Wine Cooler, Anyone?

No, I don’t mean a Bartles and Jaymes Strawberry Wine Cooler from a carry-out outside the university. You should not buy those under ANY circumstances. They were good commercials, though, right?

As for a wine keeper, wine refrigerator, wine cellar, wine cabinet – whatever you want to call it – yes, you should, if you drink wine and keep more than a few bottles on hand at a time.

Until I built my own wine cellar when we remodeled our basement, I had a 200-bottle wine cabinet, about the size of an average refrigerator. It was a single temperature model that I kept at 57 degrees, perfect for storing and preserving almost any wine. Of course, I needed to let the bottle warm just a bit (but not quite down to actual room temp) before serving if it was a red, and I chilled it just a bit more (but please, not to refrigerator temperature) if it was a white. Champagnes got a bit more chilling. You can get cabinets that have several temperature zones and hold as many as 1000 or more bottles, but when you’re diving in those waters it makes sense to build a real cellar in your, er, cellar.

The point is, a wine storage unit is a good investment, and wine storage units can be had for under $100 these days, holding as few as 12 bottles, and you can get one at Target, or Wal-Mart or Costco.

These small units are ideal if you live in an apartment and have limited space, or want a counter-top unit for the kitchen or bar. You can also get waist-high units that are permanently mounted under the counter.

Some hints:

  • If it’s an option, get the glass door so that you can see your little friends and enjoy the anticipation of drinking them!
  • Keep a row or two at the bottom for wine you want to “lay down” (save) for a special occasion, some date in the future such as an anniversary, or just because it’s an extraordinary wine that will age well and perhaps grow in value. Tag these wines “SAVE” so neither you nor a guest accidentally opens them.
  • Buy a bigger unit, say, 36 bottles, rather than, say 24, if there’s any possibility, however slight, that you’ll want or need to store more wine. You don’t want to have to buy a second unit, do you? And the marginal cost of buying bigger is probably a no-brainer.
  • Don’t splurge on a multi-temp unit unless you really want to spend the money. A unit that keeps all your wine at 55-59 degrees works for everything, really.
  • The main thing is, these units keep wine at a constant, cool temp, protected from harsh light, and free of vibration. The better ones (and most of the cheaper ones, too, via the a/c compressor) also keep an acceptable level of humidity.