What's the difference between a wine cooler and a wine cellar?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What’s the difference between a wine cooler and a wine cellar?

—Walid M., Lebanon

Dear Walid,

Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but strictly speaking, wine coolers and wine cellars have two different functions. A cooler is designed to keep wine at a consistent, cool temperature. They’re great for wines that you’re going to drink pretty soon, and they’re handy for keeping your wine at a constant serving temperature—and they’re way better for this than a standard food refrigerator.

On the other hand, a true wine cellar is designed for long-term storage. If you’re buying wines that you intend to age for years, you’ll need more than a consistent temperature of about 55° F, you’ll also want to control humidity and keep wine away from light and vibration. This can involve either a freestanding cabinet-type cellar or an entire room dedicated to storage.

I get a lot of questions about wine storage. You might want to read up on my advice about investing in wine storage, what to look for in freestanding cellars, the pros and cons of compressors vs. thermoelectric coolers, the deal with glass doors, and what’s up with dual temperature controls.

—Dr. Vinny

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