EuroCave, Sub-Zero, and Wine Enthusiast: Some Thoughts on Wine Refrigerators

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

It doesn't take long once you've gotten into wine to find yourself in a position where you've got a few special bottles you'd like to save for a special occasion. And it doesn't take more than a few hot days in the summer to spoil a bottle of wine unprotected from the elements.

For this post, I'm going to focus on free-standing and built-in wine refrigerators.

By that I mean I'm not going to discuss custom wine cellars where you carve out some portion of your home and turn it into a climate-controlled space. That's a whole other category.

Everyone's Situation is Unique

The wine refrigeration and storage requirements of someone in a small apartment in New York City are totally different from another person with a large home in Florida.

Everyone's constraints are unique: Budgetary, space, capacity requirements, likelihood of moving, etc.

But I think there are some common paths people go down that funnel into a few different segments of the market. I'll cover those below. But first...

Things To Consider

Bottle Capacity: When I was in the market years ago, a friend told me to take whatever size I thought I needed and double it. I thought he was being ridiculous but it's turned out to be tremendous advice.

Bottle Capacity: Every manufacturer seems to greatly over-estimate bottle capacity. I don't think this is necessarily malicious - it's just that wine bottles come in all shape and sizes and storage estimates are based on an ideal collection of identically shaped medium-sized Bordeaux bottles. That's just not realistic, and something to keep in mind as you consider shelving configurations.

Duration of Storage: Some people consider long-term storage "a few years." Others are aging wines for decades. The units we're talking about here are, I think, more appropriate for storage for preserving the integrity of wine for 10-15 years. And most commonly just a few years. I say that because I find I'm frequently rifling through my collection selecting and rearranging bottles. That's sub-optimal for true long-term storage that might be better accomodated in off-site storage or a custom walk-in cellar.

Single vs. Dual Zone: All wines should be stored at the same temperature regardless of whether they're red or white. Dual Zone refrigerators are designed for staging wine for consumption. This is typically a small portion of a collection and the main focus here is longer term storage. So the focus here is mostly on single-zone units.

Electricity: I was really concerned about this when I was shopping. At the time our house only had 100 amp service -and- I was planning to install the unit in my home office. That being the case I thought I might need to run a dedicated circuit for the wine fridge. However, I just plugged the unit into one of the existing outlets and it's been fine all these years. Consult with the manufacturer and ask an electrician for an opinion on your situation.

Now let's walk through some commonly considered options...

For a Kitchen Remodel Consider Sub-Zero
I think highly of Sub-Zero refrigerators and they do a great job in this space. They have a lot of built-in and undercounter options that accomodate custom paneling to compliment the environment they're installed in. 

But they are expensive. Small 48-bottle units start at $3,700 and that's before any customization.

I think the best situation for an undercounter wine fridge is if you have a large kitchen (or butler pantry/beverage center) where you want to stage wines for ready consumption. Most likely you'd have additional storage solutions elsewhere on-site because 48 bottles just isn't a lot if you're collecting wine.

More here:

EuroCave Sets the Standard
If you're going to buy a wine fridge in the US, you'll probably at least consider EuroCave. They focus exclusively on wine storage & refrigeration and they've been doing so for a long time. 

I bought one of these about 13 years ago and I've been very pleased with it. They're constantly tinkering with the naming conventions, but this is the closest match to what I got:

Fully loaded I think I spent $2,500 back in 2013. Looks like it goes for closer to $4,000 now.

If you're in the market, I'd encourage giving Wine Enthusiast a call. Their salespeople helped me work through some things I hadn't considered, and answered questions on things like electrical requirements, shelving, and configuration options.

I was also pleased with their service after the sale. 12 bottles of wine weighs like 40 pounds so it's important that the shelves are sturdy and roll smoothly. A couple of the shelves I received were a little "warped" and would bind up when used. Wine Enthusiast quickly sent out replacements.

Wine Enthuiast also sells more affordable private label options, like this one:

A More Affordable EuroCave Option
Wine Enthusiast makes their own private label wine refrigerators, but if you want to stick with the EuroCave brand and spend less consider this option from Costco:

It matches the look of the EuroCave option above, and is quite a bit more affordable. 

A friend who has been shopping in the space recently settled on this one. It matches the look, and hopefully the quality, of the $4,000 EuroCave option mentioned above. And Costco tends to stand behind their merchandise.

I wish it had more rolling shelves, and I'm unsure of how readily additional shelves can be ordered. But all things considered, it's probably what I would go with if I was in the market now.

Lower Cost Options
If you look around in-store and online you'll surely find more affordable options. It's hard to say how good or bad they are universally, and it would be even harder for any consumer to do a long-term review of a meaningful number of units.

But I do have some experience in this range, and I think it's a reasonable starting point for smaller homes and/or where you might be moving a bit over the next few years.

Years ago, I was sent one of these as a sample to review:

This 50 bottle unit has quietly and faithfully served alongside my larger EuroCave for years. The only thing I don't like about it is the wire non-rolling shelves. They're rather close together and anything other than a standard Bordeaux bottle is an awkward fit. And since the shelves don't roll out I tend to forget what's in there.

But other than that it's done it's job: It keeps wine cool, looks reasonably nice, and costs less than $500.

I keep saying I'll give it away once I can whittle down my collection to fit in the EuroCave but try as I might - I just haven't been able to make that happen. There's just too many wine deals out there.

Bottom Line

If you're going to store wine for a future occasion, it's worth it to make sure you've got a decent storage solution. While this post just scratches the surface on a complicated topic with many considerations, I hope this overview is helpful.


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