Chillers are a good way to store wines - at least for fussy oenophiles with deep pockets. Alok Chandra lists out what they should be looking for, why and where.
An increasing number of Indians (and expats living in India) are creating their own wine cellars at home: a repository for their collection of wines which they can delve into at will for their own drinking pleasure.
A wine collection can number anything from 15 bottles upwards, but for most, between 60 and 100 bottles is a good quantity — enough to store in a wine cooler. More than that and you are getting into a bigger league and will need to plan a dedicated wine cellar. The first step, thus, is to decide what wine cooler to acquire. A wine cooler can cost anything from Rs 20,000 to over Rs 100,000 and is a major step in “wine-dom”, so it’s worthwhile to do a bit of research before investing in one.
What is a wine cooler?
A wine cooler (also called a wine chiller, although that term should more correctly be applied to single-bottle units) is a refrigerator designed to store wines at an ambient temperature in the minimum space, normally with a transparent door and sliding shelves that facilitate storage and selection of the wines.
What do I keep in mind when buying a wine cooler?
Wines are best stored at 12-14 degrees centigrade, away from light and vibration, at a humidity of 60-70 per cent — the very ambience of old-time wine cellars in temperate Europe. Replicating this in your house or flat requires you to keep in mind the following:
Capacity: Your wine collection will increase over time, so it’s a good idea to plan for a larger unit. For example, if your current collection is 50 bottles, think of a unit that will store at least 25 more.
Location: Where your wine cooler will go will also determine its size — if you only have space on top of a counter you want a small 15-bottle unit, whereas if you have enough place in the den (and the spending power) you might go for that 100-bottle free-standing unit.
Temperature: Options to consider include single- or dual-zone temperature coolers, digital display, and adjustable temperature controls. Go for more expensive dual (or even triple) temperature-zone units if you want to be able to serve wines at the correct temperature directly from the cooler.
Humidity: Most wine coolers do not have humidity control features, and maintain a humidity of about 30 per cent — over time this will tend to dry out corks. If you have a collection of wines that requires long-term storage, then look for a wine cabinet (rather than just a cooler) that can keep the wines at 60-70 per cent humidity.
Shelving: The shelves holding the wine bottles should slide out, and have enough space (and strength) to store two rows of wines (front- and back-facing) if required. Wooden shelves look better and will not scratch the glass or labels, but wire shelves are easier to maintain. Shelves should also be removable to enable storing magnum-sized bottles.
Wine coolers available in India
With relaxed foreign exchange norms and so many people having dollar accounts, it’s possible to bring in wine coolers from anywhere — there are companies who will do this for you (at a price).
The most highly-rated wine cooler brands internationally are Wine Enthusiast, EuroCave, Vinotemp, Avanti, NewAir, and Vinotheque. Of these, EuroCave is the most expensive; check out models and prices at www.air-n-water.com/wine-cooler or www.wine.about.com/.
Still, you will want to have the comfort of after-sales service (if necessary) from a local company, and ensure that you have a unit that runs on 240 volts power rather than the 110 volt norm overseas. Of course, since wine is still an exotic beverage in India and, by extension, suppliers of wine coolers few in number, all wine coolers are overpriced in India (versus prices internationally).
On researching the subject, I found the following wine cooler suppliers:
This Gurgaon-based professionally-managed company both produces and markets a wide range of commercial refrigeration and food-service products. Their wine coolers range in capacity from 25 bottles (Rs 20,000) to 43 bottles (Rs 36,000), 72 bottles (Rs 46,000), and a massive 185-bottle capacity behemoth costing Rs 90,000. With a very good website (names and contact numbers readily available) and a widespread sales and service network in India, this seems to be the best bet for someone looking for a wine storage solution without having to pay an arm and a leg for that privilege.
White Westinghouse (www.winecoolers.co.in)
Mumbai-based Jet India imports and distributes a range of appliances from the US producer White Westinghouse, and a call to its office (022-4343 2308) elicited an immediate response and product catalogue. It has wine coolers ranging in size from 18 bottles (Rs 37,000) to 33 bottles (Rs 43,000), 54 bottles (Rs 71,000), 100 bottles (Rs 79,000 — single temperature zone) and finally 166 bottles (Rs 120,000). Well worth checking out, if only for the quick response.
Haier India (www.haier.co.in)
The well-known Chinese white-goods maker also makes and sells wine coolers, but locating them on its website takes some doing (you have to search under “wine”), and locating a dealer and the items’ prices takes even more time and effort. Dealer details on the website were outdated; calls to the helpline produced numbers of two more dealers in Bangalore — neither of whom took or returned the call. On the website the coolers are deceptively-coded — for example model JC-82GEA actually has a capacity of only 20 bottles, not 82. In effect, despite much effort, I failed to locate a dealer who could tell me about the prices or availability, and can only advise not to go for Haier wine coolers.
This effectively restricts our field to just two vendors, and I would welcome readers to offer their comments and suggestions on the subject.
Alok Chandra is a Bangalore-based wine consultant