Buying a wine fridge

A cheap and cheerful wine fridge.

A cheap and cheerful wine fridge.

Been collecting wine for a while? In the market for a wine fridge? Well there’s a few things you should think about first. A friend asked me the other day and I’m by no means an expert, but I thought I’d share my experience with a wider audience :).

Firstly wine fridges are cool. They tell your mother in law exactly what your priorities are in life. Strangely, any Masterchef watching wannabe foodie suddenly goes quiet on the topic of wine, shockingly in awe of your amateurish wine snob diligence. They’re known to stop in their tracks at the site of the fridge!

But should you get a wine fridge or stick to racks. I’d say don’t bother unless you’re going to keep your wine for at least 2-3 years. Because you really need to take your bottles out the day you want to drink them and stand them upright to let it warm up. This also lets the sediment settle if it’s really old. If you take it out of the fridge and start drinking, it will taste frigid, cold and ruddy awful. And then, all your efforts were in vain. You’d be better off putting them in a room in your house that’s never heated or at a constant temp and putting boxes over it to block the light. As much as I’ve had some great wine thanks to the fridge, I’ve had some spontaneous awful ones as well that were an absolute waste.

My wine fridge was from Aldi and cost approx $250 AUD. It holds approx 45 standard bottles. Sometimes chain stores such as Target and K Mart have similar offerings. The important thing to remember is that the cheap ones (like mine or under $500) are refrigerated units. This is bad because they have a fridge motor and it vibrates. Vibration is bad for wine. Not as bad as light and varying temperature but still not totally kosher. You wont often even hear the motor in winter but you hear the characteristic buzz often in summer.

The reason I got my fridge is because my wine had to be stored near a heater or even worse, in the kitchen. Any constant variance in temperature (say more than 6-8 degrees a day and you’re not cellaring your wine, you’re slowly  creating vinegar. It may be OK for a year or even two, but it’s clearly only for a good time not a long time.

Your cheaper fridge will also be very plasticy with metal shelves. They’re fairly robust but they tend to cripple under the load when the fridge is full. So the fridges with wood shelves not only look better, they are more strong and durable.

Also humidity is important for cellaring wine. Your proper fridges will do something to keep the requisite level of humidity in the fridge, like humidors for cigars. The cheaper ones don’t. So it’s not the total solution and you’re not guaranteed great wine.

In an ideal world, you’d probably need to spend about $500-800 on a good fridge, as it wouldn’t vibrate and be at a constant temperature. The more expensive ones also have wooden shelves which are a lot better when you load it up.

David Jones and Harvey Norman have a great range of fridges including the uber expensive Liebherr ones.  These have features such as separate zones for your whites/sparklings/reds and swisho wood or brushed aluminum finishes. If you can afford one of these, there’s no point reading this article!

Anyways buying a fridge is an important, but not altogether necesary step. There are plenty of wine forums where people with space and spare time have found much cheaper, resourceful and grandiose solutions. All I can say is don’t throw out your racks. Use those for your quaffers and keep the good stuff put down in the fridge. Remember, patience is a virtue and one day I will have the 300 bottle Liebherr fridge!

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to respond. Again, I’m no expert but happy to help.

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