A Little Everyday Luxury – Review of Two Small Wine Coolers You Can Afford to Love

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Not sure if you really need a small wine cooler?

If, like me, you enjoy lingering with friends at the dinner table, and even more so over a glass of wine, then you know how it is.  You begin by stockpiling favorite reds for the birthday party next month.  Then you sample a new Pinot Gris and buy some of that, too.  And a couple of quirky labels in a mixed case just because. 

Before you know it, the light in your refrigerator is in total eclipse by a forest of dark green bottles.  You can’t even find the milk, which is probably expired by now.

So, yes.  A small wine cooler will help keep you more attractively organized, and protect your wine investment with proper storage.  It may be a small luxury, but so is wine.  So you might as well do it right.

My Not So Cool Beginnings

My first wine fridge was an inherited EdgeStar that came stocked with 56 bottles of my Dad’s favorites—Malbec, Sangiovese, Cab Sauv, and vintage Port, which I never learned to appreciate.  I actually didn’t enjoy owning a wine fridge that big.  And can honestly say that if you serve four to six bottles a week, an 18- to 24-bottle wine fridge is all you need to keep bottles of different shapes and sizes properly stored and at the ready.

My second wine cooler was a freestanding, 18-bottle, thermoelectric Ivation with dual temperature zones.  I bought the Ivation brand on the recommendation of a sommelier at wine bar in Dallas. 

The cooling system was virtually silent and without vibration—as expected.  But to me, temps always seemed too warmI didn’t like the two-zone feature, as I always had a  few “odd man out” bottles for the available rack space within a zone.  And I REALLY didn’t like the styling, which brought to mind a late-1990s microwave I once plucked off a trash pile in a very upscale neighborhood.  I sold the Ivation to a neighbor who loved it for fifty bucks.  It’s still running two years later.  This is what it looks like.

Recently, I ended up buying a Whynter brand wine cooler from a local, and rather high-end, kitchen and patio place.  I paid almost $600 and it conked out after three months.  Cool name.  The fridge, not so much.

The 2 Wine Cooler Reviews

I did over 40 hours of research, in stores and online, and discovered that it’s hard to find consistently good reviews of wine coolers.  They’re all over the map.  There was, however, a correlation between positive reviews and smaller capacity models.  That’s good news if you’re short on space, yes?

So I dwindled this thing down to my top two picks for small spaces. Both are beautiful, with good build-outs and tight seals  (I’ve seen both in person).  Even if you’re not quite ready to make a decision, my reviews will help you clarify which features are most important to you.  Check it out below…

#1  BEST SMALL WINE FRIDGE, BUILT-IN:  EdgeStar 18-Bottle Built-In Wine Cooler

WHAT’S NOTEWORTHY

  • Front ventilation.  It can work as either a built-in or a freestanding wine cooler in a small space.
  • Single temperature setting for the entire interior, with a range of 40-65° Fahrenheit.
  • Compressor cooling system.  Considered a little noisier by some wine lovers.  Considered quicker and more accurate by me.
  • Reversible door.  Door handle can be positioned on the left or the right.  Good feature when there are space constraints.
  • 18-bottle capacity for standard 750 ml bottles. A typical Bordeaux bottle is the standard.
  • Sleek and sturdy-looking.  The styling here is beautiful, and a little on the traditional side.

What I love!  

Tinted glass door protects your wine from oxidizing UV light and unwanted heat. It also keeps the fan motor from running so often and saves a little money on energy bills.

Again, I’m a fan of the single temperature feature.  I like to store reds, whites, and rosés all at 54 degrees Fahrenheit.  Champagne goes in an ice bucket.  I take the reds out 20 minutes or so before decanting or serving.  The whites are ready to pour. 

I don’t follow a lot of wine blogs, but I’ve read scads of articles on cooking sites/mags in which professional sommeliers routinely state that they store all of their wines in the mid-50s Fahrenheit. And with two temperature zones, you might run short on space depending on the balance of reds and whites you’ve got at the time.

Versatility.  The black metal cabinet is completely finished so you can set it up as a stand alone until your contractor gets around to designing something for you.  And it might be nice to take things in steps, if you’re so inclined.

The metal racks slide out, and are trimmed in wood.  So classic!  I think wine bottles just look better on wood.

Space-saving design.  This wine cooler is just 12 inches wide; 23 inches deep without the handle, and 35 inches high.  NB: The actual dimensions are just a tiny bit smaller.  Fraction of an inch here and there.  But if you’re working with a super tight space, click here for the table that shows both nominal and actual dimensions.

Delicate interior lighting.  LOVE. love this feature!  Many reviewers complained that the lighting was “dim.”  But, again, light can be  damaging to wine—and your investment—so it’s part of thoughtful design here.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my kitchen to look like a convenience store when I shuffle in late at night needing a cup of tea.  Or any time, for that matter.

A dealbreaker for you?.. 

You have to be able to open the door all the way to pull out the shelves.  Something to consider when deciding where to install your wine fridge, especially if you’re installing it as a built-in.

The door is reversible.  GREAT feature.  But some reviewers said the handle and hinges were not attached.  Others said the wine cooler arrives with the handle attached on the left, hinges on the right.  So you may (or may not) need to have a screwdriver handy.   Just depends.

This wine fridge has a compressor cooling system.  There is also a fan that circulates interior air for even temperature.  Everyone seems to have a different tolerance to noise but, in general, this kind of cooling system makes more noise than the thermoelectric type.  I honestly don’t mind a gentle hum, and the reviews of this particular model were very favorable with regard to noise.  Still, it might be something to put on your list of considerations.

