Wine Cooler/Cellar - Starting Out

Hi all - looking for some advice and input on starting out with a wine cooler/cellar. Are there any good resources or links to start out researching regarding pros/cons of these two approaches, brands of equipment, etc? Thanks!

There’s a lot of general shopping info available through a google search that’s more informed than anything I would tell you. But, as a piece of personal advice…but 2-3x more capacity than you think you need. I started out with a 40 bottle cooler, then a 200 bottle cellar, then another, and another…and so on. And unlike electronics, they don’t seem to get cheaper from year to year, so if you think you might get the bug, buy bigger than you think you need.

If I were to start over I would go this route - Wine Cellar - YouTube

I just went through all this.

In my opinion a cellar is the way to go. I found the two zone coolers are fine if you simply want to hold wine close to a serving temp and are not as concerned with long term storage. I have a vinotemp and it varies widely on set temp as compared to actual temp.

I can also say that any cooler I have seen won’t hold what it says it will bottle count wise. That really becomes more of a problem than it sounds. With all the odd shaped bottles I found I was getting about a third less storage. I also had label damage on a variety of wines as the bottles simply were too large to go in the shelves without “shoving”

I finally broke down and ordered a le cache. It has racks that will fit all bottles and from what I read really holds the set temp.

Le Cache. Final answer. Short of having a cellar in the basement, I can’t think of a better option. It was the first cooler/cellar I purchased and hopefully they’ll be in business for a loooong time.

I use a combo of a wine storage facility plus a small cooler at home. Works well if you have such a facility close by.

Well, before you spend serious coin, figure out how serious you are about collecting. Sure, Le Cache is nice… but it’s expensive.

The options from least to most as I see it are:

  1. Keep a few cases in temp controlled cabinet. Something like a 60 bottle cabinet. If you’re collecting slowly, that’s not a bad option.

  2. Keep ~10 cases around. If you do what I’d reccommend and not buy a ton early on but learn what you love, you’ll collect more slowly. 10 cases is a decent amount of collectible wine and it’s also a good amount to have on hand if you…

  3. … use offsite storage for the bottles that don’t fit into the 10 case cabinet. This isn’t a bad option because it grows as your collection does presuming you have a facility with space available. I did this for a long time - Seattle wine Storage had 12 case lockers on up to 75 case walk-ins. Aa you start to fill one up, ask what they have that’s larger, move the wine. The downside to offsite storage is that it can be a lot of money for a larger collection. At the point where you’re paying something close to $100.month, it might make sense to buy the high capacity Le Caches, etc. HOWEVER… REmember that a new Le Cache is several thousand dollars for the 500 bottle size. That’s several years at an offsite facility and…

  4. REmember that good offsite places have redundant systems, etc. Your cabinet at home won’t (unless you deliberately buy an extra compressor).Also, if you’re planning to move around a lot in the next few years you’ll need to safely move the wine cabinet and wine.

I went through a number of wine cooling cabinets and had a lot of trouble with them until I bought a Le Cache.

It was the most trouble-free and when there was a problem, they really took good care of me.

A few years ago, I finally built a house with a wine cellar. A wine cellar is a great way to go if you have the room and budget, but if you’re in the market for a cabinet solution, I highly recommend Le Cache.

Thanks everyone for the insight. I am looking at both solutions, at this point to just get an idea of what may work. Of course short term a smaller cooler fits my collection size and budget, but as many have noted, not long ago I had <30 bottles and already am closing in on 100 so future capacity would be ideal to plan for.

I do have space in a semi-furnished basement (underground) at my house in MD. Over the summer it fluctuated between I think around 63-67, waiting to see what winter brings. However ideally if I could build a relatively small insulated cellar, it wouldn’t need a ton of cooling and could be relatively future-proof. Just afraid that the cost of that may exceed even a large Le Cache…

Buy Dr Richard Gold’s book, How and why to build a wine cellar. It is a great all around resource, and should be the starting point for anyone attempting to build a cellar.

I’ll say to you what I say to everyone who’s starting to collect… DO NOT buy a lot of stuff because of the collecting bug. Buy things you LOVE, but it’s easy to get carried away and end up with hundreds of bottles from your first couple of years of collecting that you find out you don’t really like that much as you taste more or that you don’t like as they get older. Taste a lot, buy and age sparingly. Get some context for what you’re buying - that amazing $25 Syrah might become merely a nice bottle when you drink Syrah more widely so… do you really want a case of it? If something wows you buy a few bottles. But before laying things down for 15 years, spend some money and see if you like what that wine becomes with that much time.

Good point. It’s time I put some of those from my cellar up I’m commerce corner. :slight_smile:

(1) This is the overwhelming #1 lesson to learn. Learn it from the mistakes all of us made before you, rather than learning it the hard way yourself.

If that means deferring for awhile, then defer, and either find a dark and relatively temperature-stable interior closet downstairs in your house to store your wine, and/or use some off-site storage, to bridge the gap. The interior closet will work fine for shorter and medium term storage of lower and medium priced wines – with the $10-50 wines you’re going to drink in the next two or three years, it’s highly doubtful you’ll see any adverse difference compared to those same wines in ideal storage for that period, and to whatever extent you do, it will still be a lot less than the cost of the storage units you would have had to buy. With the added time early in your years of wine collecting, you’ll learn much better what storage you’re going to want and in what form.

(2) And Rick’s advice is good advice – don’t overbuy quantities of wines you like early on, for all the reasons he explained. That might have been a viable strategy decades ago (who wouldn’t love to have loaded up on First Growths when they were $30@?), but now in the information/internet age, while there are good deals you get from time to time, and even assuming you could forecast correctly now what wines you’re going to want to be drinking decades into the future, there really isn’t some gigantic benefit to be had by rushing to load up on highly prized wines. Especially when you factor in the time value of money and the cost of storage and risk of loss in the interim.

(3) Lastly, use or similar sites a lot in the early going for ageworthy types of wines. This will give you a chance to taste mature versions of wines, so that you can (a) learn what those taste like and if you like them, (b) figure out if it makes sense to buy these wines young and hold them until maturity, (c) learn at what ages you prefer these wines, and (d) have good wines to drink in the early years while your purchases of new wines are aging, without being tempted to kill your wines too early. This makes far more sense than trying to judge off your palate and reviews what wines to buy now, then try to keep your hands off them for years and decades to learn whether you like them or not and at what age.

Good luck!

Agreed. I should also, but who would buy my crap.
Rick where was those words of wisdom a couple of years ago.