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

Ask Dr Vinny

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.

Dear Richard,

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.

—Dr. Vinny

Collecting Storage Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

What is the benefit of “keeping wine on the dregs”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what a wine's "dregs" are and why some wines …

Jan 30, 2023

How do you soften a hard cork?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens after a wine bottle is opened, and …

Jan 24, 2023

How long can Champagne be stored in a wine cooler?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens as sparkling wine ages, how long it …

Jan 17, 2023

I shook a bottle of wine with sediment and now it's cloudy. Is it ruined?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where sediment comes from, and what to do if …

Jan 9, 2023

Can a cork-tainted bottle of wine cross-contaminate other bottles in my cellar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how and when cork taint or TCA contamination …

Jan 3, 2023

Dr. Vinny’s Wine Care Clinic: Top Tips for Safekeeping Your Wine Bottles

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny answers all your wine storage and serving questions!

Dec 27, 2022