Beginner Wine Drinker - Buying My First Cabinet


I've enjoyed wine for a while but mainly while out on meals or having a get-together. I intend to do more hosting at my place as well as subscribe to a wine case provider and so I want to start storing my wines in something suitable for them.

However not knowing much about the subject (might do me good to find some wine groups/tastings near Portsmouth) I don't know where to begin on a suitable wine cabinet.

I want to store both red/wine (I'm fine with rose also) and I have space for a freestanding or worktop counter cabinet. I would feel a minimum of 12 bottles is needed - after all a case is typically what 12-16 bottles every time you order one and that's not including presents or ad-hoc buys. Plus I live alone so it's not like I'll be downing a bottle every night!

So many brands and specs, no idea what to choose. Can I find something that will work in a mainstream store like Currys or John Lewis or Argos or do I need to look elsewhere online for a specialist? Pretty sure no specialist store exists near Portsmouth that I can visit.

Any help will be appreciated, thanks!

Hi Luke. If you're only looking to store for a few months (which it sounds like) then I wouldn't worry - you'd do better spending the money on wine instead! If you're looking to store longer-term then that's another question but again if it's only a few cases you might find it less costly to open an account with LCB, Seckford or EHD.
Hi Luke & welcome to the forum. I agree you don't really need a special cabinet or fridge (yet!). A couple of dozen bottles for consuming in the subsequent year or two just need to be somewhere that's away from sources of heat and aren't repeatedly cooled down & warmed up. Popular places are under the stairs or backs of wardrobes or leave them in their boxes away from radiators/direct sunlight/etc.

Spend the money finding out lots more about what you like in the world of wine - go to some tastings, buy a book or two, join the Wine Society, and have fun finding out new stuff!
Hi Luke
Firstly, welcome to the forum.

Quite a bit to cover, so I'll offer my opinions, but do sample different opinions.

Wine Fridges / cabinets - Source

Plenty out there, from tiny 6 bottle upright jobs designed to fit in a small space in a kitchen, through to huge walk-in affairs. Mainstream shops will have them, including electrical chains, John Lewis, Makro etc. However the choice will be limited and I'd only look there if there was a closeout sale and the price was verifiably as good as claimed. There are some internet based companies that often have reasonably sharp pricing. Once you find a model number that interests, try something like pricerunner to compare prices and see who the current internet players are. However I will put in a good word for specialists 'Tanglewood' who many here have bought from.

Wine Fridges / cabinets - Makers
Many out there. Liebherr are arguably the pick. Reliable, reasonably priced (though that is relative) and with a wide range and a long track record. I presume you will put any connections with Southampton football club aside! There are a few more prestige makers, plus at the smaller / lower end, many new ones come and go, or get imported briefly. For your needs this might be an area worth taking a punt. Our first wine fridge was an unknown (to me) make and was decent for a while but packed in after maybe 6-7 years. Apart from a somewhat early death, the only other complaint was it seemed designed for german Riesling bottles, as those were the only ones that could actually fit as designed!

Wine Fridges / cabinets - Size
The most common mistake is underestimating how much we buy and the space we need. If you think you may need space for 12-16 bottles, then buy one that can take 40 bottles (or more). This hobby ends up being one where we are constantly inspired to buy more, not least by the reprobates that post interesting tasting notes here (you swines!).
Perhaps more importantly, it's great to know 'why' you need to store wine. For me it started as a way of being able to grab a bottle for the evening meal, without having to plan a trip to a wine shop. That then branched out into having something suitable on hand for the evening meal, and then an active interest in cellaring wines that became more enjoyable / interesting with age. This also shows how our interest can change and adapt, and how what seemed like 'way too much space' is all too soon 'too small'.
Note also that some have heating elements and can be stored in a garage or similar, whilst others are designed to be kept in a heated room. There is also a large variety in terms of aesthetics with remarkably many downright ugly/utliltarian designs. Glass fronted is fine and desirable for many, but tinted glass makes sense.
Even if you store for several years, it does not necessarily mean you need a wine cabinet. In addition to what Nigel said, if you have under-stair cupboard or somewhere else that is coo-lish and out of sunlight, that would be fine. Under kick-boards in the kitchen can be another good option

