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Wine Cabinets & Chillers: Freestanding and Undercounter Basics

Storing wine in any space is affordable with a wine cabinet or chiller.

You don't have to be among the elite to collect and store vintage wines. Even those bottles that arrive at home ready to drink deserve proper storage. If you're buying by the case, now is the time to shop around for the perfect wine chiller, cooler, or cabinet to meet your needs. (Please scroll down for rest of article.)


The exciting news is that coolers and chillers are available at all price levels and sizes. You'll find countertop models for 6 bottles and under-the-counter units for 50 or more. A cabinet is an even better choice if you have room and plan to start collecting. As with other home storage accessories, it's always a good idea to purchase a larger size than you think you'll need. Once you realize how great it is to own a wine storage unit, you'll find those bargains calling you from among the racks at the store.

A Need for the Right Wine Storage

Of course, you need the right storage and that's not on the floor of the closet. Just because a space is cooler and protected from sunlight doesn't mean it maintains a perfect temperature. Even worse, it's not a good setting for the humidity required to keep wine tasting like it's supposed to - whether that's over time or in the course of the next few weeks. The fridge is also not an ideal environment with temperature variances when the door opens or when you add food that's still warm from the oven. Refrigerators don't have the proper humidity controls, either.

Different Types of Wine Storage

Keep in mind the basic differences between wine "chillers" and wine cellars. The latter is designed to maintain perfect temperatures for long-term storage. These let wines continue aging in hopes that the grapes will develop new and rich flavors. A wine refrigerator (or cooler or chiller) is for the benefit of bringing wines to proper serving temperatures. These make it simple to pull out your favorite red, white, or sparkling wine for dinner.

The nice thing about chillers is you can set the temperature for either reds or white or, sometimes, both. When shopping, though, decide which you'll be drinking more of as most have more storage racks for one or the other. The main point, in any case, is to choose for the ability to position bottles correctly on their sides and avoid vibration that may stir up the sediment in reds.

The smallest units can sit on a countertop or in the bar area. The smallest units hold six bottles. Many of these feature thermo-electric cooling systems that are energy efficient and quiet. Models go up from there in size with freestanding units that will hold a few or dozens pf bottles. Some undercabinet wine chillers are designed to fit into the spaces formerly occupied by trash compactors. Built-ins are also dishwasher sized. These are front-vented so you don't have to worry about providing extra space around them for airflow; only hookup. Those that are vented to the back can also be freestanding, but they'll need a few inches of space surrounding them for operation. Some chillers are not designed to completely eliminate temperature variations or vibrations. If you're worried about that, it's time to step up to a wine cabinet.

Choosing a freestanding wine cabinet is a bit different, since it's designed to provide longer-term protection. These can be utilitarian if placed out of sight or incorporated as a piece of furniture with beautiful wood casing in traditional and contemporary styles. Some of them feature temperature zones for chilling, but generally, they're intended to decrease the chance of losing a good-tasting wine over the course of months. They're pricier, obviously, but are a true joy to own.

When shopping for any wine chiller or cabinet, it's wise to look at a unit in person. Noise while the unit is running can be a factor. That may be difficult to determine in a busy store, however. Remember, too, that some wines come in larger-than-standard sized bottles, so you'll want to find a rack that can accommodate plenty of both. Research and read customer reviews when possible - and heed them.

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