Judith is a fairy in the world of writing: she manages to turn any topic (far not only a kitchen-related) into an entertaining text that is so easy and educating to read. Fond of gardening, reading, and cooking, of course.
Emily has over 10 years of professional experience using, testing and comparing kitchen appliances. Her knowledge helps to easily and naturally solve everyday problems. She is also the owner of the lifestyle blog emilyreviews.com
Last updated: January 21, 2021
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Wine coolers come in such a wide variety that buying one can be overwhelming for most people. Not to mention all the technicalities involved, like checking which cooling mechanism it uses. If this is starting to make you question your understanding of how wine coolers work, we’re here to make things easy, and will help you choose the best under counter wine cooler that is right within your budget.
We have reviewed 42 products and exhaustively compared different wine coolers, a process that has enabled us to identify and single out our Editor’s Choice, Whynter BWR-401DS, as the best performer in the under counter category. Among its winning features are large capacity dual cooling zones and a wide temperature range, both providing a suitable environment for storing a diverse variety of wines. Find out what unique features this and other wine coolers have in our Product Review section.
We considered factors like product dimensions and capacity, the number of cooling zones, supported temperature range, cooling mechanism, and warranty details, and compared how each product performed based on these features. Further in the Buying Guide, we look at why each of these features is important, and how they influence the quality and efficacy of the wine cooler. We’ve presented this information in easy-to-digest segments that include a comparison table, in-detail reviews of each product, and a buying guide. By the end of the review, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how under counter wine coolers work and how to go about choosing one.
The Whynter BWR-401DS wine cooler measures 34.5″H x 24″W x 22.5″D and will easily fit under the counter or kitchen island. While overall it runs rather quietly, its humming noise will be more audible when you keep it as a standalone unit. When fitted into a cabinet space, the noise goes down significantly, so this might just be the push you need to use it as a built-in unit.
It has two zones that are optimized for wine storage, with both zones maintaining a temperature range of 41-72℉. Each zone has a capacity for 20 bottles, so you can comfortably chill up to 40 bottles of wine. The stainless steel, double pane French door opens smoothly and has a UV-protection coating to minimize the effects of sun damage. An open-door warning system chimes when the door has been left open for more than 60 seconds. The warning system is a great addition, given that the cooler doesn’t have a lock. If you have little ones running around the house, they’ll more than likely keep opening the cooler, so having that alarm allows you to close the door before it gets warm inside the cooler.
There are 11 wood-accented metal shelves inside. All are a tight fit and will snugly hold your standard wine bottles. Because the shelves are removable, you can remove a few of them to accommodate bottles of different sizes.
The Smith & Hanks Under Counter Wine Refrigerator has dimensions of 34″H x 15″W x 23″D and is a great choice if you have a narrow space between cabinets.
It has dual temperature zones, with the upper zone maintaining a temperature range of 41 °F-54 °F, and the lower zone a range of 46-66 °F. There is a digital temperature control panel that allows you to adjust the temperature in both zones. The control unit is easy to use and super responsive.
It has 6 removable shelves inside that can hold between 23 and 32 bottles, depending on bottle size. One shelf is bigger than the rest, so designed to hold bigger bottles that are up to 31/2″ in diameter.
It has a stainless and glass door that is UV protected. The door is also reversible, meaning you can install it with either the right or left opening.
A passive humidity management system keeps the humidity inside the cooler within the acceptable level, which overall enhances the cooler’s efficiency. The refrigerant used in this cooler is energy and environment friendly, and does not contain chemicals that would deplete the ozone layer.
With a noise rating of only 40 dB, this cooler runs so quietly that you won’t notice when it’s on. In this regard, the manufacturer went above and beyond to keep the noise at a minimum. And the vibration reduction system definitely plays a part too.
At 33.9″H x 11.6″W x 22.4″ D, the Kalamera 12” Wine Cooler is slim and compact enough to fit in small spaces. It has a single zone that is designed to keep the temperature between 40 °F and 66 °F. To adjust the temperature, use the one-touch control settings that activate the thermostat.
