Enjoying a properly chilled bottle of wine whenever the mood strikes may seem to be a bit of a luxury for some, though truly passionate wine drinkers would say that there is no other way to enjoy it. When served at the proper temperature, the delicate aromas, tannins, and acidity of wine really come through. Served too cold or not cold enough, wine can seem flat, muted, or flabby on the palette. It stands to reason that wine enthusiasts will go to great lengths to keep wine properly stored to accentuate the nuances they value in their wine.
Keeping wines just at the right temperature can be a bit tricky as our kitchen refrigerators are generally too cold and room temperature is usually too warm. A great solution for having your wines at the proper temperature for drinking is a wine fridge just for that purpose. Of course, like any appliance of this nature, there are so many to choose from.
In this article we will focus on the small wine cooler, helping you determine which is the best fit for you. We will address a number of criteria and quickly answer some important questions so that you can make a quick decision. Our goal is to help you find the best small wine cooler for your budget, space, and needs.
Here is our guide to the best small wine coolers.
Carry on reading or jump straight to our number #1 pick on Amazon here.
What Should I Look For When Buying a Small Wine Cooler?
The search for the perfect small wine cooler can be a bit daunting. We have focused on a few specific criteria which can make this process a bit easier. They are as follows.
Criteria #1: Size
When making a purchase of this sort, the first thing to consider is size. This wine fridge has to fit into your allotted space, as well as provide enough interior storage to keep the bottles you plan to chill. Having given this some prior consideration will certainly make this process a little easier. If this is a countertop unit or one that you will use as a built-in, it is best to have done your homework, measuring to ensure a good fit.
Criteria #2: Price
As with any household appliance, wine coolers can vary widely in price. Whether you are looking for a reasonably priced fridge or a more expensive, high-end model, there are units to fit your budget. As a wide range of options will meet your needs, it is beneficial to consider how much you are willing to spend before making a purchase.
Criteria #3: Cooling mechanisms
Wine coolers operate with one of two different cooling mechanisms that keep your wine cold – compressor and thermoelectric. It is worth noting that thermoelectric coolers operate constantly, while compressor wine coolers function just like your kitchen refrigerator, cycling on and off as necessary to maintain preset interior temperatures. Thermoelectric coolers are affected by ambient temperatures, making them a better fit for households that are already on the cool side while compressor-style coolers can better adjust to warmer or cooler spaces. In short, it is helpful to know where you plan to use your wine cooler so that you will get the most out of your new appliance.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Small Wine Coolers
We looked at a wide range of small wine coolers and had a look at the reviews of buyers who have put these coolers to use. We took into consideration price and size, but moreover, we were interested in those products that were predominantly favorable.
#1: Nutrichef PKCWC120 Refrigerator-White & Red Chiller (Best Value – All-Purpose)
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Our pick for all-around best value, all-purpose wine cooler is the Nutrichef PKCWC120 Refrigerator. This compressor-cooled unit will keep up to 12 bottles of wine at a consistent temperature of your choosing, between 41 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
At home either on the floor, table, or countertop, it is a freestanding fridge with a rather compact size. The stainless steel shelves cradle the wine bottles carefully and slide out easily, accommodating 10 bottles horizontally. The bottom of the fridge is designed to fit two bottles for display, creating a space for opened bottles.
Reviewers felt that this was a well-made fridge that is relatively quiet. Many commented on the ease of use, as well as the lock feature which guards against the possibility of unwanted opening, a really nice feature, especially in this price range. It also features a convenient interior LED light that is programmed to shut off after 10 minutes.
Reviewers felt that this model was stylish and well-made, commenting that the door felt solid and the design was sleek and modern. Within its price range, this cooler is a really solid choice for its capacity and features, making it our choice for best value in an all-purpose wine cooler.
#2: Kalamera 12 Inch Wine Cooler Refrigerator (Best Overall)
Our choice for the best overall wine cooler is the Kalamera 12 Inch Wine Cooler Refrigerator. This is another single-zone, compressor-cooled model. It is a third larger than the Nutrichef PKCWC120 making it a good choice for those who wish to keep more chilled bottles on hand. Beyond that, it does have a few more features that may appeal to some, setting it apart from our previous choice.
Reason #1: Freestanding or Built-In
The Kalamera 12 Inch Wine Cooler offers a bit more flexibility with its front ventilation. This allows you to use it as a freestanding floor unit, or as a built-in among your cabinetry. If you can fit this into your kitchen plan, you can easily plug it in and feel comfortable. Unlike coolers that are exclusively freestanding, like the Nutrichef PKCWC120, it does not require space behind and to the sides of it to create proper airflow, though it is just at home in a setting where it can stand alone.
