Cellars or wine coolers?

A number of customers that I meet at the store ask me the difference between a wine cellar and a wine cooler. First, you have to know the intended use and approximately how many bottles you wish to place inside it. Some people just want to keep their wine bottles at the right temperature for drinking while others want to allow their wines to mature over an extended period of time.

To begin, it is important to determine the difference between the two types of units so that you can make the best choice for your needs.

Wine coolers

A wine cooler is in fact a small refrigerator that allows you to maintain your wine at the perfect temperature for serving and drinking. Furthermore, you should know that coolers are a little noisier and vibrate more than cellars, which are equipped with anti-vibration systems. Some coolers use compressors while others are built with a thermo-electric system. The difference between these two cooling systems is that the compressor is more reliable than the thermo-electric system, but a little noisier because of the vibrations often caused by the compressor. Additionally, the lifespan of a compressor system is usually longer than a unit using thermo-electric cooling which does not often last more than 5 years. The location of the unit in your house can also have an impact on your choice.  Coolers require space all around in order to allow the system to breath. As for cellars, they are equipped with a vent on the bottom that enables the unit to be built-in, requiring no space on the sides. So, if you’re looking for a built-in look, your choice will certainly lean towards a cellar. Wine coolers can also contain fewer bottles than a wine cellar. In general, coolers can carry between 10 and 40 bottles whereas cellars, depending on the brands and models, can stock approximately 30 to 200 bottles.

Cellars

Cellars are designed to have maximum control of the various factors that allow wine to mature. There are four main factors to take into consideration when looking to mature a good wine without affecting its taste. First, the temperature must remain constant as wine does not handle fluctuations in temperature well.  The ideal temperature ranges between 10°C and 16°C.  The temperature control on a wine cellar is, therefore, more accurate than one on a wine cooler, avoiding any changes to your preciously maturing wine. The second very important factor is the degree of humidity.  Most of the better quality wine bottles are still closed with corks whereas the more popular wines are now using plastic stoppers. If the air is too dry, the cork will shrink, allowing oxygen to permeate inside the bottle more easily and causing the wine to oxidise. On the contrary, if the humidity level is too high, it could damage the labels and in some cases, could even cause mold to for form on the cork. The best level of humidity ranges between 60% and 80%.  Cellars come equipped with systems that will maintain the humidity level just right. The third factor to consider is light as wine is sensitive to light and more specifically, to ultraviolet rays. This is the reason why manufacturers of wine cellars use UV-treated glass.  The last important factor is the position of the bottles and the vibrations. Bottles must be placed horizontally in order to prevent the cork from drying and ensure that the bottle remains sealed.  There should be as little vibration as possible as vibrations cause certain particles to remain in suspension inside the bottle, thus deteriorating the aromas of the wine itself. The compressors on wine cellars are therefore mounted on pads that will help to absorb the vibrations and by the same token, reduce the noise caused by the unit’s motor.

This, in general, summarizes the various features and different uses for wine cellars versus wine coolers. Hoping that this information is useful to you when it comes time for you to purchase a wine cooler or cellar, Salute!

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