Entry-Level Wine Coolers
Frigidaire makes a wine cooler that checks in at $299.99 for the single-zone version and $499.99 for the dual-zone variety. Whether this is a good deal or not depends entirely upon how invested you are in your wine collecting hobby.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you spent money on the wine, spend money on the wine refrigerator.
Most people looking to buy a dedicated wine refrigerator have already sunk a significant investment into their wine collection. You own vintages you’d like to preserve for the long haul, which requires temperature, humidity and vibration controls not available on entry-level models.
Valuable collections deserve a state-of-the-art storage solution.
On the other hand, you might be the kind of wine hobbyist who owns a nice selection of 1-2 dozen varietals to pair with meals, and could use a convenient way to display them behind glass for easy serving access. You don’t need all the bells and whistles if your wine refrigerator is going to be more of a temporary stopover between grocery store and dinner table.
In that case, there’s nothing wrong with an entry-level wine refrigerator like the options from Frigidaire. Both feature a reversible glass door and digital temperature controls, with the $499 version sporting two temperature zones (for red and white wines).
It’s important to note that the entry-level Frigidaire wine coolers are freestanding units — they don’t build in to your countertops, like the models below. That will provide less of a professionally designed look, but affords more versatility when choosing where to place the unit in your home.
Built-In Undercounter Wine Refrigerators (15″ & 24″)
Danby: $759 – $1199
Danby is a strong value brand: they make their bread by selling the most affordable wine storage on the market. The sheer number of configurations in the $759-$1199 price range alone makes Danby competitive:
- professional design with glass door
- reversible single or double door configuration
- single or dual zone refrigeration (separate temperatures for red and white wines)
- 15″ ($759+) or 24″ ($1099+) units
Marvel & U-Line: $1359 – $2799
For the mid-market price range, we like to recommend the introductory models from two specialty brands: Marvel and U-Line. Both have been around for decades (Marvel since 1932, U-Line since 1962), and both have specialized in undercounter refrigeration since their inception.
When I say “specialty brand,” I’m referring to companies that focus on undercounter units and don’t feature full-size refrigerators in their product line. These brands focus all of their product development resources in the undercounter market — unlike, say, Danby or Sub-Zero — and work to make high-end wine preservation more affordable.
What kind of return do you get for the extra investment?
- A higher BTU compressor. A more powerful compressor makes for more accurate temperature control. It also affects how quickly the unit’s internal temperature re-stabilizes after the door has been opened.
- UV-safe glass filters out light pollution, which is the enemy of long-term wine preservation. Danby imitates this feature with tinted glass doors, but they’re more for design than function.
- Dedicated humidity control systems, responsible for creating 20-30% more internal humidity.
- This is the entry price point for wine cabinets that allow you to overlay a custom panel to match the design of your kitchen.
Both lines are incredibly competitive up and down this price range. I favor Marvel’s clean stainless aesthetics slightly more, but that comes down to a matter of personal preference. From a functional perspective, U-Line operates a little bit quieter because of the way the compressor is suspended and bolted inside the unit.
It’s basically a toss-up in this price range between two competing specialty brands with great products – if trust your gut (and your design sense), it’s hard to go wrong here.
Sub-Zero & True: $2125 – $3799
Not surprisingly, Sub-Zero (king of the integrated refrigerator market) makes some of the best wine refrigerators around. The heavy-duty, sealed construction is engineered to reduce vibrations and retain humidity for a stable wine storage environment.
The high-grade componentry extends the life of the product, as well as the length of its warranty.
Sub-Zero wine refrigerators also boast a unique feature: they can connect with your home alarm system. If you own an especially valuable wine collection, the extra peace of mind from that feature alone could tip the scales in Sub-Zero’s favor.
We also started carrying True Manufacturing within the last quarter. True was a dominant commercial vendor for decades before entering the high-end residential market. Like Marvel and U-Line, True specializes exclusively in undercounter refrigeration, and it shows in the construction of the line.
True’s entire product line is outdoor rated, and their wine refrigerators have the largest temperature range in the category: 40° to 65°. Tri-color track lighting even lets you adjust the look of the unit to match the mood when you entertain guests. We profiled True’s product line here last month – check it out for a more in-depth review.