Built-in wine refrigerators offer the perfect solution to wine lovers looking for a way to safely store their bottles without breaking up the continuity of their home décor. A whole range of models exists to suit anyone’s wine storage needs, from the casual drinker to the serious collector. With so many options, settling on the right product can be a long process.
Your wine collection is extremely important to you. Many oenophiles even have financial investments riding on the performance of their wine refrigerator.
It is essential to find the right product to suit your needs. Our guide to selecting the perfect built-in wine cooler can help any wine lover with this important decision.
Our Top Picks
Note: these are our picks for tall built-in wine refrigerators. For smaller built-in units that fit under the counter, check out our top under-counter wine cooler recommendations.
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Single or dual-zone
The very first question to ask yourself when choosing the right built-in wine cabinet, is whether you need a single or dual-zone cooler.
Most wine consumers enjoy both red and whites and thus select a dual-zone cooler. This is the better choice for most, but for those who drink red wine nearly exclusively, a single-zone unit can be the best choice.
For these red drinkers, their regular fridge may suffice for the occasional white or magnum bottle that they will drink. Consumers should be aware though, that just because they don’t drink much white, doesn’t mean they won’t want to keep a few bottles of sparkling around for special occasions.
Choosing the right capacity
Built-ins come in a wide range of sizes, meaning that whatever your capacity needs, there will be various choices to select from. You should be aware that the manufacturer-claimed capacity is for the slender, high-shouldered Bordeaux bottles typical of Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc. Wider bottles such as Burgundies, as well as most sparkling wines will take up more space.
Stocking your wine cabinet can require some mixing and matching to ensure the best efficiency of space. This is common to all coolers and should not be seen as a drawback.
Most wine collectors will enjoy working with their bottles. For the majority of wine drinkers, their actual number of bottles fitting in their built-in shouldn’t be too far under the unit’s claimed capacity. However, it’s best to account for this before selecting and purchasing.
To be safe, figure in a cushion for overage, so if you think you will want to store around 100 bottles, it may be best to select a 120 bottle cabinet. Also, a wine drinker’s passion for wine tends to grow rather than dwindle, and their storage needs usually grow with it. It’s best to try and anticipate your future space needs when deciding on the right model.
Buying from a reputable manufacturer is always recommended, and that goes double for big-ticket items such as these. Look for warranty information and find out what is covered and what is not.
The quality of the shelves is crucial to proper functioning of a wine cooler. Anyone looking to purchase a built-in for their home would be well-advised to pay attention to this information.
Shelves should slide smoothly and easily in and out, either on steel rollers or ball bearings. Jerking motions or excessive bounce can disturb the sediments in wines.
Certain purists believe that only wooden shelves are acceptable, as metal ones can cause wines to cool below optimal temperatures where the shelf contacts the bottle. This is probably not something you need to worry about unless you are spending five figures on 1945 vintage Bordeaux.
Doors can be glass to let wine lovers admire their bottles, or opaque to protect them from any light. Glass should be tinted and UV protected. Ultraviolet rays are wine’s worst enemy.
Built-ins generally have reversible doors, but you should make sure this is the case before buying. Available spaces for built-ins often dictate that the door open one way only.
Some units will have locking doors, while others will not. You should consider your needs before purchasing. Wine coolers intended for bar or restaurant use, or those in homes with young children or teenagers should be lockable.
LED lights are the most common, and the best for wine coolers. Halogens generate heat that can damage nearby wines and run up the electric bill. Fluorescent lights produce low-level UV rays that can damage wines in the long term. It’s best to make sure your chosen unit has LED lighting, or none at all.
A wine lover’s collection is precious, and due to the nature of wine, fragile. As such it is important to store all of your bottles properly. A lot will factor into the decision about what type of built-in to buy.
Anyone investing in a wine cabinet will want to carefully weigh their options, read reviews, and purchase from a reputable manufacturer. Taking the time to make the right decision will pay off for you in the long term. A fine wine collection is surely worth it.