term storage. Or maybe you just want your houseguests to think your wine’s fancier than it really is. After all, jokes Katie O’Byrne, sommelier at Otium in downtown Los Angeles, “Nothing says ‘I’m a grown-ass, fancy wino’ like a proper wine fridge.”
The problem with buying a proper wine fridge is that they aren’t cheap, and when you look at them online, they all kind of look the same. But when you’re spending this much money on a new home appliance, you want to be sure it actually works (especially if you’re using it to store rare and expensive things). So to help you find the perfect wine fridge for the way you drink, I talked with sommeliers, winemakers, and even one refrigeration expert turned wine importer about the wine coolers and fridges they trust with their own one-of-a-kind bottles.
Once her collection started to accumulate beyond a handful of bottles, Otium’s O’Byrne bought this Ivation 12-bottle fridge on Amazon. “I have been extremely happy with it,” she says. “It’s quiet, compact, and super easy to set up; it was able to reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit within 20 minutes of plugging it in, which meant I was on to my third bottle of chilled white wine an hour after it arrived on my doorstep.” It’s also the most affordable option on this list, coming in at under $150.
Even though he has a lot of bottles of wine in his collection, Roman Roth, winemaker and partner at Wölffer Estate Vineyard on Long Island, has found that he only needs a small wine cooler, since the bulk of the bottles can be stored in his dark, temperature-controlled basement. “I like the small, dual-zone coolers like the 32 Bottle Dual Zone Refrigerator from Wine Enthusiast,” he says, noting that a glass door is fine for small fridges, which are mostly used for short-term storage. However, Roth adds, “If people prefer to use the large wine refrigerators, I always recommend to use one with a solid door, not a glass door where light can get to the wine,” and possibly damage it during long-term storage.
Julian Albornoz, sommelier at Atlas Restaurant Group’s the Bygone, was recently gifted two Kalamera fridges. “Each [has] a capacity of 50 bottles featuring single-zone temperature, humidity, and touch control,” he explains. “It’s a great, affordable option for the home; I prefer the single-zone temperature as opposed to dual-zone because I like keeping bottles (white, reds, rosé, and orange!) all at cellar temperature, which is around 58 degrees Fahrenheit. This way they can mature properly and the risk of damage is minimum.”
Thomas Pastuszak, who does double duty as both the wine director at NoMad and founder of Empire Estate and VINNY Wines, recommends this 52-bottle fridge from Wine Enthusiast. “It fits just over four cases of wine, so you can store a healthy number of bottles, combining those that are ready-to-drink on a daily basis (kept at ideal cellar temperature), as well as some that you’re laying down to age. On first glance, it’s got a sleek, trim profile that allows it to blend in, whether alongside appliances in a kitchen or amid furniture in a dining or living room. And in the market of wine refrigerators, given the number of bottles it can store, the price is very reasonable!”
If you’re looking for a professional-grade wine fridge that you might find in a real restaurant, consider these single-zone fridges from Allavino, says Zach Jones, wine director at Pacific Standard Time in Chicago. “We use Allavino Flexcount Classic Series wine refrigerators at the restaurant, and they are actually perfect for home use as well,” though you’ll want a home model with about a third of the capacity as the commercial version. “We have a few of the 174-bottle model, but for home use the 56-bottle model works beautifully.”
Bill Sweeney, from Moore Brothers Wine Company, actually has a background in refrigeration, and for him, simple design is the best, which is why he likes Marvel coolers. “They use a ‘static’ cold plate to cool the box — kind of like an old non-self-defrosting refrigerator. This means there is no fan blowing, vibrating, or God forbid, your compressor breaks down while you are on vacation, keeps blowing, and the box heats up, killing your precious goods. I’ve seen that happen many times with wine and walk-in coolers,” he notes. Sweeney owns an older Marvel fridge that holds about 40 bottles, “which is sufficient for the way I shop and consume.” It has a racking system that accommodates various bottle sizes, and though it’s not cheap, it’ll last — and if it’s good enough for a wine importer, it’ll certainly work for more casual drinkers.
“I know they are super pricey, but I love anything EuroCave, and I’ve always had great experiences with them at home,” admits Joe Campanale, owner and beverage director at Fausto in Brooklyn and host of #InTheDrink on the Heritage Radio Network. He calls these fridges “nearly indestructible. Whenever I’ve bought something from a less expensive manufacturer, they haven’t held up as well.” One of the nice perks of this expensive wine fridge is that the interior is entirely customizable. “You can choose how many shelves you want within the fridge, and you can change the orientation of the door, which is extra helpful in tight New York City apartments. Plus, it’s lockable, so it’s great if you want to keep your wine away from your teenagers or your guests crashing at your place while you’re out of town.”
Cedric Nicaise, wine director at Eleven Madison Park, also recommends a model from EuroCave, for many of the same reasons as Campanale — especially if you’re trying to fit a lot of wine into a small New York City apartment. “This is one of the best models if you are looking to maximize capacity because you can store a ton of wine in these; it’s just about the most wine you can store in a space.” And this one, with a bottle capacity of 178, is definitely maximizing the amount of wine you can keep chilled with a minimal footprint.
On the other hand, if you’re really just looking for a cooler to keep your wine cold when you’re on the road, James Murphy, owner of the restaurant and wine bar Four Horsemen in Williamsburg (and LCD Soundsystem front man), stands by Yeti. “The Yeti 250, which my band used the shit out of on tour, lets you dump a few cases of wine into it with a little bit of ice. Load it onto a hot semi-truck in the dead of summer for a week, and nothing ever gets warm. It’s bonkers. Three of those things and you have a serious portable wine bar, which we did.”
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