The WSJ does an admittedly unscientific but very interesting study to see what works best, a $500 "wine chller" or no formal storage at all. Although they didn't take into account the elaborate temperature and humidity-controlled wine cellar rooms that are on the market, the impression one comes away with is that they are more for show than anything else -- any incremental gains from such a setup are probably negligible:
I draw a few lessons from this: Wine, it turns out, is pretty tough. Second, there's no guarantee that a wine store or restaurant is doing any better than I am at home.
When I was selecting our wine fridge (a 220 bottle unit in dark cherry from Vinocraft) I developed a few simple rules to help narrow down the purchase options:
- Where will the fridge be stored -- in full view (as furniture) or out of sight (in the garage)? This is the most important question, since it drives all the other decisions around color, windows, etc. Consider how hot it gets in that room or garage since this can significantly increase your electricity bill to keep the fridge cool. In our case, we store it way out of sight in a big closet (with adequate ventilation) in a very cool part of the house next to the garage.
- If it will be stored out in the open, definitely spend the extra money for a super-quiet fan. Until you stand next to them, you have no idea how some of these fans can resemble the sound of a jet engine -- you don't want that in your dining room.
- Be realistic about the size of fridge you need. If you are moving up from the 10-bottle wine rack in your kitchen (even if it was always full), you probably don't need a 500+ bottle ultra-premium wine fridge unless you plan on devoting a serious portion of your disposable income to building a collection.
- Accessories you need: an interior light and an exterior lock. Adjustable racks for different size bottles are a nice option if available.
- Accessories you don't need: pricey dual-humidity controls, windows, fancy wood trim and handles. It's a fridge after all -- you want to show off what you pull out from inside of it, not the fridge itself.
That's about it -- good luck and enjoy stocking your new purchase!