One of its most revolutionary features is the temperature memory function, which restores the temperature in the wine cooler when you turn it back on following power loss or because someone accidentally shut it off.
An embedded carbon filter keeps the cooler fresh so you never have to deal with unwanted odors. It has a low-noise, low-vibration mechanism that helps the cooler run quietly, and a locking mechanism that keeps your cooler under lock and key.
Six sliding beech shelves make for a beautiful wine display area, and nestled against the gray of the stainless steel door and see-through glass door panels, they create a fascinating contrast.
The only minor drawback is that the cooler can only hold a maximum of 18 bottles at a time. We’re calling it a minor disadvantage because there are those among us for whom this size and capacity is adequate. Again, the shelves are not big enough to hold larger bottles, like a champagne bottle, for instance. So you have to remove one shelf to create room for a bigger bottle.
The Lanbo Wine and Beverage Refrigerator is a great choice if you like to chill all your beverages in one place. This is a considerably large unit measuring 33.9″H x 23.4″W x 23.4D, so make sure you have enough space for it under the counter before buying it, or plan to remodel your cabinets if need be. The correlated advantage to this big size? Ample storage space.
It has two temperature zones; the right zone has a temperature range of 39-50°F and is ideal for all kinds of beverages, while the left has a range of 41-64°F, which is perfect for chilling wine. It can hold 18 standard bottles and up to 55 cans. The wooden shelves are completely removable, so you can pull out one or two to create the additional space you need to store larger bottles.
It has two independent locking mechanisms, one on each zone, which will help keep unauthorized persons from accessing the cooler. If keeping kid-friendly beverages in the right zone, you can lock the wine zone on the left and leave the beverage area open so your kids can access drinks whenever they want them.
An active carbon filter keeps the air clean and ensures that there are no odors in the cooler.
There is a peace that comes with knowing the appliance you’re using is NTRL compliant, and this wine cooler is one such product; it is ETL certified.
The midsize Antarctic Star Wine Cooler Refrigerator measures 34.25″ H x 14.96″ W x 22.75″ D and has 6 beech wood shelves that can hold 28 standard bottles. Larger bottles will only fit in the bottom shelf (fits 2-3). However, you can remove a shelf or two to create room for larger bottles if you have several of these.
It has dual zones. The upper zone has a temperature range of 41-54°F, which is ideal for dry wine, semi dry white wine, semi-sweet wine, sparkling wine, and champagne, and the lower has a temperature range of 54-68°F, which is ideal for sweet wine, dry/semi-dry red wine, and brandy.
The digital controls are easy to operate, but the temperature fluctuates up and down by 1-2 digits, which is not too bad. You want to set the temperature at the midrange so that when it fluctuates it doesn’t go beyond the recommended range.
An exciting feature in this wine cooler is the automatic locking mechanism. It’s activated after three minutes of digital inactivity and helps preserve the settings you’ve chosen. With this, you no longer have to worry about your kids playing with the controls when you’re away. To unlock the controls, press the “+” and “-” symbols (located on the panel) at the same time. There is also a hexagonal bolt lock for the door that you can use to stop your little ones from opening the cooler door every now and then.
What we liked:
Automatic control panel lock
Hexagonal bolt lock
What could be better:
Things to Сonsider
From the above, you now know what to expect from specific wine coolers. Let’s now see why buying a wine cooler is a good idea. We’ll look more generally at the features that make a good wine cooler and discuss how to go about choosing one. We’ll also share a few wine cooler installation tips and answer a few FAQs about wine coolers.
Why under counter wine fridges are worth buying?
With an under counter wine fridge or wine cooler, you are not worried about space or where to place the fridge. It simply goes under your kitchen counter or island. In fact, a lot of people who no longer use a trash compactor simply fit the wine cooler into the space formerly occupied by the compactor and it’s right at home. And because the wine cooler is designed for a built-in environment, there is no risk of overheating or poor air circulation.
