Not only for Connoisseurs

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Changing lifestyle patterns and the popularity of cheap European travel has introduced an increasing number of Brits to the world of fine wines and stimulated their interest in storing wine at home.

“Ten years ago, consumers wouldn’t have considered a wine cabinet in a domestic kitchen, but people’s growing passion for wine has become mainstream. Consumers are travelling more, wines from the old and new worlds are more accessible and UK producers are gaining more kudos – wine is not as foreign as it used to be. As a result, more people are looking at wine storage solutions beyond a simple wine rack,” commented Joan Fraser, product development and training manager at Smeg UK.

The recession hasn’t dampened this enthusiasm. “More and more people are willing to invest in ‘luxury’ appliances that they can show off to their friends and get enjoyment out of it through home entertaining, especially with staying in becoming the new going out,” says Rita Balestrazzi, marketing manager at Baumatic.

Market indicators

Both drink chillers and wine cabinets are niche markets and they have shown good resistance to the economic pressures affecting other product categories, suggests Aisha Roberts, market analyst at GfK. “Drinks chillers, or beer fridges are by and large novelty products and their popularity is unusual in the white goods sector as it is linked to both seasonal and sporting event activity. The market currently stands at £6.4million and it experienced an increase of 3% compared to the same period last year (April 2010-March 2011). Just over £2.1million of sales were generated over the World Cup months of June and July last year. The recent good weather should also stimulate sales.

“The wine cabinets market has also experienced a turn in fortune and leapt 25% in value in the twelve months to March, whilst volume remained flat. This value boost has been as a result of a 24% increase in average prices over the past year. The average price of a wine cabinet is currently £261 (April 2010-March 2011) which is £50 higher than in the same period last year.”

David Garden, commercial director for Lec and GE Appliances, agrees with this analysis. “This is definitely a growing sector as we become more discerning and educated about wine and wish to store and display it properly.  Wine and drinks coolers are also becoming a more integral part of the kitchen as the desire for that complete kitchen look grows.”

Optimal storage

Retailers are often confused with wine coolers. “The main barrier to understanding their functionality is the fact that a wine cooler is not a refrigerator; while refrigerators require temperatures of between 5 and 6°C, wine storage facilities are actually conditioning units, and must be able to provide varying temperatures for different wines (most are set to vary between 8 and 18°C),“ suggests Smeg’s Joan Fraser.

White wines should be stored at around 7ºC, light bodied red wines at 10ºC and full bodied red wine should be preserved in temperature between 15 to 17ºC. Only then do consumers get the benefit of the rich aromas and tastes of their wines.

Some manufacturers, like Liebherr, have cabinets that feature multi-temperature zones. “This offers the benefit of innovative climate technology, engineered specifically for storing different wines at their required temperature. Within the multi-temperature cabinets, temperatures can be set differently for the upper zone and lower zone. Innovative climate technology is employed to create temperature layers, so that red or white wines, and even champagne can be stored at perfect drinking temperatures,” explains Mark Bristow, Liebherr’s MD.

A wine cabinet’s doors should be made of UV light-protected glass as light can damage the quality of wine. A superior product will also be equipped with a low vibration compressor that creates the right humidity to ensure the longevity of a wine collection. Also the ‘cold’ LED lighting is preferable as it doesn’t affect the cabinet’s temperature.

Some manufacturers have also introduced anti-bacterial protection on their products.

The wide offer

Responding to the upsurge in popularity of wine drinking, all leading domestic appliance brands now have products in this category.

However, “the market has split into two categories; high end and low end and the middle ground has effectively disappeared,” suggests Mark Bristow, MD at Liebherr.

With cabinets ranging in size from models offering space for 12 bottles, to those housing 312 bottles, Liebherr has a wine cabinet suitable for every household’s needs. In the last two years, the company has launched two very different products.  The first, the WKEes 553 GrandCru, a 45cm cabinet, has a capacity for 18 bottles of wine. It provides ideal climate conditions for wine, with forced air cooling and fresh air supply via charcoal filter.  The temperature range is adjustable between 5°C and 20°C. 

The second product is the WK6476, which has capacity for a staggering 312 bottles of wine. The temperature can be set within a range of between 5°C and 20°C.  It has height adjustable shelves and a lockable door. It is designed for long-term storage of wine and is normally housed in the utility room.

Smeg also offers a large capacity wine cooler – able to store 198 bottles of wine – which comes as a freestanding or built-in model. It is equipped in all the features expected of a high-end appliance, such as an anti-vibration compressor, glass door with anti-UV ray tint, acoustic alarm when temperature falls below 2°C (or below what is specified), active carbon filter to remove odours and a key-activated door lock. Its temperature settings range from 6 to 22°C and it can be divided into two separate zones.

Bosch also caters for a large wine collection with its KSW30V80GB cooler which can accommodate 120 bottles and has a temperature range of 6ºC to 18ºC. 

Siemens offers both very large and smaller wine cabinets, and its top of the range iQ700 models feature two separate temperature zones, (both continuously variable), internal halogen lighting, a presenter light and metal inner liner. 

