Wines come with a range of flavors, textures, colors and of course, prices. Now if you’re a true wine aficionado you’d probably have a good many rare bottles that you’ve procured using significant sums of money and time.
To safeguard such investment from yielding tasteless vinegar in the long run, you’ve probably contemplated purchasing a wine refrigerator.
While each cooler has its own USPs, the “ideal” cooler would be able to combine many specialities in a manner that not only keeps wine in good shape, but aids in the vital ageing process.
Ideal Temperature For A Wine Refrigerator
Each cooler comes with a set of temperature specifications that provide a broad idea of the extent of cooling the product can achieve. While this may tell you whether you can store your favourite sparkling wine in it, it won’t give any indication of the effectiveness of the cooling. Like all refrigerators, wine coolers rely on convection and conduction to lower the temperature uniformly across all racks.
Again like all refrigerators, some do a good job of achieving uniformity while others do not. Since wines are meant to age at a certain temperature, good cooling would ensure that the ageing process proceeds normally, resulting in the wine acquiring flavors it is meant to.
Furthermore, a good wine refrigerator should not suffer from extreme temperature fluctuations. In fact, any and all such fluctuations should not exceed a total of 2 degrees Fahrenheit per day.
Good rack Design
Users often assume that all cooler racks or trays would have the same quality since they all look the same. Barring the rare case of a rickety rack, such assumptions are most often proved wrong by racks that are made of inferior materials (or loosely attached to the cooler walls) and hence prone to bending, sagging, etc. when wine bottles are placed on them. Apart from making the bottles more prone to dislocation and damage, such racks can cause uneven cooling leading to poor maturation.
On the other hand, racks which are sturdy, perfectly parallel to the base of the cooler and come with special grooves for holding the bottles securely contribute to even ageing that proceeds neither too fast nor too slowly. Further, by ensuring that the bottle is always in a perfectly horizontal position, the rack prevents the cork from drying out and thus allowing air to enter the bottle.
Power, size, lighting and noise
Given that refrigerators for wines follow the same principles as ordinary refrigerators, a good proxy for measuring the cooling capability of a unit is its wattage or power rating. Ordinarily, these would not be very different from those for ordinary refrigerators of similar size and similar features.
While we’ve discussed the ideal sizes elsewhere, it is important to add that whatever the capacity, the bottles must never touch each other inside the unit. Bottles that are in contact will undergo uneven cooling and this can affect their taste and of course – their labels.
Equally important is lighting – wines are not meant to be exposed to lights containing UV elements as this causes the organic compounds to degenerate rapidly. Yet it is not possible to make out a vintage white from a new sparkling product in utter darkness. Good coolers come with low intensity lights that possess minimal UV components to ensure visibility without destroying the ideal chemical structure of the liquid.
Last but not least, good units should produce minimal noise. Oftentimes, high noise indicates that the cooler is vibrating and as sommeliers will tell you, vibrations can interfere in the ageing process. Even if vibrations are low, there is no reason why the price of a good glass of wine should be months of aural assault.
It would be wrong to say that the wine refrigerator is made perfect if it ticks all of the above boxes. Aspects like humidity are harder to measure and control and for this reason, have not been included above.
Even if we consider such variables though, it would be safe to assume that a good wine fridge would be able to provide the ideal environments for cooling and maturing of wine if it manages to balance these without pushing the price through the roof.