Choosing Between a Wine Fridge and a Full Cellar
Not sure whether you should invest in a wine fridge or finally build the wine cellar of your dreams?
This can be a tough decision because both options work well for different reasons. For some wine lovers, a fridge is a better solution. And if you’re renting, it’s really the only solution that’s available to you, unless you have a very accommodating landlord. But if you’re a homeowner with a large and ever-growing collection of wine, it makes sense to build a proper cellar to contain it all.
But those aren’t the only things to consider.
In this guide, we’ll look at the differences between wine fridges and wine cellars to help you decide which option makes the most sense for you.
Should You Buy a Wine Fridge?
A wine fridge, also known as a wine cooler, is a special type of refrigerator that keeps the temperature at a constant 55 °F.
Although some wines are best stored in slightly cooler or warmer temperatures, this temperature is ideal for most wines. Storing wine at this cool temperature prevents it from cooking if it’s too warm or freezing if it’s too cold. Heat ages wine prematurely. And if wine freezes, the liquid can expand in the bottle and damage the cork, which introduces air into the bottle which will permanently alter its delicate flavor. (Wine starts to freeze at 20° F.)
It’s a good idea to keep your wine at a constant cool temperature which is something you can easily achieve with a wine fridge.
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of using a wine fridge to store your collection.
The Pros of Buying a Wine Fridge
Here’s why you should buy a wine fridge.
Wine fridges are an affordable solution that’s accessible to all. You can purchase a wine fridge for less than a standard refrigerator. A fridge also costs considerably less than building an entire wine cellar in your home. As with any appliance, you’ll encounter a range of prices, from the most basic and affordable to the most feature-rich. However, there are great wine fridges options in every budget.
Check out our collection of wine coolers here.
Can Be Located Anywhere
Unlike a cellar, your wine fridge can go anywhere in your home. Whether you’d like to place your fridge in your kitchen, dining room, or hallway, these units can be conveniently located wherever you’d like.
Comes in Different Sizes
How many bottles of wine do you want to store? Wine fridges can be quite spacious. Some units are built to hold 20 bottles while others can hold 200 bottles or even triple that amount. When compared to cellars, wine fridges may be compact, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fit your entire wine collection.
Works Better For Smaller Collections
If you have a small wine collection and would like to keep it that way, a wine fridge may be the way to go. Wine fridges are an awesome solution for small collections because everything can be contained in that one unit and be placed anywhere in your home.
Offers Dual Zone Cooling
Some wine fridges come equipped with dual zone cooling capabilities. This means that part of the fridge will cool to one temperature while another section can be set to a completely different temperature.
Being able to customize two temperature profiles is ideal if you plan to store white and reds together. These wines are best stored at different temperatures. (Whites should be stored at a temperature of between 46 °F to 56 °F and reds should be stored at a temperature of between 58 °F to 68 °F.) With a dual zone fridge, you can accommodate both temperatures in one unit.
Top Things to Consider Before Buying a Wine Fridge
Now, let’s take a look at the reasons why a wine fridge may not be the best choice for your wine collection:
When compared to a cellar, wine fridges get opened and closed more frequently. This can cause the temperature in your cooler to fluctuate. And returning to that ideal temperature can take time in a wine fridge. Unfortunately, temperature fluctuations can harm your wine for the reasons we mentioned above.
Not Always Good for Large Collections
While a wine fridge can fit a huge collection of wine (extra large wine fridges can easily hold up over 300 bottles), it may be a better idea to go with a cellar over a fridge if you have a large collection. High capacity coolers have limited space and the bottles are stored tightly together. If you prefer to see your labels, or store bottles in a decorative fashion, it’s harder to do in a fridge with a lot of bottles.
However, if you have a smaller collection, it’s easier to arrange bottles in a way that’s pleasing to you—with your favorite labels front and center.
Doesn't Control Humidity
Wine fridges are best for cooling wine, but not for controlling humidity.
