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Wine Coolers

Published July 2017

How we tested

Wine coolers promise to keep already chilled wine cool and accessible throughout your dinner party or summer afternoon on the porch. Unlike ice buckets, which they resemble, these coolers are relatively compact and require no ice, making them less messy to use and less likely to overchill your wine. Some coolers have reusable cooling inserts that must be placed in the freezer overnight, while others can be placed directly in the freezer. The simplest models claim to need no freezer time at all to keep your bottle cold. We wanted to know whether any of these coolers deserved a place at our table, so we bought six models priced from $14.19 to $54.95 and chilled 24 bottles of wine to put them to the test. (To establish a uniform starting temperature, we left bottles in the refrigerator until they reached about 40 degrees—a temperature many wine professionals would say is too cold for optimal flavor.)

Tracking the temperatures of both full bottles and bottles whose contents were poured out over an hour (simulating real-time use), we soon confirmed that all the coolers kept the wine significantly colder than it would be if you simply left it out. It took just 50 minutes for wine sitting on the counter to warm up 10 degrees—an increase that we think would be unacceptable if your bottle was at the right temperature to begin with. By contrast, even the least effective cooler took 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach that same benchmark, and most models did much better.

Two factors made certain models keep the wine cooler for longer. First, the height of the cooler: We liked models that were tall enough to fully enclose the wine bottles—coolers that were shorter than 7.5 inches exposed the shoulders of the bottles to the air and let them warm up faster. Second, the style of the cooler: Simple coolers were easier to use—no need to store any inserts in the freezer overnight—and did a perfectly respectable job of protecting the wine, keeping it within 10 degrees of its starting temperature for an average of 2 hours, more than long enough for two people to finish drinking a single bottle of wine. Coolers with freezable inserts required a little forethought (and freezer space) to use, but they did an even better job of maintaining cold temperatures, holding wine within 10 degrees of its starting temperature for an impressive average of 6 hours. We think this extra time is handy if you don’t know when you’ll be serving your chilled wine.

Our favorite wine cooler, the Oggi Stainless Steel Wine Cooler with Freezer Inserts ($20.39), is a peerless performer, capable of holding wine within a single degree of its starting temperature for almost 5 hours and taking about 7 hours before the wine rises 10 degrees. If you don’t want to worry about remembering to freeze the inserts, the insulated WMF Manhattan Wine Cooler is also a good choice, keeping wine within 10 degrees of its starting temperature for more than 2 1/2 hours, but at $54.95, it’s significantly more expensive.

Methodology

We tested six wine coolers priced from $14.19 to $54.95, using them to hold both full and periodically emptied bottles of wine chilled overnight to a temperature of about 40 degrees. We then evaluated them on how well they maintained the temperature of the chilled wine and on how easy they were to prepare and use. All models were purchased online, and they appear in order of preference.

PERFORMANCE: We evaluated how well the coolers maintained the temperatures of already-chilled bottles of wine.

EASE OF USE: We evaluated how easy it was to prepare and use the coolers.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*