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Wine Fridge Vs. Regular Fridge

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 at 9:02:18 AM
by David L., Wine Enthusiast Companies

12 Bottle Wine FridgeI don’t make a habit of scoping out the contents of people’s refrigerators, but when I’m asked to “help myself,” I notice things. One of the things I observe occasionally is a bottle or two of white wine. I rarely see a bottle of red in a fridge. Maybe it’s because people think reds don’t have to be refrigerated. Reds actually require the same storage environment as whites, one that’s a cool 53-57°F with 55-70% humidity. (For more on wine storage temperature, read Wine Storage Misconceptions: The Truth About Your Reds and Whites.) In any case, there is wine being stored in regular refrigerators all around the world, I’m sure. That’s why I’m writing this post; not to pronounce any “rights” or “wrongs” about what folks put in their fridges, but merely to point out the differences between everyday refrigerators and wine refrigerators or wine cellars, and what those differences mean to the storing of wine.

Temperature, humidity, and vibration are the key distinguishing factors between conventional refrigerators and wine refrigerators. Without delving into the fascinating world of evaporator coils and sensors, it’s easy just to say that a regular fridge is designed to drop temperature rapidly and drive out humidity, whereas a wine refrigerator/cellar is designed to lower temperature gradually and maintain a level of humidity conducive to wine storage. Essentially, they have two different functions. An everyday fridge is made to keep a wide variety of perishables cold and dry, so salad, bread, baloney, and beer all live happily together in an average temperature of 40°F—too cold for the fragile makeup of your wine, and too dry to keep corks moist. Why is it important to keep corks moist? A soy-stained carton of leftover Chinese may be one answer.

Prevailing odors, in addition to cold and dry conditions, can adversely affect wine in a regular refrigerator. It’s possible to get a hint of Kung Pao Shrimp in your Pinot Noir if left on the same shelf too long. How could this happen? If the cork in your Pinot bottle shrinks and becomes porous, due to the lack of humidity, and lets surrounding odors seep into your wine. Remember, conventional refrigerators are made to suppress humidity, not sustain it. High-quality wine cellars such as EuroCave are engineered to maintain ideal humidity levels so corks stay moist and impermeable, not allowing air to seep in and spoil the wine.

Another “enemy of wine” present in conventional refrigerators is vibration. Unlike thermoelectric wine refrigerators, all-purpose refrigerators run on compressors which cause vibrations that interrupt wine’s maturation process, not to mention make a mechanized racket. Some wine cellars and non-thermoelectric wine refrigerators run on compressors too, but they have a special vibration absorption system to reduce the impact of tremors and noise, allowing wine to mature at a natural pace.

Well, I hope I’ve been able to clear up some things regarding refrigerated wine storage. While it’s not a mortal sin to store wine in a kitchen refrigerator, it’s not the most ideal environment either, particularly for long-term storage. If you’ve been wondering all along what the difference is between a wine refrigerator or a wine cellar, read Hmm, Refrigerator or Cellar? Here’s something I’ve been wondering: Do most people really store reds outside of a refrigerated environment? Post a comment if you wish to share your insights on this. Thanks for reading!

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15 Responses to “Wine Fridge Vs. Regular Fridge”

  1. Question: If refrigerators are made to drive out humidity, wouldn’t it be better to store your wines outside then? What’s most important, temperature or humidity? (If you have to choose)

    This from a non wino looking to learn… ;-)

  2. To the comment above: I don’t think it’s one or the other, you want the best of both. Perfect humidity doesn’t do you any good if the temperature is 75-80 degrees. :) On the other hand, humidity is less of a concern if you are not storing wine for long periods. I don’t know how long a fridge would take to dry out a cork. Maybe 8-12 months? But, the other problem with the fridge for long-term storage is the vibration. You can store an open bottle of white wine in the fridge for a week or so without any problems.

    We love our thermoelectric wine refrigerator! We decided on the 35 Bottle Vino View from Wine Enthusiast for our “cozy” apartment. We didn’t have a good place to store wine since the closet we would have used had ductwork from the furnace behind the wall so it was too warm. The summertime temp fluctuations are easily 20 degrees between night and day, and 15-17 degrees in the winter (we turn the thermostat down at night). We wanted a small wine cellar so our wine could be kept at a constant (and ideal) temp. The only complaint we have now is: We should have bought a larger one!

  3. 3 George (Wine Storage Consultant) said:

    Henre as stated above a consistant temperature, around 55-57 degrees, and humidity, 50-80 %, are ideal. A standard refrigerator is going to be much cooler and this will slow down the natural maturation process. In terms of humidity, a standard refrigerator does tend to dry out the air and if you are storing wine for more than a year the corks will begin to dry out and shrink, air will then enter the bottle and the wine will begin to spoil. If you are looking for a small unit we have many to choose from, 6-50 bottle capacity, that will do a great job for you. If you’re looking for anything larger I would recommend our Eurocave models that will accomodate from approximately 54-200 bottles. Cheers!

  4. I collect wine bottle labels. How can you easily remove labels from used bottles?

  5. @Chris R, we sell a product called a Label Saver which will help you remove labels:

  6. Fridges are for food, so cellar cabinets or wine fridges are best for wine. When wine is stored properly it tastes better and it lasts longer.

  7. Can anybody recommend a small wine cooler we had a 6 bottle Kenmore that lasted less than a year. I am now looking at a Chambrer 7 bottle tower cooler but have read nothing but bad reviews! I am looking for one that cools well is quiet and takes up very little space.

  8. I am a newbie to the wine world, and have been looking for answers to two questions I have. Maybe someone can help me. The first question is: Wha is the best position for storing wine? I notice that “caves” and cellars usually store them on a horizontal plain or a slight upward angle. Is it bad to store wine upright? My second (well, technically third) question is: I don’t currently have the funds neccessary to purchase a wine fridge currently, but I have purchased some bottles that I intend to store for a limited amount of time. I currently have them in a wine “case” box from the winery I purchased it from. Is this going to effect the wine or no? I would appreciate anyone who could help me with this. Thanks

  9. Hi James, the best position for storing wine is horizontal which keeps the corks moist. Some cellars use a slightly upward angle which allows for the labels to be viewed more easily.

    I would not recommend storing wine upright for the long-term, as the cork will dry out and you’ll have a big mess when you finally decide to open the bottle!

    Rather than keeping the wine in a case, invest in a small wine rack that will store the wine horizontally. You can buy one for under $20. Here is a helpful link where you’ll find some:

  10. Erika, Thank you for the information. I will definitely have to purchase one of those. I just don’t want to open a couple of higher dollar bottles i purchased to find out they had turned to vinegar or went “bad”. Now, sill storing them in my basement hurt the wine? It is approximately 60 degrees down there. Thank you again.

  11. @James, 60 degrees is a good temperature for storage, so your basement should be fine.

  12. I just purchased and plugged in my Wine Enthusiast 18 bottle refrigerator. We’ve got it in our kitchen, which has plenty of natural light. Is that a problem — will the glass door of the fridge keep out UV light?

  13. I absolutely agree that a Wine Cave or Wine Fridge does make a substantial difference to the taste of wine, especially if it is stored for a while. It just tastes smoother and more full bodied.

  14. is there a point to trying to store wine bought from a store/grocery store when you dont know how long it’s been on the shelf there? how do you know if a wine is already spoiled?

  15. If you are a wine collector, you’ll say that wine fridges are the best storage for your wines. This will cost you money if you’re buying wine but it will satisfy the wine enthusiast in you. Just look for the best buy among the fridges in the market and spend wisely.

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