List Factors to Consider when Buying a Wine Cabinet

List Factors to Consider when Buying a Wine Cabinet

Wine collectors contemplating the purchase of a wine cabinet will appreciate knowing a bit more about this unique furniture category. We’ve taken some time here to sketch its origins and list questions buyers should ask before selecting the make and model that’s best suited to their home or business needs.

EuroCave wine cabinet spec sheet; the devil is in the details: Bottle size and capacity, temperature and humidity controls, power, sound and space are just some of the things to keep in mind while shopping for a new wine cabinet.


Wine cabinets are the modern evolution of the wooden cellarette, which was a small hardwood chest that was purpose-built to store bottles of alcohol and was common household furniture in upscale American homes in the late 1700s. Some sources say the word cellarette originated from the work of cabinetmaker George Hepplewhite, who was one of the “Big Three” English furniture designers of the late colonial age (alongside Thomas Sheraton and Thomas Chippendale). And we know these items were made in North America too – historical records show renowned 18th-century Charleston-South Carolina furniture craftsman Thomas Elfe made several “Mahogany Cases for bottles with brass handles” which he sold for £12 each in 1803.

Left: Early cellarette used during the American Revolutionary War (now at the George Washington museum). Right: George Hepplewhite’s octagonal cellarette design (missing its front locking mechanism).

The early cellarette offered no cooling or any insulation beyond its wooden sides. It did however allow the property owner to keep his liquor secure under lock and key and the portability of the piece meant his wine and spirits could be carried on campaign.

Modern wine cabinets are hydro-electrically powered and therefore much more functional and better designed. They are made for long-term wine storage, and can be set to the perfect temperature for perpetuity. Below is a list of fourteen factors worth considering before buying a wine cabinet. This will also be helpful for the sales people or kitchen designers who may be shopping on your behalf.

14 Factors Wine Collectors Need to Consider Before Buying a Wine Cabinet

1.      Check the specs and measure everything twice. Make sure the dimensions of the space match and allow breathing room for the model size (small, medium or large) you’re considering. Don’t forget to factor the exhaust and venting needs of the unit. Each wine cabinet needs clearance above or behind the unit (approximately 6 inches) to let the cooling unit cool itself off, dissipate exhaust, and provide fresh air for unit. So be sure to measure space behind or above the piece depending on the layout of your space. If you have a built in unit, then surrounding cabinetry can essentially be built around the wine cabinet.

2.    Know the style of the wine cabinet you want to best match the interior decor of the room. If you have antique furniture or a retro-design theme in the room, an ultra-modern wine cabinet will look awkward and out-of-place no matter how sleek or impressive its build. Design options are broad when it comes to selecting the style of a wine cabinet – from a classic or period-piece theme to contemporary or ultra-modern – choose the look that best matches the room. This goes for in-counter models or built-in appliances in kitchens. Make sure the wine cabinet model matches the colour and theme of the kitchen and/or surrounding room environment.

Wine cabinet finish options are available in wood or metal. Here’s one sample at the Rosehill Wine Cellar showroom in Mississauga.

3.      Select the perfect finish, whether its metal or stained wood (solid oak or beech wood) with a red, brown or black hue. Ask the sales staff to list all available options and select the finish that is the most future proof in your home or work space. Cavavin offers wine rack cabinets in Wild Cherry, Oak, Pine, and Stainless Steel. Le Cache also offers stained wood finishes including cherry wood wine rack cabinets, while Wine CellR units are predominantly made of metal and most have stainless steel exteriors.

4.      Know the function of the wine storage unit. Is this cabinet for maturing wine over long periods of time? Or is it for short-term storage before serving wine to guests? Or perhaps it’s a combination of the two? Knowing the function of the cabinet will help decide its placement and whether you need a single or multi-temperature unit.

5.     What door(s) does your wine cabinet need? Buyers may select glass, solid or technical doors, which are stainless-steel finishes.

Select appropriate interior wine racking.

6.      What interior racking is required? Keep in mind what you need for your personal wine storage. There are many options including sliding or presentation shelves and many different wine racking configurations. Some less expensive wine cabinets will have stationary shelves which make it a little more awkward to access the bottles at the back of the unit. Also, some of the wine cabinets with pull-out shelves only pull out part of the way, which still make it difficult to access bottles at the back – be sure to investigate this when doing your research. 

7.     Know the racking size and the racking space (and bottle sizing). Make sure the wine cabinet you select has both “standard” size wine racking for 3 inch to 3.2 inch diameter bottles (12 inches tall) and some 3.7 inch to 5 inch slots (or even larger) for large-format bottles such as Burgundy, Pinot, and Champagne.

8.     Know the bottle capacity you need and select a wine cabinet in the range you require. Wine cabinets vary in size from units holding less than 14 bottles to behemoths capable of storing and cooling 1,200 bottles or more. The size of wine cabinet you require depends entirely on its purpose.

Some wine cabinets are partitioned for long term and short term wine storage.

9.     Study the specifications of the wine cabinet’s cooling unit and if possible, connect the unit to a power source to listen with your own ears to the cooling unit at work. The noise will only get louder over time, and when it’s backed into a well-tiled kitchen-corner echo chamber. The unit’s noise level is a significant factor when choosing a refrigerated wine cabinet for a temple setting or an otherwise quiet home.

10.  Know the temperature controls. Does the unit have a variable temperature-control interface? This is important because a wine cabinet’s cooling unit will always be “on” and working to maintain the desired settings. In this respect, it’s very important the wine collector be able to set the temperature for the entire cabinet or different sections of the interior if a multi-temperature unit is selected.

11.  Does the wine cabinet have humidity controls? Some wine cabinets on the market today have humidity gauges and humidity cassettes, but most do not. Most wine collectors do not feel this is worth much consideration as when wine is stored on its side, and the liquid comes into contact with the cork, the moisture swells the wood, which prevents shrinkage and oxidation. This is how wine has been stored for thousands of years.

12.  Check the insulation quality of the wine cabinet. Make sure the wine cabinet interior is properly sealed off and well insulated. This consideration is tied to energy conservation as an improperly sealed cooling unit can work against your home heating system. In this worst case scenario, heating bills rise and wine spoils.

13.  Does the wine cabinet emit light? Lighting becomes important in home theater setting and in temple. Some cabinets have lighting that turns on when you open the door, and some have lighting that you can turn-on permanently to showcase the contents of the cabinet behind its glass doors.

14. Does the wine cabinet have a warranty? And what exactly does the warranty cover? Keep these 14 factors in mind when shopping for wine cabinets and you won’t go wrong!

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