Consumer Reports: Wine Chillers
Consider when you'll drink the wine. All the tested wines are fine forimmediate consumption.That said, the Ratings identify a few merlots and blends that are less smooth. These wines have qualities (including the presence of mouth-puckering tannin) that could soften and improve if they're aged a year or two.
Consider the food-wine pairing. Fairly simple urines work well on their own as aperitifs; pinot grigio/pinot gris is a good example. But the more complex a urine, the wider the range of food flavors that will complement or enhance it.
Although particular wines are often associatedwith particular foods (as in the proverbial white-wine-with-fish rule), good wine pairing often has as much to do with sauces or a food's preparation as with the underlying fish, meat, or flour. For example, spicy dishes work well with offdry wines that are low in tannin. (Those mouth-puckering compounds pair best with basic and fatty foods.)
Here is pairing advice ftom our two experts, who together have more than 50 years' experience tasting and judging.
- --Merlot and red-wine blends. Broiled. roasted or grilled meat and chicken; meaty firm, hearty fish such as Ahi tuna; savory side dishes such as winter squash, yams, and hearty portabello mushrooms; nuts; rich sauces with herbs (garlic, rosemary thyme, and tarragon); and aromatic vegetables such as fennel and onion.
- --Pinot noir. Roast beef; broiled, roasted or grilled meat, chicken, oily or fatty fish like salmon; and savory rich, herbed foods.
- --Pinot grigio/pinot gris. Those of the Old- World style (see Guide to the Ratings, page 41) pair well with lighter dishes: less-seasoned and -sauced seafood, and shellfish. New-World-style wines can take on richer and heavier fare, such as seafood with butter sauce; salmon; veal dishes with light sauces; egg rolls and spring rolls; citrus-accented foods; sauces and seasonings including garlic, onion, mustard, and vinegar; sour-cream- and yogurt-based foods; salads with savory elements such as bacon; and pasta with cream, butter, or pesto.
- --Chardonay. This pairs well with poultry in cream or butter sauces; dishes with herbs (oregano, mustard, cloves, ginger, and sage); lobster in butter other shellfish; and seafood platters and stews.
WHAT'S BEST FOR LONG- AND SHORT-TERM
It's not essential to have a special chiller for your wine. A basement or other cool, constant-temperature space can work for storage of whites and reds-55º F is optimum- and a fridge is fine for chilling prior to serving. But a wine chiller is useful if you don't have a basement, entertain a lot, or want optimal serving temperatures without the fussy timing required of a fridge.
Wine chillers are becoming more affordable and flexible. Brands such as GE, Jenn- Air, and KitchenAid are selling units that fit under a counter for 51,000 and up, and Kenmore and others are offering small, freestanding units for 5300 or so. Premium manufacturer Sub-Zero sells small chillers, too, as well as refrigerator-sized units for deep-pocketed wine buffs.
In our tests of 13 small chillers, those that controlled temperatures best and were most energy-efficient and least noisy cost $1,400 or more. But other fine models cost far less.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Consider these factors:
Built-ln or freestanding. Built-ins are typically about 34 inches high and 24 inches deep; freestanding can be taller or narrower.
Capacity. Undercounter units can hold about 45 to 60 bottles.
How you'll use it. lf your interest is long-term storage, or chilling just one type of wine, look for a one-compartment model with very good temperature uniformity.
If you want to chill more than one type of wine for serving, you'll want temperature variability. Recommended serving temperatures range from about 40 to 65º F, with sparkling wines at the cooler end, most whites in the middle, and most reds toward the warmer end.
One option is a one-compartment unit that's warmer at the top, cooler below. Better yet is a unit with two well-controlled temperature environments; the Sub-Zero 424G/O did best, varying just 3º F at normal room temperature.
Useful features. Electronic controls let you set a specific temperature. Other useful features include pull-out shelves, reversible door, door lock, interior light, and the option to accept a custom-cabinet frame.
Energy costs. Some units used as much energy as a full-sized refrigerator. Using average electricity costs, the best would cost $15 a year, the worst would cost $32 a year.
Noise. This is an issue if the chiller is in the kitchen or another central location.
The Avanti WC330DZB, 5400, can chill two different wine types capably, but didn't respond enough to changing room temperatures to use for long-term storage.
No tested chillers vibrated excessively, a concern of some enthusiasts.
For a built-in chiller:
GE Monogram ZDWR240PABS, 51,400
Sub-Zero 424c /O, 52,000
Vinotemp VT 50-GNV 5500 Top-rated, built-in GE and Sub-Zero both adjust to desired temperatures with aplomb. The one-compartment, stainless-steel edged GE stores 52 standard bottles and is very quiet. The 46-bottle Sub-Zero has two compartments-a plus. But it's noisy and not energy-efficient.
The one-compartment Vinotemp, judged good overall, holds 60 bottles. It's excellent for long-term storage.
For a freestanding chiller:
Kenmore (Sears) 1432, $300 This one-compartment model holds 32 bottles. Very good temperature control makes it a fine choice, especially for long-term storage. Dimensions (HxWxD) in inches are 38½x20x21½.