Uniformity of temperature is a wine-storing essential—wine can degrade when stored in a spot with wide temperature swings. Ideal storage temperatures depend on the density of the wine. Sparkling wines, whites, and reds are best stored from 45º to 60º F. Single-compartment cellars let cool air sink within the container to create different zones, but more manufacturers are opting for separate compartments within the units, which allow you to store your wine at different temperatures. Most of the models excelled at maintaining uniform temperatures, according to the thermometers we installed within the units.
- Take a Close Look at Shelving
We liked the way the coated-wire racks on one model lifted quickly and easily out of the wooden-faced shelves when fully extended. As with many other top scorers, the entire shelf units remove easily to create storage compartments for larger bottles. The shelves on another chiller were not removable and did not extend fully but boasted oval openings and an additional plastic insert to hold wider bottles snugly and protect their labels. Other chillers have shelves with narrowly spaced slats that limit capacity and allow bottles to slide about, bump each other, and angle upward to block the drawer opening.
A noisy wine chiller can be a concern if it will be placed near living areas. The level of vibration was almost too low for our tests to measure, but we did find that louder models showed greater vibration. Whether that level is bad is open to debate; wine is a liquid, and every molecule is moving much faster than any motion imparted by vibration from a cellar.
- Don't Disregard Energy Use
Wine chillers are not particularly efficient and are not part of the federal government's Energy Star program. While the temperatures setting that you choose will increase or decrease your energy use, some models in our tests used more than twice as much as others and almost as much as an 18-cubic-foot refrigerator.
- Consider These Other Features
Many models offer digital temperature controls that you can access without opening the door, which helps keep temperatures even more consistent. The settings for red wine and white wine on one model also cut out some guesswork. Other models had water bins to maintain a high enough humidity level so that corks and labels don't dry out. Also look at integrated locks to prevent visitors from pilfering your prize vintages, tinted-glass doors that protect your wine from ultraviolet light, and adjustable interior lighting and tilt-up shelves to display your prized bottles or to store partially full ones. Some wine chillers have wooden shelf edges that you can stain to match your cabinets; others can accept a custom-cabinet frame. Others allow you to insert strips of molding that match your cabinetry around the glass door.