It’s sad to see how many websites perpetuate myths about wine storage just to convince consumers that only the most expensive wine coolers/cellars/fridges can prevent fine wines from turning to vinegar overnight. Unfortunately, the truth is far less motivating. Below we discuss the basics of typical wine storage – i.e., wine held for personal consumption rather than speculation – and to help clear up some of the rampant confusion so new enthusiasts can make sensible, cost-effective buying decisions.
Terminology – Wine Coolers, Fridges, Cellars, Etc.
Wine Cooler vs. Wine Cellar – What’s the Difference? We see lots of blogs and other websites that attempt to define and separately categorize wine coolers, wine cellars, and wine refrigerators – as if they can be systematically differentiated. In most cases, however, you will notice that despite saying and assuming that they are distinct, the author can’t actually articulate any meaningful way to distinguish them. And when the do, most websites attempt to categorize wine “cellars” based on vague notions of price class, by calling them “high-end” wine coolers. That defines nothing, since prices vary along a continuum.
In other cases, the attempted distinction is more concrete but just as arbitrary – e.g., some say wine cellars must have humidity control. But this is also not helpful, since even the most basic wine fridges can come with, or be fitted with, some form of humidity control system, such as a simple tray of water. Finally, a third so-called definition that we typically see is that wine cellars are supposedly designed for more “long term” storage. But this too is impossibly vague and unhelpful, since most wine coolers/fridges are designed to maintain proper long term storage temperatures. So as long as the fridge or cooler holds up over the long term, then it can function for long term storage. There’s no fundamental difference as to how they go about maintaining temperatures, since cheaper wine fridges and expensive “cellars” alike all use the same types of cooling machinery (compressors or thermoelectric systems).
Simply put, wine coolers, wine fridges, wine cellars or any other temperature-controlled boxes/cabinets are all designed to do the same thing: maintain wine at optimal storage temperatures, generally around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Some can also chill whites to their proper service temperature (but that has nothing to do with storage). Of course, these units may vary greatly in their reliability and quality, but this generally has nothing to do with whether they are marketed as wine cellars versus wine coolers.
Please note that when we talk about long term storage, for most consumers, this normally means up to five years, typically much less. So if your fridge/cooler/cellar can function properly and reliably during this period, it can by this definition store wine “long term.” If you plan on storing wine longer than this, and your cooler/cellar has been running well so far, go for it. However, if you are storing fine wine as an investment, or are keeping ultra-expensive wine that you are passionate about, forget about storing your own wine altogether – put your best wine in a professional storage facility and only keep in your cooler the wine you intend to consume!
Maintain Proper Wine Storage Temperature
There is no question that temperature is the most crucial storage consideration of them all. But the decision as to which temperature is best couldn’t be simpler, and we are stunned by all of the misinformation that exists.
Store All of Your Wine at Around 55 Degrees Fahrenheit
The consensus among the most respected wine organizations is that the best storage temperature – for both red and white wines – is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s it! And no you don’t have to maintain this temperature exactly, a few degrees above or below this is fine. Don’t make the rookie mistake of confusing storage temperature with service temperature, which does differ between reds and whites.