Do a quick back-of-the fag-packet calculation to work out how much storage you need. What do you think will be the average number of years a bottle you put in the cabinet will need to age? And how many such bottles will you drink in a year? Multiply the numbers together for a minimum fridge size. You might need a bit more to ensure you have a decent choice. And consider that your enthusiasm for wine might increase. Remember that the number of bottles quoted for fridges is for Bordeaux bottles. If you drink stuff in bottles of different shapes, reckon on 85% or so of the quoted number. You could also try buying some more mature bottles to see how much of a taste you have for wine at different ages, which will help.

Unless appearance is very important to you, I would (in fact did) buy online according to the specification.

For other answers, and further discussion, see this thread:
Wine storage cabinet suggestions
The guys above have covered the other angle I was about to address, which is do you need a wine fridge yet. Under-stairs storage works for many, until despairing spouses insist they have to be able to get to the vacuum cleaner. If you ever get wine delivered in moulded polystyrene inserts to the box, then these are wonderful insulators against big temperature variations.

As for wine buying, a monthly 'wine case' can be an easy introduction, but you may very quickly realise that this is wines selected by someone else, without any knowledge of your preferences, and add to this there are some that are not viewed very highly around here (search Naked Wines, Laithwaites and the like). Much, much better to find a local merchant, tell them what you've liked and what you're looking for e.g. 2-3 whites that are flexible to match fish and white meat, a couple of good 'steak night' reds, something to go with tomato based pasta dishes, a dessert wine and a couple of reds that can be drunk without food. Whatever you want them for, they should be able to suggest options - well if they are a decent, typically independent, merchant. However having said that, Majestic still do have well trained and enthusiastic staff, so they are currently worth considering, but see the current thread for concerns about them.

One place I'll recommend (indeed I've just bought some wine from them) is Fareham wine cellar. The shop is a bit of a cave, too much wine for the available space, but they do have a nicely eclectic selection, good knowledge and more importantly seem to refresh their knowledge of the wines they stock by tasting them - including some mature stock at fair prices. Definitely the sort of place that will be able to tailor the selection to what you want.


p.s. just realised that Tanglewood should be in range for you.
I would definitely reiterate storage quantity. Whatever size of fridge you may buy you will before too long wish you had bought a bigger capacity or a second one.
Quite honestly I'd just stick with the understairs cupboard (or similar) for now. I did get a fridge after I got the bug, but having now drunk plenty of wines that have spent ten years or more in the understairs cupboard I'd probably stick with that if I had to take the decision again. But then rlatively few of my wines are over the £30 mark.
Some handy tips - I have a laundry cupboard with a shelf that won't have anything on, but it shares with a washing machine. Too hot? Other than that, theres not really any spare space other than the kitchen worktop to put any other wines without storage.

I thought that not every wine that's good has to cost a ton of money. Isn't cost mostly a case of a lack of supply rather than an indication of how nice the wine actually is? I adore Casellbro....or whatever it is......that Chilean wine brand from the adverts particularly anything with the word Sauvignon in it, that's less than £10 a bottle.

Pompey Wine Society did catch my eye at random browsing but haven't inspected it in detail yet.