Reason #2: Features
We like the design of the door of this model with its well-thought-out, double-layer, gray glass which protects against UV light. This is especially convenient if you plan to store your bottles for an extended period of time. Beyond that, the Kalamera people have equipped this cooler with an embedded carbon filter to protect against odors. These two features demonstrate a degree of care that will certainly extend the life of your wine.
Reason #3: Style
For those who are looking for a certain look, the Kalamera may fit into the style of your space. With its stainless steel door and handle with double layered glass window and sliding bamboo racks, the look here is modern and sleek, which may work perfectly with your space.
#3: Ivation Premium Stainless Steel 18 Bottle Thermoelectric Wine Cooler (Best Thermoelectric)
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Our choice for the best wine cooler using thermoelectric cooling is the Ivation 18 Bottle Thermoelectric Wine Cooler. This is a tabletop model that will serve you well, provided you keep it in a somewhat climate-controlled space, out of direct sunlight, as this type of cooler is largely affected by ambient temperatures.
What makes thermoelectric cooling unique is that these wine fridges aim to keep wines at a consistent temperature by running continually, though silently and without vibration. This is unlike the compressor models which cycle on and off, sometimes creating vibration which can disturb sediment, which is undesirable, especially for longer-term storage.
This consistent temperature and lack of vibration make this type of cooler a good solution for storage, unlike a compressor model which is really best for keeping wine on hand at the proper temperature for serving.
One feature that makes the Ivation model unique is its tempered glass Thermopane door that blocks sunlight and harmful UV rays. This is key in proper wine storage as it preserves optimal flavors in properly aged wines. That door offers an added bonus of consistent humidity which prevents the drying of the cork which, in turn, prevents air from contacting the wine so that its desirable flavors and aromas are not wrongly affected.
Much like many other wine refrigerators, the bottle capacity that this cooler claims to hold is dependent on the type of bottles you plan to store. Larger bottles, like those of pinot noir, will take up more space, and you will find that they may not fit as well as standard Bordeaux-style bottles.
For those wine drinkers who are looking for a longer-term storage solution, this model may be a good fit over the previous two, which are compressor-cooled, specifically if you intend to use it in a space that is rather consistent in temperature to begin with.
#4: EdgeStar 18 Bottle Built-In Wine Cooler (Best Built-In Cooler)
For those looking for a specific built-in cooler that will fit in a space previously occupied by a trash compactor, the Edgestart 18 Bottle Built-In Wine Cooler will work perfectly. This can actually be used as a freestanding unit as well, but its dimensions make it a perfect built-in under your kitchen counter as it is just 12 inches wide.
This is a compressor-style, single zone wine cooler, so expect to hear it as it cycles on and off. A few reviewers said they noticed the sound, though it wasn’t troublesome.
There are a few features that make this fridge special. It comes with a reversible door which allows you to determine which way it opens. This feature would be super helpful if you used it as a built-in, offering you the choice that will work best with your cabinetry.
The glass door of this fridge has a protective black dot matrix protection. It is trimmed in stainless steel with a black cabinet with wooden-front shelving. It is stylish, yet simple, with cool blue LED lighting and a look that will fit seamlessly into your decor, especially for tight spaces.
#5: Wine Enthusiast 18 Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler (Best Single Zone Cooler)
The Wine Enthusiast 18 Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler is our choice for best single zone fridge. This is a nice choice for the wine drinker who wishes to keep a small collection of wines at a consistent temperature. Made in the USA by a well-respected 40-year old wine accessory and appliance company, this model offers a sleek black cabinet with a hidden side handle that keeps the look of this cooler modern.
We like the simplicity of this fridge with its 5 scalloped wire racks that cradle your wine bottles. The bottom shelf of the fridge can accommodate larger bottles or just those which you wish to display.
The benefit of this compressor-cooled fridge is that you can feel comfortable with it in a space that may fluctuate a bit in temperature, unlike a thermoelectric model which is more sensitive to ambient temperature. Another upside of the compressor cooled model is that it is a wine refrigerator that is more energy-efficient, which is an asset that may add up to a longer lifespan for this small unit.
Some reviewers indicated that it may not hold as many as 18 bottles of wine, as indicated, depending on size and shape. Bordeaux-style bottles will fit easily, while larger bottles may occupy more space. This may not be a deal-breaker, though something to keep in mind if you plan to store wine bottles of different sizes.
