Sub-Zero Wine Storage Units: Innovation from the Refrigeration Experts

Ever since Westye F. Bakke built the first freestanding freezer in the basement of his home in Madison, Wisconsin, over sixty years ago, the company has set a standard for refrigeration innovation. Last year, it was named one of the top ten Green Brands in the US and the UK. It is no wonder then that wine connoisseurs would expect SubZero to create the definitive wine storage unit.

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“All of our wine storage units are manufactured with the same standards and the same basic principals as our larger refrigeration units,” says Paul Leuthe, corporate marketing manager for Sub-Zero. Those refrigerators have a unique dual refrigeration system with two distinct temperature zones that ensure the freshest food and energy efficiency. Electronic controls allow the homeowner to maintain a separate temperature and humidity within each section.

These unique zones are maintained by two independent compressors. This also prevents odor transfer.

With that kind of technology in place and the dedication to protect what homeowners place in these units, it was easy for Sub-Zero to conceptualize a design for wine storage units. Currently, they manufacture five units for the dedicated wine consumer and oversee another. They also have one other additional unit used as a beverage center.

“Each one of our models has two separate zones,” says Leuthe. One space holds a third of the unit's capacity, and the other space holds thirds. With these two distinct zones, a wine collector can store reds in one section and whites in another. “What we have found out is that people generally, and this is a generalization, drink more red than white,” Leuthe continues. “So, if you want to store one third of whites and 2/3 reds, you can to that.”

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

The temperature range in these two zones can drop as low as 38 degrees or go as high as 65 degrees. Since different wines require different temperatures, this is ideal. “Champagnes are meant to be drunk at 38 to 40 degrees, and whites at maybe 45 degrees, with the reds anywhere from 55 to 65 degrees, depending on your personal preference,” Leuthe says. “That's why we gave that wide range so that you as a consumer or as collector of wine can have the capability of maintaining that variable temperature spread.” These temperatures are maintained by separate controls, not by relying on the law of physics as some of their competitors do, which tout having different zones, but really only have one space within the unit. “That is just stratified air,” Leuthe explains. “Hot air rises so the warmer temperature would be on top, then the medium would be in the middle, and the cooler would be on the bottom.” That was the basis for many refrigerator/freezers years ago. 

“We don’t want to do that,” Leuthe says. “and the people who really appreciate fine wine at the right temperature want to make sure the temperature is adequate and that the temperature is consistent, whether it is for long-term storage or for drinking temperature. We literally have a physical barrier between the two zones that separates the inside cavity. When the door is closed, there is a gasket on the inside of the door that makes contact with the control panel that maintains the integrity of those two zones from a temperature perspective.” Each section in these Sub-Zero wine units has a separate fan to circulate the air within it.

“When we came out with the first wine unit in 1999, we really did do our homework. And it was something that we did not treat lightly because we don’t treat refrigeration lightly,” states Leuthe. “We found we had to make it the Sub-Zero way.” Each section will keep wine to within one degree of the user's preset temperature.

These wine storage units can also be configured to store wine at their lower storage temperatures as well as bringing them up to their proper drinking range. “If you want to want to store one third of your wine at drinking temperature and two thirds at storage temperature, you can do that,” says Leuthe. This is ideal if you are in an area where you cannot create a below ground wine cellar or where you just don't have the space. For example, in places like Florida or New Orleans where the water table is too high, basements are just not part of a building plan; therefore a below ground wine cellar would be impossible. Or, if you lived in Manhattan and you store you wine off site at a wine warehouse, your short term storage or drinking temperature wine is located in a unit at your home and you can adjust the temperature accordingly.

Sizes and Styles

Sub-Zero wine storage units suit every wine lovers needs. They may be built in or freestanding and come in a range of sizes. The smallest wine storage unit, the Sub-Zero 424, holds 46 bottles and is a built-in unit. Sometimes, it is used as a single unit, located under a counter, or several are installed in a series to offer more storage capacity in a smaller space. The freestanding Sub-Zero 424 is a nice addition to a den or family room.

The Sub-Zero 427 has space for 132 bottles, and the Sub-Zero 430 can store 147 bottles. The Sub-Zero 427R combines a wine storage unit and a refrigerator into one unit. There is a full-size wine storage area with its two separate temperature areas on the top of the unit and two refrigerated storage drawers on the other. Soft drinks or beer can be stored in the lower drawers. All of these units also have a display shelf to show off your most prized wines. It has discreet lighting to showcase the wine without the wine being affected by the light source.

All of the Sub-Zero wine storage units are available in three stainless steel finishes: classic, platinum, and carbon. Some can be ordered with optional wood paneled doors. Every unit comes standard with UV glass doors to protect the wine but they also allow the user to see what is available inside the unit. High altitude glass doors for use over 5,000 feet may be ordered as an option, as well as some solid wood doors for some built-in units.

All units have low voltage lighting, independent of door opening, and sturdy, rustproof wire shelving that can accommodate standard 750 ml wine bottles, half bottles, and even magnums. Each shelf is faced with cherry wood and extend three-quarters of the way out, allowing for easy access to all of the stored bottles. “Wine is stored sort of stored head to toe to maximize space,” Leuthe explains. “Wine does not like to be disturbed. When you pull the shelf out, you can reach a back bottle without disturbing the front bottles. It's really a smooth glide system, too. It is not jerky like you would get with some less expensive models.”

Easy to use electronic, touch pad controls are powered by a microprocessor. This ensures proper temperature and humidity. A service indicator light alerts users if service is necessary. In addition, all units can be locked and tied into your home security system. “If there is some wild temperature fluctuation or if the unit runs too long and starts cooling too much, there are parameters you can set for it to alert your home security system,” says Leuthe. That way, someone could come out and check the unit or service it before you lose your wine. 

In addition, every Sub-Zero wine storage unit is Kosher certified as Sabbath and holiday compliant.

Sub-Zero offers one other unit that is made off-site. It is the Sub-Zero 315W, which is a single zone unit that stores 26 bottles. It offers the smooth roller-glide shelves and discreet lighting. It would be useful to store one type of wine at a single temperature or to bring up wine to a drinking temperature. It is small enough to be built into a large motor coach or yacht where there would be a continuous source of electricity.

To find out if Sub-Zero wine storage units suit your needs, check out their website, subzero.com, and look for dealer or distributor in your area.

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