Wine coolers are optimized specifically for wine storage, and this means they are designed to keep wine at a temperature that is ideal for preserving the taste and aroma of the wine. They are a better choice than wine cellars and regular refrigerators because:
A refrigerator is far too cold for wine and will not only slow down the ageing process, but also affect its taste and aroma.
A wine cellar will suck water from the air, which might lower humidity and interfere with the quality of wine. You need a good heating system integrated into the cooling system of the cellar to keep the temperature at the desired level. Odors may also penetrate through the cork and affect the taste and smell of your wine.
Because they may not use compressors, neither do they emit hazardous gases, wine coolers are energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
Wine coolers are low maintenance. They have a simple operating mechanism, which translates to fewer parts breaking down and therefore fewer replacements.
They are cheaper than regular refrigerators and wine cellars.
Installation tips for under counter wine coolers
Install the wine cooler away from heat sources, including ovens, harsh lights, and direct sunlight so the high temperatures don’t interfere with the unit’s cooling system.
Leave space around the cooler to promote air flow. The ideal clearance is 4 inches at the top, 2 inches at the back, and 1 inch on the sides. The front part of the cooler has vents that allow free air movement.
Once you’ve installed the wine cooler, wait two hours or more before plugging it in so that you don’t mess up the cooling system.
Thorough clean the wine cooler at least once a year to prevent mold, dust, and odor buildup. Clean the fans and use a mild cleanser (baking soda for the interior) and warm water to wipe down the wine cooler, and then finish by wiping it dry.
Cooling zones – do you need more than one?
Yes, you do. Unless you intend to only store one specific type of wine, say sweet wine only or dry white wine only. But this is highly unlikely, so buy a unit with dual cooling zones where possible.
What such a unit does is it keeps each zone in a different temperature range, allowing you to store each wine at a temperature that is optimal for that specific type of wine. For example, red wines should be stored at higher temperatures than white wines. In a dual zone wine fridge, one zone will have a higher temperature range and the other zone will have a lower temperature. This way, you can keep sweet wine and dry red wine in the high temperature zone, and store white wine and champagne in the lower temperature zone.
You can find the best under counter wine cooler by the following features
Now, on to the most exciting bit: identifying the features that determine how efficient a wine cooler is.
Consider the price
Wine cooler prices can vary greatly, and this is good news because it means there’s a model for everyone’s budget. Still, expect to spend several hundred dollars for the cheapest one. You have to remember that price is not indicative of quality, and there are plenty of lower-priced wine coolers that are of excellent quality. The Kalamera 12” Wine Cooler is an example of one.
The size, technology used, and number of features will often drive the price up, so consider this as well when choosing a cooler. Prices range from approximately $350 for the low-priced models to $1,000 or so for the more expensive ones.
Dimensions are the key
As a built-in appliance, the wine cooler has to fit in a specific space. You may already have the space underneath your kitchen counter or plan to remodel your space to accommodate the cooler. Either way, ensure that the cooler you choose can fit into the space. If it’s bigger, even by half an inch, there’s no way you’ll fit it in.
Being a built-in unit, the side and back parts of the cooler will be constricted. Only the front part will be exposed to unrestricted flow of air. You therefore must choose a wine cooler with air vents at the front. This is primarily why you don’t want a standalone unit because these tend to have the vents at the back and are not meant to be built-in.
Thermoelectric or compressor type?
The cooling mechanism is different in both thermoelectric and compressor wine fridges and they each have advantages and disadvantages.
Thermoelectric wine coolers are:
Vibration free and run quietly
The flip side is that:
They must stay on throughout
Have a less robust cooling system that is easily affected by external heat sources
Have fewer storage options
Compressor wine coolers:
Have a robust cooling system
Are invulnerable to external heat sources
Have more storage options
On the flip side, they:
Consume more energy
Have a high vibration level and are noisier
A wine cooler that operates quietly is more pleasant to have in the house. The noise level also corresponds to the wine cooler’s vibration level, where the more vibrations it has, the noisier the cooler will be.
Low vibration is desirable in a wine cooler because it prevents the bitter sediments from rising and mixing with the wine and eventually affecting the taste of the wine. The opposite is true for high vibration levels.
