Picture this: you are attending a Sunday brunch party with a bunch of your pals. One of them takes the lead in ordering and asks the waiter to get you guys some wine coolers. You, having read the introduction to this article, wonder whether he means some Sangria, or an ice bucket, or an entire refrigerator? Wine coolers are still an obscure concept in our minds. Well, let’s clear the air then and look at all the different meanings!
A Glance at the Dictionary
The best way to know about a word or a phrase is, no doubt, to find a dictionary definition. It prides itself on being the most precise and short explanation. Apparently, “wine cooler” has different meanings in American and British English. Let’s start with the American meaning.
An American Perspective
Americans believe wine coolers to be drinks made up of wine and fruit juice which are topped off with carbonated water. Seems like a pretty great cocktail, yeah? It even has the aura of the much-famed champagne due to its sparkling taste.
Millennials, of the current time, are quite unacquainted with it. This is because the end of the last century witnessed the decline of the then-popular wine cooler. Why did this happen? Well, for starters, deterioration of the wine being used in the drink. Since wine constitutes a very small percentage of the drink, companies that bottled the same started using cheaper wines.
Originally, wine coolers used to be drinks of quality, if I may, at least compared to the later forms. They used to be homemade out of “good” wine- Pinot Grigio, dry Chardonnay, etc. Also, lemon-lime soda to add that summery freshness. However, the 80s saw the bottling of these by companies like E. and J. Gallo and Seagram’s.
Why Wine Coolers?
A question most likely to be raised by wine purists is: Why devolve to wine coolers? Why turn something so pristine into, literally, an adult soda pop?! We believe, perhaps, we change most things these days- ‘to appear less sophisticated’. Soda is so much easier to ask for in place of some Blanc. A glass of Sangria is much breezier compared to a rich Merlot. Moreover, sometimes you just want to be able to twist off a bottle cap and taste some flavored, cheap alcohol instead of opening a bottle of Noir using a corkscrew, pouring it into a glass, swirling it around, smelling it and taking tiny sips.
So how did the downfall of these flavored wine sodas occur? And, mind you, we’re not looking for the tiny, inconsequential reasons here. What was the ultimate factor that kicked it out of the game, nipped it at the bud?
An Analysis of the Deciding Factors and “The Downfall Factor”
Was it those kids, who had their first drink out of a round-bottomed glass when they were eight. Was the drink being an extremely well-aged Sherry, received as a gift in a wedding they attended, that was bottled and corked within a beautifully carved glass? In other words, was it the sophisticated pseudo-aristocracy that tumbled the wine coolers down the hill?
Was it sheer boredom? It could be, you know. We, as humans, do a pretty great job of getting bored with things. We’re already bored of that Spotify playlist we made two days ago. We get bored with skinny jeans. We even manage to get bored of people. Was that it that? Nope!
The so-called “death” of wine coolers occurred because of the reason that is responsible for the “death” of a lot of products we used to like. Any guesses? … It’s taxes! Yes. The grim reaper of the industrial world. I will not bore you with the logistics of it all, but let’s just say that while the taxes levied on malt-based beverages doubled, those levied on wine-based beverages quintupled!
Now, of course, malt-based beverages became commonplace and companies, like Zima and Smirnoff Ice, took the lead, while ‘Bartles and Jaymes’ and Seagram’s were forced to occupy the lower berths and to shift from wine to malt. However, since we didn’t have the time, energy, or manpower to organize a non-violent movement against these unfair taxes and to make our own wine, we had to say goodbye to these sweet, wine-based, sparkling refreshments.
From the British Viewpoint
Let us now move on to the more boring, British definition of wine coolers. Hold your horses, dear reader, and read till the end, for this too is quite interesting especially if you’re a regular consumer of quality wine and want to continue to be so.
Let’s apply the method of elimination to this definition and set aside the notion that describes wine coolers as buckets filled with ice, used to store wine immediately before serving it so as to ensure that it is chilled. As most of us would agree, these should, more appropriately, be called wine buckets or ice buckets. What, then, are wine coolers?
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Wine Coolers as Refrigerators
These are devices that maintain the temperature and setting of wine bottles for long, as well as short periods of time. They are modeled after the much-famed wine cellars. Cellars are huge, stone basements where wine bottles are stored horizontally on shelves at more or less a constant temperature and with minimal disturbance for enriched wine sediment.
Check out this wine container we found to store your wine daily.
Contrary to popular belief, both red and white wines are supposed to be stored at the same temperature, which is around 55ºF. This must give you an idea of how precisely this instrument needs to be made in order for it to even resemble a wine cellar. Since we have mastered the art of imitating nature, we even have variations of this instrument now. Thinking of getting your hands on a wine “cooler”, check one out here.
Some features that are common in every wine cooler are:
- Adjustable temperature (42ºF to 65ºF),
- Removable racks (such that bottles of any shape or size may be stored horizontally),
- And a tempered glass door so that you are able to display your wine-tastic collection.
Let’s not forget that we have a myriad of choices apart from this too. Check out “How to Store Wine After Opening” for a look at how to store your wine correctly.
Two Roads Diverged
For example, you may choose a single or dual zoned wine cooler, which means that your wine cooler would have two temperature zones which are adjustable. Why, you ask? ‘Cause even though both red and white wines have the same storage temperature, they have different serving temperatures. Thus, you could store wine in one zone and keep a few bottles at the serving temperature in the other.
There is another distinction we can make between these devices. Two major types are: based on thermoelectric or compressor technology. The former uses a fan system to cool the inside of the cooler. It is more environment-friendly than the compressor technology but is unable to maintain a constant temperature when the room temperature is above a threshold of about 77ºF.
Looking for another wine cooler option? Try this one out.
The compressor technology uses freons (famed for the creation of the Antarctic ozone hole), much like our traditional fridges, and therefore is not environment-friendly in the least. However, it does a pretty great job of maintaining the temperature inside regardless of the room temperature.
Why do wine enthusiasts prefer the thermoelectric form to the compressor form? Are they all raging environmentalists?! Not at all. It is just that the compressor form is associated with a greater amount of vibration, which affects the wine sediment.
Now that we are approaching the end of this article, you probably are quite certain that the guy/gal that asked for wine coolers was ordering refreshing wine-based cocktails for all of you and not commanding the waiter to bring refrigerators at your table, but you probably already knew that. Either way, the next time someone utters the words “wine cooler”, we hope you have a clever lecture all worked out for them.
Thank you for reading this article! Be sure to also check out “Best Grapes for Making Wine“, “How to Make Wine Taste Better“, or “Best Kind of Wine for Non-Wine Drinkers” for your guide to becoming a real wine enthusiast.
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Bottoms up! We’ll uncork ya later!! 🍷