I live in temperate New England, so my husband and I have only ever used the passive cooling of our basement to keep our wine collection stable. The approach is frugal, but the results are uneven at best—too cold in the winter, too warm in summer. So when home appliance manufacturer NewAir contacted me to review a sample of their 46-bottle wine and beverage cooler, I jumped at the chance to see how I’d like living with an active unit.
I like it a lot. For about six weeks I’ve been cycling white, red, sparkling, and sweet wines through the chiller, an experience that has underscored the advantages of having a kaleidoscope of wines handy at perfect serving temperature. I do have a few quibbles with the design (read on for more details), but this unit has proved to me the value of active wine storage.
NewAir Wine Cooler Features
The NewAir AWR-460DB-B wine cooler is attractive, quiet, and inexpensive to operate. It can stand alone or be built into a run of kitchen cabinets. The interior blue LED lighting is jazzy, the black stainless steel finish is stylish, and—unlike my fleet of normal stainless appliances—easy to keep clean.
Efficiency and Economy
I found the NewAir wine cooler unit to be both quiet and affordable to operate. With the help of a digital electricity meter, we measured its energy consumption and determined it’s about the equivalent of running a 40-Watt light bulb. That translates to $30 to $40 per year in energy costs.
As for overall economy, the 46-bottle cooler retails for $1,000 (although readers of this review can get a 20% discount using code MAKERS). Throw in electricity and you’re out $1,030 for the first year, meaning that a household that opens 365 bottles will realize a per-bottle storage cost of $2.82. Amortized over ten years, though, the cost drops to $.36 per bottle—more expensive than a basement, but still pretty economical.
Two-stage LED lighting washes bottles in cool blue light
NewAir’s 46-bottle unit has two temperatures zones. The smaller upper section, meant for white, rosé, and sparkling wines, can be set as low as 40°F, while the larger section, meant for reds, only goes down to 50°F. I’ve been running them at 45°F and 55°F.
I used a thermal probe to monitor the temperature in the middle of each section. Although the reading was consistently about two degrees higher than the display indicates, the zones were incredibly stable over time. Also, I never hesitated to keep the door open for several minutes while shuffling bottles, because the full unit naturally has a lot of ballast, so the temperature rebounds quickly.
It’s no secret that wines show better “at cellar temperature,” but exactly what that means differs by wine type. White wines chilled in the relative Arctic of the kitchen refrigerator can feel muted and numb. Reds served too cold can be severe with forward tannins, but served too warm, even room temperature, they can seem flabby and hot, especially the riper modern styles.
Pouring whites at 45°F and reds at 55°F makes both more expressive, elegant, and refreshing immediately on opening. I found this a key advantage of a two-zone system, and of an active system overall. Most sparkling wines need an extra nudge of cold, but they’re easily finished in the fridge for an hour before serving.
Some bottles are a poor fit, like this large Burgundy-style glass that scuffs against the shelving
This NewAir wine cooler has five sliding wooden shelves, plus a fixed shelf built into the bottom of the unit. The wooden shelves have a lip, so must be slid out for loading, a step that also requires the door to be opened wide. These shelves are somewhat bulky, taking up a lot of precious conditioned space and making me wonder whether stainless steel might be a better choice.
Each shelf is intended to hold eight bottles, but I find they fit six more comfortably, making this functionally a 36-bottle unit. I also found that many large Burgundy-style and sparkling wine bottles were a poor fit, leading to scuffed labels (and a few choice epithets). This was especially true for top-end wines, which are often packaged in heavy, thick, tall, and expensive glass bottles designed to impress. The lighter glass used for less expensive wines, and the narrower bottles traditional for wines like Riesling and Pinot Grigio, fit more comfortably.
This 46-bottle NewAir wine cooler is best for households seeking to keep about three cases of wine available at perfect serving temperature. The size is also useful for apartment-dwellers with a small collection of special wines who seek a stable place to age them gracefully. The design assumes users will drink more red than white, but this temperature disparity isn’t an issue for wines for long-aging, all of which are fine held at 50°F to 55°F. Those who need to cellar a lot of bulky bottles will have to put up with a little futzing. The unit is economical in the long run, and the look is modern and timeless.
As for me, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Basement storage might be fine for bicycles and power tools. For wine, I want an active system.
Reader discount on the NewAir wine cooler:
This unit was a free sample for evaluation purposes. Terroir Review receives no cash benefit from the discount NewAir is offering to readers of this review.