September 3, 2021

Wine Coolers VS Wine Refrigerators

Wine coolers and wine refrigerators are very much in season and make the perfect gift or collectors item for budding and seasoned wine connoisseurs.

Going just by their names, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between a wine cooler and a wine refrigerator. After all, they both do the same thing - chill wine!

What makes it even more confusing is that the words wine cooler and wine refrigerator are used interchangeably. However, there are certain key differences between the two. Let’s discuss them in detail.

Wine Coolers VS Wine refrigerators

Simply put, A wine cooler is a device used for storing wine.

It is also the name of an alcoholic drink made using fruit juice and wine, much like a Spanish Sangria. Bartles & James is a well-known brand of wine coolers (the drink). 

In this article, when we say wine cooler, we are referring to the device, NOT the beverage. It differs from a wine refrigerator in several ways, such as:

Wine Cooler Size:

Traditionally, the wine cooler was used for smaller, portable cabinets that could hold about 10 to 18 bottles of wine, but they can get a bit larger in modern times. 

The Wine Cooler pictured below is the Antarctic Star 36 Bottle, which you can read more about here.

Antarctic Star Wine Cooler

Wine Refrigerator Size:

Refrigerators are usually larger (although smaller than a food refrigerator) and can accommodate a higher number of bottles (30+).  

The Wine Cellar/Refrigerator below is the Kalamera Dual Zone, which holds 46 bottles - you can read more about it here

Kalamera 24'' Wine refrigerator 46 Bottle Dual Zone Built-in or Freestanding with Stainless Steel & Triple-Layer Tempered Glass Door and Temperature Memory Function

Buyers opt for either a cooler or a refrigerator based on availability of space and the size of their wine collection.

Important: Please note that since both terms are used interchangeably, it is not unusual to come across a smaller wine refrigerator or a larger wine cooler!

Also, note that even though wine coolers are generally smaller, they may not be suitable for that compact space under your kitchen counter. Coolers require air-flow around the sides and back to ensure proper dissipation of heat. Hence, it is important to read the fine print before settling on a purchase.

Built-in coolers are also available – they can be built into an existing cabinet and have space for losing heat at the bottom.

View Our Favorite Wine Coolers & Fridges

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Cooling Technology

A wine cooler uses thermoelectric cooling while a wine refrigerator relies on compression cooling technology, much like a conventional fridge.

Thermoelectric cooling is quieter than a compressor. It also has several other advantages like the lack of moving parts, no requirement for any kind of circulating liquid, longevity, no leaking issues, compact size and so on.

The disadvantages of thermoelectric cooling, when compared to compression cooling, are that it is more expensive and less power efficient. Manufacturers are addressing these issues via research and innovation.

Basically, a wine refrigerator makes a low buzzing sound while a wine cooler doesn’t. It is not completely silent though, as there are fans inside the cooler for even distribution of cold air.

Operating Temperature

A wine cooler rarely has a temperature setting below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 Celsius). A wine refrigerator or a beverage cooler can be set to lower temperatures. Wine is rarely consumed ice cold unlike other beverages such as beer.

Dual zone wine refrigerators and coolers are also available. In these models, there are different temperature settings for upper and lower shelves.

As you know, red wine is consumed at a higher temperature than white wine. Hence, dual zone cooling helps to store red and white wines at their ideal temperatures.

  • For White Wines, the zone reserved for white wine is typically set between 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 to 10 Celsius).
  • For Red Wines, the temperature is usually between 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 18.3 Celsius) for white wines.


Wine coolers, being smaller, have limited space compared to refrigerators. The overall design of your unit also plays an important role in what exactly you’re trying to accomplish.

  1. 1
    Do you want the shelves to slide out?
  2. 2
    Should there be a vertical storage compartment too? (Sometimes used for partially consumed bottles)
  3. 3
    Should the door be transparent? This allows you to show off your collection but some people do not like their wine to be exposed to too much light.How many bottles do you want to chill at a time?
  4. 4
    Are you seriously into wine or do you just want a cool showpiece to impress your guests? (I am not judging as I am not a snob)
  5. 5
    Do you plan to store cheese in the unit as well? Will you occasionally use the unit for storing food or beer? If yes, it should have a lower temperature setting that 45 Fahrenheit.
  6. 6
    Where do you want to place your cooler/refrigerator? It there a dedicated space or is it just going to sit on the counter top?

These are just some of the questions that you’ll have to consider while sorting out the wine cooler vs wine refrigerator battle.


Usually, wine refrigerators have more bells and whistles and are also larger in size. Hence, they are pricier.

If you want to chill just 10 odd bottles of wine, you can opt for an affordable yet elegant entry level wine cooler.

If your storage needs are higher and you want more features such as dual zone cooling etc. the price will definitely go up.

For those who are very serious about wine and want to age it, it is advisable to invest in a full-fledged wine cellar with temperature and humidity control.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea about the main differences between wine cooler vs wine refrigerator.

To learn more, and find the best wine cooler or refrigerator for your needs, please feel to have a look around the site! 

Start here for a comprehensive look at both:

Best Wine Coolers & Wine Refrigerators

Enjoy wine responsibly 🙂


Underground Wine Merchants was founded by Wine Lovers & For Wine Lovers.  

We'd love if you'd stay and look around our website a bit, we've got some Amazing Wine Cooler Reviews, such as Edgestar Wine Coolers, Avanti Wine Coolers, Vinotemp Wine Coolers, Newair Wine Coolers, and Danby Wine Coolers.  

If you have any questions about what you've read, or about wine in general, feel free to reach out and let us know, or leave a comment below!


Karina Kahale & The Underground Wine Merchants Team

About the author 

Karina Kahale

I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. After years of travel, exploration, and education, I founded Underground Wine Merchants in 2019.

Currently, I work as a sommelier at a fine dining restaurant here in Hawaii. I pursued my education at the prestigious ICE Sommelier Institute in Los Angeles, which has equipped me with the knowledge and skills to excel in my profession.

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