When I was first getting interested in wine, I wanted a wine fridge, but couldn't afford one. Then I met people that had entire rooms devoted to climate-controlled aging of serious wine, and I thought the tiny wine fridge would be inadequate. When I could afford a wine fridge, I was concerned about the bottle capacity, as well as issues like vibration. After all, I had an old dorm fridge that was functional, but with a compressor that sounded like a paint mixer full of scrap metal. It would pre-scramble eggs. That dorm fridge sat on the back porch for years and was home to several generations of black widow spiders.
Noise, capacity, and black widows... These colored my thinking towards small refrigeration units, and I tended to warn my friends off them, saying, "For the inexpensive wine you're drinking, just keep it in a dark cool closet or an empty ice chest. That will prevent the temperature shifts that will damage your wine. Throw the wine in the big refrigerator when necessary before serving." And that's not bad advice, but I was missing a few potential applications.
The Air & Water AW210-ED arrived at the house for review. $219.99 from the website, 21 bottle capacity. There are two separate cooling zones, with the top holding six bottles and the bottom holding fifteen. (Note: In the pictures I have the unit set to Celsius, but it does Fahrenheit as well. My house and blog are metric first, imperial second.) It's a sleek black unit that uses blue LEDs with two internal blue LEDs that partially illuminate the bottles--not really enough to read labels, but they don't produce heat and are undeniably cool looking. I found that the unit was easy to assemble (just screw on the handles) and that it got down to the desired temperature within an hour. Opinions vary, but a good rule of thumb is 18°C/65°F for red wines and 13°C/55°F for white/rosé/sparkling wines. It gets down as low as 7°C/45°F if you prefer an even cooler temperature. The unit is completely silent--if it weren't for the LEDs you might wonder whether or not it's on at all, and there's no noticeable vibration. I touch it occasionally when I walk by it and never feel any humming or stirring, so I am confident that the wines are not being agitated. The unit is a bit less than one meter or yard tall, or approximately the height of a seated Labrador.
The uses I had not anticipated: For people that collect cases of wine for long term storage, this isn't your solution. It's really ideal for entertaining, in that you can keep a mixed group of perfectly matched wines in the small unit rather than your regular food refrigerator. Indeed, for a dinner party or wine tasting, you need all that space in the big fridge for food, platters, and whatnot. Having a small dedicated wine fridge in the corner or in an adjacent room is much more convenient. I also found that it was the perfect place to keep my vermouths--if you're not using them up within a couple of months, they really need to be refrigerated, but again there's a space issue. The wine fridge is the perfect place to keep items like Dry White Vermouth, Sweet Red Vermouth, Lillet Blanc, and similar cocktail ingredients that are not spirits and degrade more rapidly at room temperature. Consider similar applications for your Ports, Sherries, and other after-dinner beverages. I also think you could flip the shelves upside down and store a lot of high end beers. On a personal note, let's just say that hot sauces last a lot longer when refrigerated, but if the person you live with gets annoyed at 20 different little bottles rattling around the jelly and milk, dedicating a rack to your sauces can make life a lot easier.
Having used the unit for a week, I'm happy with how it works. It's quiet, it doesn't take up a lot of room, and until I physically had one in my hands I didn't realize how useful it could be. On top of all that I just have to say that it's neat to have sitting in the living room. It looks good, the temp readout gives it a groovy scientific vibe, and pulling a bottle out of it is far classier than with my old blue ice chest. Air & Water has a range of models in various sizes and price points. Take a look and see what fits your particular entertaining needs.
Note: This unit was received as a sample for review. No other compensation or commissions are involved.