Isn't a wine storage unit just a little refrigerator?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

You say refrigerators are horrible for long-term storage of wine. It seems to me that most of the small wine storage units on the market today are simply small refrigerators with wine racks. Am I better off storing my wine in a dark closet than in my 54-bottle wine cooler?

—L.C., Charleston, S.C.

Dear L.C.,

I checked with David Russell, senior director of operations for International Wine Accessories (a catalog that sells a variety of wine coolers), to ask him to explain the difference between wine coolers and refrigerators.

David points out that refrigerators are designed to maintain an internal temperature of about 35 degrees F, as well as extract most moisture. That's why your food dries out so quickly in a refrigerator—and that's the potential danger to corks. On the other hand, a wine cooling unit is designed to maintain a constant temperature of 50 to 60 degrees and leave about 45 to 60 percent humidity.

Many (but not all) wine coolers use thermoelectric cooling systems. These units do not have compressors or any moving parts, and therefore have low or no vibration. Standard refrigerators, on the other hand, use a compressor, which has internal moving parts that will cause vibration.

If you have or can afford to get a wine cooler, I recommend it well above storing wine in a refrigerator, and I still believe it's better than your dark closet—although, for most people, the dark closet is a perfectly adequate way to store wine, at least for shorter periods of time.

—Dr. Vinny

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