Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
What's the difference between a wine refrigerator and a wine cooler?
—Richard, Charlotte, N.C.
Assuming that you're not talking about a Bartles & Jaymes, these days, the terms “wine cooler” and “wine refrigerator” are pretty interchangeable: They both refer to a temperature-controlled standalone appliance for storing wine.
Originally, "wine refrigerators" suggested more expensive, powerful cabinets with compression-based cooling technology (similar to your food refrigerator). "Coolers" referred to smaller, more portable units, using thermoelectric technology, the sort of thing you’d see on a kitchen counter top. But wine coolers/refrigerators have become more ubiquitous, and there have been a lot of different advances in how they are designed and used (which means there's lots to consider when deciding which one is right for you). It’s a lot easier to discuss the difference between a wine cooler/refrigerator and a food refrigerator.