How to Buy an Outdoor Wine Cooler | Wine Cooler Buying Guide
You love your wine. Your wine loves you. Your wine, however, is a delicate thing: keeping it nurtured and soulfully fresh isn’t quite as easy as storing it on a dedicated corner table or tucking it away in a kitchen cabinet. No, its fate rests in the hands of ambient factors: light, temperature, vibration, and humidity. If these Four Horsemen of the Wine-pocalypse aren’t appeased, all those subtle (and, quite frankly, palatable) flavor tones could rapidly deteriorate into tannin turmoil. Think of it this way: your flavor profile is an impeccable marble bust, and those environmental nuances are swinging baseball bats.
The best protection? A premium or luxury wine cooler. They keep ultraviolet light from prematurely aging and ‘cooking’ your wine — either of which often renders many vintages borderline unsalvageable. Vibrational stabilization absorbs small shocks that would disturb fragile bottle sediments. At perfect humidity, your corks won’t dry out (and thus leak), which maintains that air-tight seal against mold or other contaminants. But, most crucially, they hold your wine steady at the perfect temperatures to maintain peak, tasteful freshness. All other solutions pale in comparison.
Should You Buy an Indoor or Outdoor Wine Cooler?
Indoor Wine Coolers
Simply put, storing wine indoors provides better versatility. This decision allows every wine cooler on the market — including thermoelectric units, which are the better temperature regulators but can't be used outdoors. Full sized models, while incredibly heavy when full, hold larger collections and often boast multiple temperature zones. For a more mobile solution, compact units compromise on capacity but leave less of a footprint; these would be your undercounter or built-in wine coolers. Countertop models, the smallest, hold only about a dozen bottles. Keep vents in mind. Undercounter wine coolers vent forwards; large models may need exhaust lines to run heat outside.
Outdoor Wine Coolers
Any outdoor rated wine cooler has not only passed appropriate durability tests, but is certified to respond quickly to ambient temperature swings. Installing an indoor model outdoors is a fast track to a voided warranty, so you'll need to bear that in mind. As for designs? Only the two this time. Outdoor freestanding wine coolers are perfect for garages and have fewer venting concerns, while outdoor built-in models must be front-vented or have appropriate panels for air circulation (unless you want warmer wine that spoils faster). Shade is your friend here — keep ultraviolet light and radiant heat as far away as possible from those precious vintages.
Compressor-Cooled Wine Coolers
Ah, the heavy hitter. Compressor wine coolers know exactly they want — chilled wine with zero excuses. To have it, they'll wrestle the environment themselves with their beefier builds, stronger operation, quicker cooling, and enough stamina to push through rapid temperature swings. This last one means they will always impart small variances with the bottles inside; if you plan on storing wine for the longer term, a compressor build won't be your best bet. Their exhaust needs also require proper clearance and venting, and you'll want them on stronger surfaces. But, for inexpensive wines on faster rotation, these machines simply don't make compromises.
Single Zone vs. Dual Zone Wine Coolers
We’ve said a few times now that temperature is the most important factor in the preservation of wine. The fact is, not all wine has the same storage needs, and not all varieties like to be kept at the same temperature. Generally speaking, the safe temp range for storing most wine is between 45 and 65 degrees, with 55 being the accepted golden temperature for aging. That being said, we expect most customers aren't buying a wine cooler for that express purpose, but more for temporary storage where wine is kept at its optimal serving temperature (instead of a temperature to promote aging). White wines should be served at slightly chillier ranges, between 45-52 degrees, while red wines are served slightly warmer at 58-65 degrees. This chart further breaks down the optimal serving temperature of various wines:
|Wine type||Desired chilling temperature|
|Champagne, Sparkling, and Dessert Wines||40°F|
|Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio||45–48°F|
|Chardonnay and Chablis||48–52°F|
|Red Sparkling Wines||50–54°F|
|Beaujolais and Pinot Noir||60–64°F|
|Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz||64–66°F|
Despite any operational differences, wine coolers fall into one of two categories: “single zone” and “dual zone”. This is exactly what it probably sounds like to you — single zone units maintain a single consistent temperature throughout its storage space, whereas its dual zone alternatives maintain 2 different “temperature zones” that really open up a lot more versatility. Not to say that single zone should be written off — they are ideal for rapid use or lengthier storage.
Single Zone Wine Coolers
For homeowners that tend to collect or drink only one color of wine, this is probably all you need. In more immediate use, their service modes excel at rapidly chilling multiple types of wine for hosting parties; ideally, these bottles would then be swiftly served to guests. These coolers are smaller and less expensive than their counterparts and even boast settings that cater to long-term storage. In fact, if you intend to age your wine, these units will maintain that golden temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives them outstanding functionality for the short- or long-term.
