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Wine Cabinets vs. Wine Coolers: What's the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

Investing in a refrigerated wine cabinet provides several advantages that you won't get from a wine cooler. But, you might be wondering, aren't coolers and refrigerated cabinets very similar? In fact, although both control the temperature of wine, refrigerated cabinets and wine coolers are more different than one might assume.

Whereas coolers work well for chilling wines that you plan on serving soon, refrigerated cabinets balance and maintain multiple conditions for wine storage and aging. Although they generally cost less, coolers tend to offer fewer style possibilities and racking options than wine cabinets.

To help you decide whether a cabinet or a cooler is right for you, we've broken down some of the key ways they usually differ.

1. Temperature Range

Wine Coolers: Occasionally Erratic Temperatures

Wine ages and develops best in the narrow temperature range between 55°F to 60°F, with minimal fluctuations. Although coolers make convenient short-term solutions for chilling wine, their internal temperature may vary widely on a day to day basis.

Only a small percentage of the wine produced each year is intended to be aged. When storing wines that you're supposed to drink without aging, you don’t have to worry about the temperature shifts that occur inside a cooler. However, if you plan on investing in valuable fine wines that mature over years and even decades, a wine cooler lacks the consistency you need.

Refrigerated Wine Cabinets: Constant, Reliable Temperatures

In contrast to wine coolers, most wine cabinets come equipped with sophisticated cooling units that tightly control temperature. These refrigeration systems reduce the fluctuations that can harm the aging process.

For instance, all of the cabinets we make at Le Cache include 1800 Series cooling units from CellarPro Cooling Systems, our sister company. Our units protect your wine collection by keeping the temperature inside the cabinet within the optimal range—even during a heat wave.

When outside temperatures hovered around 95°F, we tested a Le Cache cabinet equipped with a CellarPro 1800XT cooling unit. Despite the hot external conditions, the space inside the cabinet remained safely between 55 F and 60 F. For long-term storage, fine wine deserves the dependable protection that a refrigerated cabinet can deliver.

2. Humidity Conditions

Wine Coolers: No Humidity Control

Why does humidity matter? When corks dry out due to prolonged low humidity, they don't seal bottles as effectively. Air can seep in, causing oxidization and damaging the taste and aroma of wines.

Built primarily to control temperature, wine coolers rarely maintain the ideal wine storage humidity of around 60%. As a result, the humidity inside many coolers dips below recommended levels for storing and aging wine.

Refrigerated Wine Cabinets: Advanced Humidity Control

Engineered to support wine aging over a period of years, wine cabinets protect your collection by keeping humidity inside the recommended range with digital precision. Our CellarPro cooling units offer adjustable humidity control, so you can regulate the amount of humidity recirculated inside your Le Cache wine cabinet.

We tested a Le Cache cabinet to see how well it maintained humidity, comparing the conditions inside and outside the cabinet. Our refrigerated cabinet kept the inside humidity at around 60%, regardless of humidity levels in the outside environment.

3. Longevity and Replaceable Cooling Systems

Wine Coolers: Discarded When Refrigeration System Fails

Wine coolers depend on built-in refrigeration systems. When these systems give out, you can't easily replace them, because they are integrated into the construction of the cooler. Even in the case of a relatively minor problem, your cooler would shut down during the repair, exposing your wine collection to the elements.

Typically, owners opt to buy a new cooler rather than spend the time and money it takes to fix an old cooler or to outfit one with a new cooling system. In other words, when the parts that control the temperature stop working properly, the entire cooler becomes obsolete and needs to be replaced.

The disposable designs and use cycle of wine coolers make them less sustainable than wine cabinets. Unfortunately, discarding a broken wine cooler every few years increases your environmental footprint.

Refrigerated Wine Cabinets: Replaceable Cooling Units

Most climate-controlled wine cabinets are designed to let you replace refrigeration systems without a hassle.

As we mentioned above, Le Cache cabinets use self-enclosed cooling units made by CellarPro Cooling Systems. You can swap out the cooling unit temporarily, if yours needs service, or permanently when the unit needs to be replaced.

We build our cabinets to last for decades, as quality furniture should, and want to make it simple for you to switch the cooling system should you have to replace it. Instead of throwing away an entire cooler, you'll only have to dispose of one part, creating less waste.

4. Style and Aesthetics

Wine Coolers: Function Over Form

Wine coolers exist to serve a basic function—keeping wine cold—and they consequently tend to put that function before beauty.

Made of plastic, glass, and metal, these storage solutions are often utilitarian in design. Most wine coolers won't enhance your décor. They work best under your counter or in storage spaces like closets, garages, and basements.

Refrigerated Wine Cabinets: Beauty Plus Performance

Well-built refrigerated wine cabinets qualify as both fine furniture and efficient storage solutions. They compliment the atmosphere of your home or business. You won't want to hide a wine cabinet!

At Le Cache, we outfit our cabinets with substantial hardwood doors and embellish them with hand-carved details to create heirloom-quality pieces of furniture. Our cabinets also come in a range of designs, from the sleek Contemporary Series to the Arts & Crafts-style Mission Series, to blend with your decorating scheme.

Your lovingly-tended wine collection should be housed in worthy furniture. We work to create cabinets elegant enough to earn a place in your home and add to to your décor.

5. Racking Options

Wine Coolers: Limited Racking Options

Wine coolers usually include metal racking designed to fit Bordeaux-size wine bottles.

Unfortunately, these racks often can't hold oversized or large-format bottles, like Champagne and Burgundy bottles. If you try to stuff these bottles into the racks, the labels and bottles get scratched each time you slide the shelf in and out.

Some coolers have shelves that are spaced farther apart to accommodate larger bottles. Remember, though: while the larger bottles may fit without getting scratched, the bottle capacity of the cooler decreases because fewer bottles will fit on each shelf.

Refrigerated Wine Cabinets: Racking Options to Fit a Variety of Bottles

Just as wine cabinets come in a diverse selection of styles, cabinet brands and models offer different racking configurations, some more flexible than others.

At Le Cache, we sized our all-wood universal racking to accommodate Burgundy and Champagne bottles in every slot. Le Cache cabinets also include bulk storage space for large bottles like Magnums. Our larger models even let you store entire cases, including their boxes, inside the cabinet.

If you have any questions about Le Cache wine storage cabinets or about the differences between wine coolers and cabinets, feel free to contact us and ask one of our knowledgeable staff.

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