Introduction to Wine Cooler Types
The biggest mistake most wine cooler buyers make (me included when I bought my first unit!) is not to understand the range and types of wine coolers on the market. There are so many brands and choices to pick from; it’s enough to make a person go mad. Or making the wrong choice.
So hopefully, in order to save you from some of the pain, I have taken time to outline the different types of wine coolers, which hopefully will help you in your decision making process.
Wine Cooler Types By Placement
On the Counter: Counter Top Wine Coolers
Ideal for small collections and people with limited space. They fit in well in Kitchens and small home bars, and really worth buying if you don’t want to store your wine for collection, but rather cool it for drinking. Most counter top wine coolers tend to store between 4-16 bottles of wine, though some larger ones, for bigger home or even retail bars can go up to 24 bottles.
The key is to know your own wine drinking needs – if you are a regular wine drinker, and would like an easy access cooler that doesn’t take up much room, or keep wine for small home entertaining and wouldn’t like to take up too much space for wine cooling, then these may be the right choice for you.
Fixed Units: Built in Wine Coolers
As the name implies, these units are usually fixed as part of your bar or kitchen fittings and cabinets. They tend to be the priciest on the market, and are usually designed to fit in a cabinet space, pretty much like any kitchen appliance does. These are pretty good for those who have large kitchen spaces, or even better, dedicated home bars and want the units to be part of the fixtures and fittings.
However, as mentioned, they tend to be on the high end of the cost, not flexible at all, and if you are thinking of one, make sure it goes with your décor and is professionally fitted!
Built In wine coolers that fit in under your counters are also usually referred to as Undercounter wine coolers.
Stand Alone: Free Standing Wine Coolers
Probably the most popular type of coolers, these have a large range in price and choice, much more than the previous two types. As the name suggests again, these free standing units can pretty much be plugged in wherever you like. Actually counter top wine coolers are a type of free standing wine cooler.
The good thing about free standing wine coolers is that they come in a large variety of options, sizes and prices, and probably give you the largest choice based on your specific requirements. Their biggest benefit of course is the flexibility of placing them wherever you want, and the ability to change their location on a whim.
Wine Coolers by Cooling Technology
The first thing you need to understand about wine cooling technology is that the choice of cooling technology is actually more important than you think. This is especially true if you are buying wine for longer term storage or especially expensive wine that needs to be handled in the right way.
Single Zone and Dual Zone Wine Coolers
The most common cooling technology is differentiated by temperature control. Some wine coolers actually have two (and sometimes even more!) cooling zones allowing you to store than one type of wine at different temperatures. I have written a complete guide on the differences of single zone and dual zone wine coolers here.
Electric Wine Coolers (Compressor cooling systems)
If you own a refrigerator at home, then you should be able to easily understand how compressor based wine coolers work. The work pretty much like fridges, but with better temperature controls. These units come in a range of sizes, and can easily get to low cooling ranges should they need to.
Thermoelectric Wine Coolers
A fairly recent innovation, thermoelectric cooling systems are much more environmentally friendly than compressor based cooling units. They are also free of vibrations and have a low noise ratio. If you have heard the noise your refrigerator makes, then you know how annoying they can be! The big factor here is that they allow the natural sedimentation process to occur as they limit vibrations and as such are ideal for aging wine. However these units are limited in the size that they can go up to, and are not ideal for really hot climates.
Hybrid Wine Coolers
Very few manufacturers use hybrid cooling technology, using a cross between electric compressor based cooling systems and the use of thermoelectric principles. These units tend to be a bit more pricier.