As your wine collection grows, you can keep adding more wine racks; or you can consider buying a wine fridge, an off-the-rack option that suits anyone who has limited space, such condo and small-home dwellers.
These fridges are humidity and temperature-controlled for wine. The kitchen fridge is too cold and isn’t humid enough to keep wine long term, wine fridges are specially temperature- and humidity-controlled for wine. Keeping wine in your kitchen fridge for a few days is fine though.
Wine fridges come in half, full and double sizes, as well as walk-in Brinks-style vaults. They also have a dizzying array of options: metal and wood finishes, grape-motif carving, glass doors, interior lighting and separate compartments to store wine either at aging or serving temperatures.
Since their insulation and cooling systems are equipped to reduce the inside temperature only by about 9-13oC, wine fridges should be installed in a room with an average temperature of 22oC. (Not in a cold basement or hot attic.)
As well, ensure you have enough electrical capacity — the standard duplex 120-volt receptacle typically used for other large appliances. Avoid plugging the fridge into an octopus of plugs, or your toaster could blow your fridge fuse.
Like other appliances, wine fridges sometimes fail — and if yours does, it won’t just be your laundry getting mouldy. Buy a good brand with warranty support, such as the Sub-Zero under-counter wine refrigerator ($2,500; www.subzero.com ).
These fridges provide a great staging area when you’re entertaining. You can store up to 45 bottles instead of running back and forth to the cellar. This model is UL-approved meaning it’s safe to use in outdoor kitchen settings.
Other respected wine fridge brands include Vintage Keeper, CaveVin, EuroCave and Vinotheque, as well as those made by appliance manufacturers such as KitchenAid. C.A. Paradis, Ottawa (www.caparadis.com) and Rosehill Cellars, Toronto (www.rosehillwinecellars.com) stock several brands.
Some fridges only permit one temperature, so if you have both red and white wines in the fridge, choose a medium setting like 13 degrees Celcius or 55 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also buy two fridges, whether they are half-sized models for under the counter or full-sized.
However, many fridges offer the convenience of dual-wine zones, where you can set one temperature for one area of the fridge and a different one for a second area. This can allow you to store white wines between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit and reds between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit for aging.
I actually prefer to use a wine fridge just for short-term drinking wines: those I’ll be enjoying this week or within the next six months. I store wines meant for long-term aging in a cool cellar.
Therefore, I set the two zones for optimal drinking temperatures, those that allow the wines to best unfold their aromas: white wine and rose at 10-13°C or 50-55°F (for me, it’s 13°C) and red wines at 13-15°C or 55-60°F (mine is 15°C).
Try adjusting the temperature by one degree every couple of weeks if you want to experiment within that range to find your ideal drinking temperatures.
I’ll put short-term sparkling wines and champagne in my regular fridge as these are meant to be served in colder than whites at about 8°C or 45°F.
Your other option is to build a custom cabinet, something esthetically pleasing that blends in with your other furniture, as well as fits oddly-shaped ceiling bulkheads. To build custom cabinets, it’s best to find a craftsman who’s knowledgeable about wine cellar conditions as well a skilled cabinetmaker.
Of course, you can go a step further and build a custom wine cellar.
I’d love to hear which wine fridge brands and/or custom cellar builders you’d recommend.