There is no child lock on the door.  This may be an issue if you have toddlers around all or some of the time.  Then again, if you DON’T have a separate wine fridge, older children could accidentally knock over bottles in your main refrigerator, causing serious potential injury—and lots of glass to clean up.

The EdgeStar is not designed or rated for outdoor use.

There is no Kosher mode.

Have a look at the EdgeStar 12-inch 18-Bottle Built-In Wine Cooler here.   It’s really quite nice!

Okay, this next wine fridge is a beauty, so please do yourself a favor and read on..

#2  BEST SMALL WINE FRIDGE, FREESTANDING – Wine Enthusiast VinoView 28-Bottle Wine Cellar

WHAT’S NOTEWORTHY

  • If you want a wine fridge that showcases your labels AND properly stores your wine, this is it!
  • Blue LED interior lighting.  Still protective of the wine, but beautifully illuminates your collection. 
  • Designed as a freestanding wine cooler.
  • State of the art compressor cooling system.  It’s a little louder than silent, but my personal fave, as opposed to thermoelectric cooling.
  • Single temperature zone.  Sommeliers do recommend a single setting in the mid 50s F for storage.
  • 28-bottle capacity for standard 750 ml bottles. A typical Bordeaux bottle is the standard.
  • Chic, modern design. Would be beautiful in black and white kitchens or rooms with dark woods.

What I love!  

This little wine fridge—or cellar as Wine Enthusiast calls it—has the look and features of a big, pricey wine cellar in a compact build at an affordable price.  Lots of bang for the buck.

Double-pane black glass door with UV protection.  Metal cabinet is black.  Door trim is black stainless and has a gunmetal look.  This is a very chic, very sleek little wine fridge that I was excited to find. 

Space-saving design.  The VinoView holds 28 standard Bordeaux bottles in a compact profile of 17″W x 18.9″D x 32.7″H.  Perfect if you serve four to six bottles a week on a regular basis, but entertain every month.  Obviously, if you’re storing odd-shaped or bigger bottles, your capacity will be reduced.

A dealbreaker for you?..

Racks are made entirely of black metal wire (no wood) and slide out 50%.  This is a feature you either love or hate based on personal preference, so.

Plan accordingly.  The freestanding VinoView is not front ventilated, and you’ll need some venting clearance around the sides and back.  Refer to the Owner’s Manual for specifics.  I’ve often seen 6-inch clearance recommendations from the back of the wine fridge to the wall.

The door opens from the left, the hinges are on the right.  So the door swings to the right.  Make sure this works for the space you’re planning to use it in.  The “handle” is not really a handle, it’s the left door trim.  Good, space saving, flush design.

There is no child lock on the door.  Something to consider if you have toddlers around all or some of the time.

The VinoView is not designed or rated for outdoor use.

There is no Kosher mode.

If you have a low tolerance to noise, remember this is a compressor cooling system, though Wine Enthusiast describes it as “state of the art.”  It’s a little louder than virtually-silent thermoelectric cooling, though I simply cannot raise a glass to thermoelec.  It just never seemed to hit the proper temps, in my experience.

Check out the Wine Enthusiast VinoView 28-Bottle Wine Cellar here.  You’ll be very happy you did.

SUMMING it all up in 10 Quick Points

We’ve been reviewing the merits and pitfalls of the EdgeStar 18-Bottle Built-In Wine Cooler and the Wine Enthusiast VinoView 28-bottle Freestanding Wine CellarHere is your ten-point cheat-sheet for clear, swift decision making.

EdgeStar 18-Bottle
Wine Fridge
WineEnthusiast VinoView
28-Bottle Wine Cellar
1The EdgeStar has stainless trim and
more traditional styling.
The VinoView has black stainless
trim and chic, modern styling.
2The EdgeStar has delicate interior
lighting. 
The VinoView has eye-catching
blue LED interior lighting.
3The EdgeStar has front ventilation.The VinoView does NOT, and
requires venting clearance.
4The EdgeStar can be built in or freestanding. The VinoView is freestanding ONLY.
5The EdgeStar has a single temperature
setting.
The VinoView also has a single
temperature setting.
6The EdgeStar displays the ends of bottles.The VinoView features side-view
display, showcasing your labels.
7The EdgeStar has a reversible door.The VinoView opens from the left;
the hinges are on the right.
8The EdgeStar has an 18-bottle capacity.The VinoView has a 28-bottle capacity.
9The EdgeStar has a tinted glass door
with UV protection.
The VinoView has a black double-
pane glass door with UV protection.
10The EdgeStar has wood-trimmed wire
slide-out racks.
The VinoView has wire racks that
slide out 50%.

One more sip before I go...

If you really want to know what thermoelectric cooling is, click here and see what Wikipedia has to say.

Okay, I don’t want to be a pest, but remember that wine coolers make excellent gifts! That said, if you’re not ready to make such a big splash, make a beautiful little one instead with this lead-free, hand-blown glass carafe. I especially like this one because its shape is a modern classic that suits a wide range of bar and tableware styles. It’s sized to properly aerate the standard 750 ml bottle. AND it comes with two accessories: a little cork stopper for dining al fresco (think gnats and flies), and steel cleaning beads to keep this decanter crystal clear. This is THE perfect hostess and housewarming gift.

Oh, I almost forgot!  Check out this YouTube video of the ArmchairBuilder installing a wine fridge/bar in a dead space between two columns.  He’s got excellent ideas for homes and budgets of all sizes.  Note that his wine fridge is NOT front-ventilated. 

Maybe you’ve got some dead space under a stairway, or a weird nook near the dining room?  What about that long-defunct trash compactor that still languishes under the counter?  Explore the possibilities over a nice glass of traditional Sangiovese and some buttery cheese.  And even if you can’t find the space, you’ll still enjoy the process.

À votre santé!

Mari

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