Dual Zone Wine Coolers
For homeowners who believe the trick to having greener grass is owning both sides, this is your best bet. Storing decadent reds and dessert whites in a single enclosure together is only the apéritif; consider that separate temperatures mean these compartments can be divided into long-term storage and serving temperatures. Anticipate uncorking a fresh bottle? Cross over a bottle 30 minutes to an hour in advance. Another option — wine to one side, non-alcoholic beverages to the other. Considering that many models offer door locks, this is great for families with small children.
Which Class of Outdoor Wine Coolers is Right for You?
When we talk about class, we’re not commenting on your fashionable wine collection. No, in this context, we’re referring to the 3 separate classifications we’ve created for outdoor wine coolers: Luxury, Premium, and Standard. Each model in our inventory falls somewhere along that spectrum based on its quality, performance, and features as judged by our dedicated team of experts. Knowing which class speaks to your tastes will help you focus on the group of products that are most in line with your lifestyle. Think of it this way — if you know you prefer reds to whites, then you’re already well on your way to finding the perfect bottle.
Luxury Wine Coolers
- Stainless steel bodies and lengthy warranties safeguard your investment in fine wine
- Glass-panel doors and colored LED lights let you display your bottles in style
- Quiet compressors maintain stable temperatures without distracting guests
- Automatic defrost comes standard, ensuring your wine is never compromised
- Low-temperature sensors and alarms keep you informed for peace of mind
Premium Wine Coolers
- Outdoor ratings let you confidently store your stock in the elements
- Durable stainless steel doors and exteriors are backed by solid warranties
- Undercounter units fit seamlessly into BBQ islands and bring stress-free installation
- Attractive handles, glass doors, and LED lights make a statement in your space
- Compressors use forced-air systems to reliably cool your wine to its optimal temperature
Standard Wine Coolers
- Not all are outdoor-rated, possibly leaving your unit vulnerable to temperature swings
- Limited longevity due to painted metal exteriors and shorter warranties
- Only select Standard wine cooler doors are built from stainless steel or have stylish handles
- Installation could be difficult because of clearance concerns and a lack of front venting
- Cold-plate refrigeration uses less electricity than forced air to save you money upfront
Other Things to Think about When Buying a Wine Cooler
Can I use a standard compact refrigerator to store wine?
Sacrilege! Every time someone tries it, a sommelier drops a bottle in horror. Recall that wine coolers are specially engineered to meet the delicate needs of their stored bottles, carefully cultivating ideal conditions. Refrigerators are too cold, for instance — food-safe (NSF rated) units operate at 38 degrees Fahrenheit, which is far too low for delicate wine. Equally unhelpful? Their low humidity levels, exposing your corks to leakage and contamination. Not to mention subtle food odors, happily muddying any aromatic profiles — or the fact that large food freezers are subject to excessive vibration (and will be opened and closed more frequently). Remember the Four Horsemen of the Wine-pocalypse? Their steeds might as well be combination refrigerators.
Wine Coolers vs Beverage Coolers
For wine purposes, beverage coolers are delinquent refrigerators in clever disguises. While they may not drop as cold as food-safe refrigerators, they still operate outside the appropriate range. Their incandescent lightbulbs radiate ultraviolet light (remember how much wine hates that?); they lack built-in vibration cancellation, and they can’t maintain the proper humidity for long-term wine storage. Nor are they optimized for regulating wine-friendly temperatures, and often lack the adjustable shelves and appropriate design for containing wine. Not to knock a beverage cooler — they're great at what they do! But even the best beverage cooler is a compromise at best; their internal shapes just can't compare to the efficiency of a dedicated wine cooler.
Wine coolers are designed in a spectrum of shapes and sizes — their internal storage falls anywhere between 6 and 150 bottles. Are you looking for a nice, mid-size undercounter style for your outdoor kitchen? Does your existing dry storage cellar simply need something to chill bottles to appropriate serving temperatures in a matter of minutes? Perhaps something larger for a wide collection of vintages? Does a beloved cousin work uptown at the wine factory? Your wine capacity needs will really be based on what you plan on using the unit for — no matter what those needs are, there will always be a wine cooler to fit them. Just be certain the space you plan on installing it in can support the weight before you fill it!
Still have questions? That’s what our home specialists are for! Give them a call at 1-877-743-2269 for more help finding the perfect wine cooler to fit your specific needs. Need help deciding where to place your new wine cooler? Our Free Outdoor Living Design Service can help you stop dreaming and start designing. We even offer no interest financing on many products!
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