Not to be overlooked are our choices for budget-friendly, small wine coolers. We are happy to report that there are some solid choices that won’t break the bank, offering you properly chilled wine with some extra cash to grow your collection.
Our first choice in the budget-friendly options is the Ivation 12 Bottle Single Zone Freestanding Wine Refrigerator. This is a slender, sleek single zone wine fridge that will be a great floor model, standing over 31 inches tall, but under 10 inches across – perfect for small spaces.
The compressor cooling system and unique fan system that circulates air evenly throught the unit ensure that your wine stays consistently cooled for optimal flavor and aroma protection.
Easy-to-Use Touch Controls make adjusting the temperature super easy. Simply tap the digital display, choose the desired temperature, and keep it safe with the lock button that will prevent accidental temperature fluctuations.
Other features include a double pane, UV resistant glass door that protects your collection from harmful UV light.
Just like the other wine fridges, expect to fit fewer bottles if you are inclined to drinking larger bottles, which comes as no surprise. Despite its size, reviewers generally love this wine refrigerator, and given the relatively low price point, we think it is a great option for a model that offers some great features.
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Our second choice is the Schmecke 12 Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler Refrigerator. This countertop wine cooler has a compact size and square shape that resembles a microwave oven. It can easily be tucked into smaller spaces where height is an issue.
The controls on this fridge are really simple to program. After selecting the temperature you can easily lock in settings with the lock button, a feature that will ensure greater peace of mind when it comes to temperature consistency.
The bright LCD display lets you view the temperature with ease. It also comes with a built in lock and two keys to keep your collection safe.
Overall, reviewers like this wine fridge and felt it is a good choice in its price range. A few indicated that it was a bit noisy, though generally felt that it was a good fit for small spaces. Perhaps you do sacrifice some of the perks of a higher price wine refrigerator, but for an economical countertop wine cooler, this seems like a good starting point.
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Our final choice for budget-friendly small wine coolers is the Antarctic Star 1.6 Cu. Ft. Wine Cooler/Cabinet Beverage Refrigerator. It is a rather compact cooler freestanding cooler, once again, similar in shape to the Schmecke 12 Bottle Cooler.
This fridge claims to keep wine cool much the same temperature range as other more expensive models (40-61 degrees F.), allowing you to set it to the temperature that best suits whatever it is you are storing.
Though its reinforced glass door claims to protect against UV light and moisture, some reviewers weren’t sold on this feature.
The interior shelving is customizable, allowing you to configure the setup as you like. Further features include a reversible door which may come in handy, depending on where you happen to keep it for optimal convenience.
Because it is a compressor-cooled fridge, you can expect some sound. Some reviewers felt it was a little loud, so keep that in consideration.
This was the least expensive of all of our wine refrigerators, and it is certainly the most pared-down cooler of them all. Perhaps you get what you pay for, though if you are looking for a small, basic wine cooler with a bit of flexibility and pared-down features, this may be the one for you.
Do I Really Need a Wine Cooler?
While there is no clear-cut answer to this question, there are a few things one should consider when trying to determine if a wine cooler is really necessary.
First of all, you should consider how frequently you drink wine. Those who only drink wine a couple of times a month could probably do without a wine fridge. On the other hand, if you drink wine more frequently, as often as a few times a week, a wine cooler will serve you well.
Second, ask yourself how much you really enjoy and appreciate a properly chilled wine. If you are someone who truly appreciates the nuances that accompany a properly chilled bottle of wine, then a wine cooler may be for you. Of course, there are ways around it, but our kitchen refrigerators are really not a great place to store wine for the long term. Having a space that is dedicated to the proper temperature and humidity, in the absence of aromas that may transfer to your wine is optimal for those who can taste and smell the difference.
Finally, consider how important it is for you to serve wine when entertaining. Those who often serve wine to guests will certainly enjoy the convenience, as well as the confidence, in serving properly stored wine that is chilled and ready to serve at a moment’s notice. Your guests will assuredly delight in the opportunity, as will you.
Verdict: Your Best Small Wine Cooler
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Nutrichef PKCWC120 Refrigerator.
If you need the best thermoelectric wine fridge, check out the Ivation Premium Stainless Steel 18 Bottle Thermoelectric Wine Cooler.
If you want to keep the spend under $200, choose the Ivation 12 Bottle Single Zone Freestanding Wine Refrigerator.
No quantity of wine is too small for proper storage. If you are truly passionate about keeping your wine properly cooled to the temperature that will make its flavors sing, there is a wine cooler out there that will suit your needs.