Neff has a new integrated wine cooler, the K3670, which replicates the conditions of a wine cellar in the kitchen and stores up to 32 bottles of wine. A recommended temperature guide is given for each type of wine within the appliance and an internal electronic LED temperature control allows the user to select the correct temperature from between 6°C and 14°C.

“Wine coolers are the latest must-have kitchen appliances but it is important to choose carefully.  This appliance is going to take centre stage in the kitchen so why buy good bottles of wine and store them in a cheap fridge?” questions Mike Jarrett, sales director of Neff.

Whirlpool’s new wine cellar, with a storage capacity of up to 48 bottles, has the aesthetics of its Fusion series of appliances. It has a low vibration compressor and wooden shelves to protect the wine stock that can be stored between 6°C to 18°C. Its efficient ventilation system maintains optimum humidity levels and its glass door is glazed with ultra violet protection against sunlight.

Gorenje’s XWC 660 wine cooler stores 52 bottles, and in addition to all the necessary features for optimum wine storage, it is equipped with gliding and fully extendable shelves that allow the removal of a bottle without disturbing the rest. The temperature setting ranges from 5°C to 15°C. The appliance has a 600mm footprint and can be built under a standard worktop. “Gorenje wine store is good value, and offers the highest possible product quality with a market-leading five-year guarantee,” stresses Ruth Ferguson, Gorenje marketing manager.

Baumatic offers a range of wine cabinets in a variety of sizes to suit any kitchen space, both in freestanding and built-in versions. The majority of models feature dual temperature technology, zoned compartments for storing both white and red wines and fan assisted operation. Baumatic’s cabinets range from a 92-bottle wine cellar to a slimline built-in unit with enough space for six bottles.

Caple offers a wide variety of freestanding and integrated wine storage solutions. In May, the company launched a line of in-column wine cabinets introduced to cater for the ‘bank’ aesthetic in the kitchen. These in-column wine cabinets have been designed to coordinate with wall mounted appliances, such as ovens and coffee machines.

GDHA, which owns LEC and GE Appliances brands, has an 18 bottle capacity under counter wine cooler but the company has a unique approach to its branding. “At GDHA we have purposely not branded our wine chillers so that they can be incorporated into any kitchen and appliance set up. There is limited product differentiation until you get to the premium brands, and then of course there is a quantum leap again to the likes of Sub Zero,” argues David Garden, commercial director for Lec and GE Appliances.

Electrolux offers an alternative to a standalone wine cabinet – the AEG S95800XTM0  PerfektFit  European SBS tall fridge, with a freezer and an integrated wine cooler. It is only 60cm deep, so it has an American side-by-side look but fits well amongst kitchens cabinets and other appliances. It has A+ energy rating.

Drink chillers 

Customers who are not able or willing to invest in built-in solutions can opt for drink refrigerators, such as those manufactured by Husky, the leader in this product category. 

The company is particularly well known for its branded drink refrigerators. “We have added Carlsberg, J20, Jack Daniels and Becks to an already successful big brand portfolio including Coca-Cola, Guinness, Stella Artois and Budweiser. Customers are also offered a choice of glass or solid door models,” says Ann Marie Clarke, Husky’s project manager.

The company also has the Reflections range of wine coolers. Newly launched are the HN6 Slimline wine cooler and HN7 Dual-Zone Reflections wine cooler.

“With the 2012 Olympics looming we are developing two new products –‘London’ which features iconic London landmarks – and ‘Union Jack’”, adds Ann Marie Clarke.  The company runs a variety of promotions during the year, often centred around sporting events.

The aesthetics

“As wine coolers have become more popular there are more sizes (widths and heights) available on the market.  Increasingly people are wanting to fit them in their (smaller) kitchens so there are more 30-45cm sizes now available,” says Jane Massey, brand manager at Siemens.

Although a wine cabinet has a lifestyle icon status, customer requirements are determined first of all by the size of their kitchens. “The market is split between those that have open-plan living space and can accommodate the bigger wine cabinets and those that have more compact kitchens and are looking for appliances that will slip under the counter, build into a column or fit a niche in the dining area,” argues Simona Bara, Whirlpool’s product marketing manager, built-in. 

Integrated wine coolers need to have that ‘seamless’ look. “All of the wine coolers within the AEG range are designed to align perfectly with the other products from the AEG range – this ensures that the way the steel is brushed, the handles and the electronics all match ensuring perfect alignment and a consistent look to any kitchen.  At this level of the market, where premium appliances go into premium kitchens, design is the number one factor. When customers are purchasing a wine cooler as part of a much larger kitchen refurbishment, then the price of the individual models becomes less important,” comments Andrew Wasdell, local product manager, food preservation, Electrolux Major Appliances.

“Future advances will be glass doors that switch to ‘black out’ at the touch of a button. GE already does this in the US and it enables the consumer to use the product more flexibly – showing off quality wines when they have them and hide other products when necessary,“ adds  GDHA’s David Garden.

Good news

Market data and manufacturer’s sales records clearly demonstrate that wine cabinets are becoming an increasingly desirable and common addition to the kitchen. They have also proved resistant to the current economic pressures.

Events such as the Royal Wedding have demonstrated how popular home entertaining has become when domestic budgets are under pressure. And if this is not a proof that the nation will be drinking more at home – think about the climate change and the long hot summer…

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