Wine coolers are a refrigeration unit which is designed to maintain wine at their optimum storage or serving temperatures. In order to be classified as a wine cooler, they need to prove that they can manage: temperature, humidity, light and vibrations.
A wine cooler will maintain the temperature in the cabinet to between +/- 2°C, in practice the wine coolers cooling system will kick in when the temperature reaches 2°C above the set temperature and turn off when it reaches 2°C below the set temperature. In order to maintain the temperature of the wine, the average temperature reading will always be the set temperature. It takes a lot more energy to change the temperature of the liquid because of the thermal mass.
The humidity is managed through a system which allows the wine cooler to maintain the humidity above 55 and below 85% and some wine coolers have new equipment to allow you to set the humidity level. If the air is too moist in the wine cooler, during the cooling phase the excess water will condense on the back wall of the cabinet, which will then find its way down to the water channel and into the container during the off phase. The excess water will then evaporate off.
UV light is very important, wine will be adversely damaged by UV rays which will cause irreversible damage. Although the wines are somewhat protected by the glass bottle, there is still a chance that this will not fully protect it. For this reason, a wine cooler will either have a solid door, which will prevent any UV rays entering and also allow full darkness inside the cabinet, or the wine cooler will feature a full UV protected glass door which looks much nicer in the flesh but also protects the wines.
Vibration is key, in a wine cellar, the bottles are moved maybe once a year so they basically see very little vibration or disturbance throughout their ageing period. A wine cooler needs to mimic this, so the compressors are mounted on rubber mountings to ensure there is no unwanted vibrations. Excess vibration will cause the wine to go sour as it will encourage unwanted reactions to occur.
The difference between a wine cellar and a wine cooler is primarily that a wine cellar will maintain all of the above without having to have electronic interference. A wine cooler will effectively imitate a wine cellar, they do this well, much better than a standard refrigerator. However, a wine cellar will be much better suited for long term storage of around 10-15 years. A wine cooler will store your wines reliably, but is best suited for wines that will be drank within the next 5 years or so.
The good thing about wine coolers is that they are extremely versatile, with a wine cellar its sole purpose is for long term storage and to be honest unless you want to be showing your wines off all the time nobody is going to see it. A wine cooler is available in many different model types to suit different lifestyles, capacities and the space that is available.
If you need more information with regards to wine coolers and wine storage, contact Elite Wine Refrigeration for a wide range to suit all budgets.