Wine should be stored in temperatures that are slightly warmer than what you get in a refrigerator. The ideal range is 39-65°F, with 55°F considered the perfect temperature. Wine cooler temperatures fall within this range, with a few like Whynter BWR-401DS and Antarctic Star Wine Cooler Refrigerator attaining warmer temperatures in the range of 68-72°F.
Choose a wine cooler with a lock to keep unauthorized people from accessing your wine collection. Many wine coolers come with a hexagonal bolt lock for the door that you can lock to keep the cooler safe from kids. If you’re worried about your kids playing with the settings in your absence, get a unit like Antarctic Star Wine Cooler Refrigerator that automatically locks the control panel so they can’t adjust the temperature.
Generally, wine coolers are made from solid materials and often have a stainless steel frame, therefore they’re quite sturdy. A combination of stainless steel and glass is used on the door. The shelves or racks can be made from metal, wire, or wood. Beech wood is a popular shelf material that you’ll find in models like Kalamera 12” Wine Cooler and Antarctic Star Wine Cooler Refrigerator. Choose a brand that is known for manufacturing quality products so that you’re somewhat assured of your wine cooler’s durability.
Most wine coolers come with a 1-year warranty overall and a 3-year warranty on the compressor and parts. Many manufacturers will readily replace the wine cooler if it doesn’t work as expected in those early months following purchase. It’s advisable to try out the wine cooler as soon as it’s delivered to your doorstep so you can identify any issues before the warranty period runs out. Few models, like the Antarctic Star Wine Cooler Refrigerator, come with a 30-day refund policy.
The glass on the wine cooler door does more than display your wine collection. It also protects the wine from the sun. Manufacturers add a UV protection coating to achieve this. Some wine coolers, like Antarctic Star Wine Cooler Refrigerator, have double-layered glass panes to further enhance this protection. For durability, the glass is tempered to prevent breakage.
To enhance user experience, wine coolers will usually have a few additional features, such as reversible doors that you can install from the left or right, and touchscreen controls that are easy to operate instead of buttons.
They also have LED lights to illuminate the controls and the inside of the cooler and help you see better when picking a bottle. Blue LED lights are common in most of the models, but a few wine coolers like, Lanbo Wine and Beverage Refrigerator, have white LED lights.
Thermoelectric wine coolers run quietly because they have a low vibration level. In comparison, compressor wine coolers have a high vibration level and are noisier. If your preferred wine coolers have a compressor, choose the one with the lowest noise level, preferably below 40 decibels.
Anytime you have more wine than you can drink up in one day. And especially if you like keeping several bottles of wine in the house. If your intention is to collect different types of wine from different regions, you certainly need a wine fridge to keep it all at the desired temperature and preserve its quality.
Only if it is designed as a freestanding-cum-built-in wine cooler. The manufacturer will indicate whether the wine cooler can be built-in, but you should also confirm if it has air vents at the front, which is mandatory for built-in wine coolers.
No. While the total energy they consume will depend on things like how often you open the wine cooler door and the room’s ambient temperature, most wine coolers will only consume about 400 kWh or less in a year. Thermoelectric wine coolers are especially energy efficient.
Our top choice is Whynter BWR-401DS, which stands out for its large capacity that can hold 40 bottles. Other noteworthy features are dual cooling zones that allow you to store different wines at different temperature ranges, dual French doors, and an open-door alarm that warns you when the door is not closed.
Our second choice is the Smith & Hanks Under Counter Wine Refrigerator, which can hold up to 32 bottles. We like its narrow design that allows you to fit it into smaller spaces, the dual cooling zones, the reversible door, the eco-friendly cooling system, and the door locking mechanism.
Our third best under counter wine cooler is Kalamera 12” Wine Cooler. We like its compact design which makes it perfect for smaller cabinet spaces. We also like its locking mechanism, low-noise operation, and the temperature memory function, which restores the wine cooler to the last temperature setting if the cooler shuts off and comes back on again.