The ideal humidity for wine is between 50% and 70%, but fridges keep the humidity below 50%. This isn’t a problem if you plan to consume wine quickly (within months after purchase). But humidity is an essential component to the long term storage of wine. If you plan to store your wine for years, you need to keep the humidity levels high. This prevents corks from contracting, introducing air into your bottles, and prematurely aging the wine.
Click here to learn more about wine storage humidity.
Isn't Great for Long Term Storage
One of the biggest selling points for fridges is that they’re easy to access. But easy access often leads to frequent use. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but when it comes to long term wine storage, you need to limit the amount of times you open and close the door. The goal is to keep the temperature at a constant level, but frequent door opening will create temperature fluctuations that can wreak havoc on your collection.
Allows Sunlight In
Most wine fridges incorporate glass into their design. While glass looks great, it’s not the best material for long term storage.
To prevent premature aging, wine must be kept in the dark. Long term exposure to sunlight is a no-no. However, if your fridge has glass doors, part of your bottles will likely be exposed to sunlight, even if the sunlight is indirect. This may be okay when storing bottles you’ll consume quickly, but it’s not good for aging.
Fridges Can Break
As with all appliances, wine fridges are vulnerable to break downs. When that happens, you may need to send out your entire machine for repair.
Also, if you experience a power outage in your area due to inclement weather, your wine collection will be put at risk because most coolers work on electricity. When disaster strikes, you won’t need to worry as quickly about a cellared collection because it’s easier to maintain a consistent temperature in a sealed cellar.
Should You Build a Wine Cellar?
Wine cellars are a substantial investment in terms of time and money, but is it worth it?
A wine cellar is a climate-controlled room in your home that's dedicated to storing wine. Many wine cellars are located in basements, but a wine cellar can be anywhere in your home, provided that the space can be sealed and has proper ventilation.
The goal of a wine cellar is to mimic the underground environment where it’s always an ambient 55 °F.
Wine cellars are great for short and medium term storage, but are essential for aging wines over a long period of time.
The Pros of Building a Wine Cellar
Since we’ve already gone over the pros and cons of using a wine fridge, let’s compare those with the benefits you’ll gain from building a cellar.
Climate and Humidity Control
With a cellar, you have better control over the entire storage environment. Not only are you able to control the climate, but you’ll also be able to control the humidity, which is important for maintaining moisturized corks.
Allows for Different Cooling Options
You aren’t limited to just one type of cooling system with a cellar. You can install a split, through the wall, or ducted cooling system. Each of these systems have their own unique set of pros and cons that you can read about here.
Perfect for Larger Collections
Even the largest wine fridges are limited in size. However, you can build a cellar that’s substantially larger than a fridge.
Great for Long-Term Storage
Wine fridges make sense for everyday wines, but if you plan to age a wine for 2 years or more, you should invest in a cellar. These rooms are designed to protect your wine and promote proper aging.
You can design your cellar to look exactly how you'd like it to look. For example, you can lean into a romantic, old world aesthetic or you can go ultra modern with clean lines, sleek lighting, and innovative storage options. Having a cellar may even increase the value of your home, which is useful if you plan to sell in the future.
Top Things to Consider Before Building a Wine Cellar
While there are few downsides to building a cellar, you should consider the following before building:
Cellars can be expensive to build. In addition to creating an airtight room, you’ll also need to cool it with a cooling system made specifically for wine cellars. This can add up.
Building a Cellar Can Be Complicated
Building a cellar isn’t for everyone. If you’re not DIY-inclined, it’s best to hire someone else to do it for you. But that doesn’t necessarily make the process of building easy. You’ll still need to deal with construction on your home, which can be a hassle to go through.
Which Should You Choose?
Still not sure whether to go with a wine fridge or a wine cellar? Why not choose both? You can have a cellar for long term storage and a fridge for your everyday wines that you plan to consume rather quickly.
Or you can buy a wine fridge now and start building your dream cellar after you’ve maxed out the space in your fridge.
You can’t go wrong with either choice.
If you’d like tips on how to build your wine cellar, click here.