For me I'm more of a "what wine will go nicely with this food" type person as opposed to how old it is. I like to cook and it would be cool to have a wine for most different cuisine occasions. But of course I host board game nights so wine is nice to have then as well.
If you're talking about Casillero del Diablo then you won't be needing a wine cabinet , it has no ageing potential and needs drinking within a couple of years of purchase. Are you confusing a wine cabinet with a wine fridge? Either way you won't be needing one for that sort of wine.
You're right that you don't need to spend a lot of money to get a nice wine and buying one for £50 won't necessarily get you anything that you'll like 5 times as much as your regular wine, far from it, but with the exception of a very few wines/regions, a higher price is usually a fair reflection of the quality, care, production cost, ect rather than the price being artificially inflated by other factors. That said, there's plenty of good stuff around the £10 mark as you've already found.
Pompey wine soc sounds like a good place to learn more, especially with things like matching food with wine. If you just buy wine from a supermarket though you'll probably miss out on a lot of the better food wines because a lot of what they stock is uncomplicated, fruit forward party pleasers. Although they may sell something like a German Riesling would you really choose it as the perfect match for those scallops you're planning or would you just see a lot of foreign writing with no obvious mention of a grape such as Sauvignon Blanc? Find a good independent or join TWS ( ) and take it from there.
The bottom of your wardrobe could probably hold a selection of wines for most occasions if it's not near a radiator or other source of heat. Others may disagree, but I think if you only had room for 12 bottles and chose carefully you could cover most bases.
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You may be right that I'm confusing a cabinet for a fridge/chiller, I thought they were one and the same, otherwise isn't a cabinet just a cupboard?

Yeah either way I was more after a decent chiller so when I want a particular wine with a particular meal, it's served at the best temp.
A cabinet is usually a temperature controlled unit that is set up for the long term storage and ageing of a wine. It's temp is variable but is usually set at 10 to 14 degrees and has a design that minimizes vibration as this is considered bad for wine ( especially very old wine ) over time. A fridge is just that. It's an insulated box that chills the wine anywhere from a little to a lot depending on how you set it. I suppose the terms are sometimes interchangeable to the general public but most people on here would see it that way.
To serve wine at the right temperature is pretty easy without a cabinet or special fridge. IMO devices that hold wines at serving temperature might well have a place in restaurants, but are way over-the-top for domestic use, even if they are now marketed that way.

Room temperature in modern houses is usually too warm for any wine so it is just a question of cooling red wines a little, and white wines rather more. Just use your normal fridge for that. Or if you are impatient, use a "wine cooler sleeve". They are £5-10 and widely available. Keep in the freezer, and put around a bottle to cool it.

Or if more convenient, store all your wine in the fridge, and let them warm before serving if necessary. Dunk red wines in a sink of warm water to get to the right temperature quicker.
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Hi Luke - like many of the others, I don't think you need special storage - yet! I bought a Liebherr cabinet because I prefer wines with some age on them and storing them myself seemed the best solution to having the wines I wanted available at the time I wanted them. But at £800 (170 bottle size), if it lasts 10 years, then I'm adding probably £1 to every bottle I buy, plus whatever electricity it uses, which would be a fair chunk of a £10 bottle, and indeed you'd get 80 of them for the price of the cabinet alone.

Proper wine cabinets are designed to store wine for years, not get wines to the right temp, which can certainly be done for less than £800, perhaps by buying instead:
  • 2 sleeves - one a chller sleeve which lives in the freezer and which seems to get my whites down from cellar/room temp to serving temp in around 2 minutes; one a heating sleeve which goes in the microwave for a minute and then will raie the temp of the bottle by a couple of degrees in a few mins. Slower and more wine-friendly solutions are of course available, viz fridge for cooling, kitchen work surface for heating, but you need to do these an hour ago.
  • A "wine chiller" (someone needs to come up with better terms for these things as they chill nothing - pic below) which acts like a flask / double glazing in placing a vacuum between the botle and outside air temp and will keep the bottle within 2-3 degrees of the initial temp for a couple of hours. You get the wine to the temperature you want using the sleeves and then bung it in this and done!
Having reread bits of the thread, the other crucial bit of advice you're missing Luke is what temperature to serve wines at - is this what you're really after? No wine fridge will decide for you! So in additon to the 3 bits of kit I've mentioned above, this:

How to serve wine |

and other great artciles available on that site courtesy Her Royal Highness (aka Jancis Robinson and her team). £30 and a bit of reading and you're sorted!
Some handy tips - I have a laundry cupboard with a shelf that won't have anything on, but it shares with a washing machine. Too hot? Other than that, theres not really any spare space other than the kitchen worktop to put any other wines without storage.

