Choosing A Wine Cabinet

“What is your opinion about these wine cabinets I see advertised. The prices they are asking makes it quite an investment.. Are there any negatives about them, and do you recommend one over another?”        

-A.S.

Yes, there has been a flurry of offerings in the catalogs and some advertisements in newspapers and magazines for wine cabi­nets. The demand must be there. A sign, I hope, of the American public developing a palate for wine.

If you are inquiring about a straightforward storage unit that has special shelving for bottles, without any refrigeration, then, any suitable product you find should be just fine, as long as it fits your needs and your decor. Just be sure and situate it away from heat (like a window) and vibration (like a common wall where motors are run­ning). Be sure that the storage racks or shelves keep the wine bottles laying down, or at an angle, such that the corks are kept in contact with the wine.

However, I am sure you are inquiring about the refrigerated cabinets. They are supposed to duplicate cellar storage, as far as temperature is concerned. I have one concern about them. The vibration. Unless I am mistaken, all the ones I have seen and others that I have sent away for literature, have a refrigeration unit within the housing of the entire cabinet. The walls of these cabinets, I am sure, are well insulated for temperature gain or loss. Some say that the compressor motor is also insulated in some way so that when it runs, it does not con­vey the vibration to the cabinet.

I have difficulty with this. It would take some expensive engineering to accomplish “vibration insulation” for such a unit. I have not been satisfied with what I have been shown by the vendors.

Why is this important? Vibration is one of the things to avoid in wine storage for opti­mum aging. Shaking and vibration are chemical reaction enhancers (remember your chemistry lab experiments). Well, this is no different, however “micro” the vibrations are. Aging and maturation of wine is a chemical process. It is a slow process, and should not be hurried. If you hurry it by shaking, you will not end up with your best matured wine. You will rush it and you will not get the finer refinements of motionless ageing. Similar acceleration occurs with ageing at higher than the ideal temperature of 55 degrees °F.

I am sure all the other elements for ideal ageing of wine are met by most of these units. Ideal temperature, no direct light, low humidity, and storage of the bottles on  their side. If you can satisfy yourself that they have addressed the vibration problem adequately, then go for it.

Now it is possible that somebody has figured it out! If I were thinking of this kind of unit, rather than a conventional cel­lar in a closet, or room, or true under­ground cellar, I would separate the motor from the condenser housing, and mount it on the floor, with no attachments to the box. That way, when it goes on and off, and when it is running, it will not touch the box. (Any of you have an older refrigerator around that shakes? That is what happens to equipment as it gets old).

In fact, whenever I consult on wine cellar construction, I insist on the refrigeration unit be detached from the walls of the room, and preferably mounted on a concrete slab outside the wall of the enclosure.

Be sure and plan your space needs care­fully. Time and time again, I hear people saying “I wish I had purchased a larger one!” Some of these units are very hand­some and are like pieces of furniture, and others are just suitable for the garage. With the latter, you can add modules!

– P.K.

P.S. to members: if you own one of these units already, do not despair! It is not all that bad! What is happening is that the ageing of your wine is being accelerated somewhat, and maybe not optimally (possibly not discernible by most). As far as the former, we all are impatient at times anyway. As for the latter, the standard pre­vails. No vibration!

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