I thought that not every wine that's good has to cost a ton of money. Isn't cost mostly a case of a lack of supply rather than an indication of how nice the wine actually is? I adore Casellbro....or whatever it is......that Chilean wine brand from the adverts particularly anything with the word Sauvignon in it, that's less than £10 a bottle.

Pompey Wine Society did catch my eye at random browsing but haven't inspected it in detail yet.

For me I'm more of a "what wine will go nicely with this food" type person as opposed to how old it is. I like to cook and it would be cool to have a wine for most different cuisine occasions. But of course I host board game nights so wine is nice to have then as well.
PM winging it's way with contact details for the Portsmouth Wine Society.
Whilst I've shared more than a few bottles with various PWS members, I never attending a tasting. Knowing those involved, I imagined it would be an interesting & very enjoyable.
It does sound like for starters it's best to just buy a case and put them somewhere (I got a laundry cupboard with space, but I fear the washing machine would raise the temperature too much, so maybe I'll just get a standard wine rack and put it out of sunlight's reach.

A shame though as I liked the idea of having this awesome chiller unit in the corner of the kitchen with tasty wines in it! :p But even I wouldn't be storing wines for years, probably months.
Luke - console yourself with the £100+ saving and perhaps experiment with slightly more expensive / more mature bottles to see if you like them!

On your question about value in wine, I reckon (many on here may disagree!) that with the exception of a very few regions, you'll get a good example of any style for £8-£12 UK retail (and less than that if you keep an eye out for general 25% discounts), but the very first step is walking the length of the counter and discovering what styles you like - only when you've found them is it worth seeing if you can tell the difference between a £10 bottle and a £15 one.

Have you tried:
  • something aromatic like Alsace Gewurztraminer,
  • "sunshine in a bottle" oaked Chardonnay (Chile?),
  • something very crisp & acidic like South African Chenin?
and for reds:
  • mature Rioja (most are mature actually),
  • something fresh like Barbera or Pinot Noir (South A / Chile?) and
  • something big and beefy like Shiraz or Cotes de Rhone?
Also see if you pick up the same or similar wine at different maturity levels - say, a 2015 and a 2012 to see whether you like maturity in wines.

These should give you a good idea if you don't know already of where wine can go and what you / your friends respond best to.

Hope helps - enjoy!
Hi Luke. I was in your position three or four years ago. I don't have the level of expertise many here do, but here's my advice FWIW:

- As others have said, no need for special storage yet.
- After a couple of years, I accrued enough bottles to need somewhere to put them. Fortunately my house has a cellar. But unless you have a lot of expendable cash, building a wine collection takes a fair while. It's taken me three years to get to about 120 bottles, what with cellar-worthy bottles not coming cheap and the intense temptation to crack stuff open.
- Join a tasting group. Due to work commitments and parenthood I very rarely get to attend the excellent Nottingham Wine Circle, but even on the basis of 10 or so visits in the last couple of years I've learned a lot. Particularly, the opportunity to experience wines with age thanks to the generosity of other members has been invaluable. Otherwise I'd still be waiting another ten years on my cellar!
- Join the Wine Society. Bypass supermarkets altogether if possible. TWS have a huge range of wines at less than £10 and they are almost guaranteed to be more interesting than anything in your local supermarket. It's a superb way to drink far and wide whilst you work out what you do and don't like.
- As a general rule, double how much you spend on a bottle and drink half as much! I used to spend £6 in the supermarket and drink shite, now I spend £12 from TWS or an independent merchant and frequently drink deliciously :)
Well I'd still like to use an online site and my friends do use Naked Wines so we have a common forum and friend referral to help. Plus I don't have to get a new case every single month which I wouldn't be able to keep up with.

As for the storage, I have another idea - as part of my new kitchen I have one of those slidy-out cupboards with wire shelving inside - picture attached - I was thinking that maybe with the wine bottles on their side this might double for wine shelving nicely - it's next to the oven but I don't think that will affect them in the cupboard. Good idea or no?

Emailed the Wine Society, haven't heard back yet.


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