If you’re serious about collecting wine you probably have some sort of storage solution in place already—be it a wine cooler or a even whole cellar. But neither of those are very convenient options for travel, tight budgets, small homes, or backyard parties. Sure, you could stash a couple bottles in a bucket of ice, but that’s not a very efficient method either, and ice melts. Plus, even dabbling connoisseurs know that temperature is key in every stage of wine’s existence.
With that in mind, Haier developed its WiFi-enabled Mini Wine Cellar—a portable wine chiller intended for release in the U.S. this spring.
We had a chance to check out this unique wine fridge at CES this year, and while we found it to be a highly niche product, the solution it provides could be very enticing for some. And it’s not limited to wine, either. Haier confirmed you could just as easily store a bottle of beer. The sleek design also helps bolster its appeal—depending on your taste, that is.
Sleek, if you're into that sort of thing
Function aside, the smooth shell look of the Mini Wine Cellar is its most seductive quality. It’s vaguely futuristic but not so garish as to clash with a rustic wine cellar. It looks like a set piece from the new Star Wars trailer—perhaps a companion droid for R2? In fact, to first-timers it's hardly obvious to what this thing does, except that it probably connects to your phone and probably has an app. It does.
One of the better design functions allows you to position the cooler either vertically or horizontally. This not only broadens your options for placement within the home, but also has an important impact on the wine itself. Stored horizontally, the Mini Wine Cellar can help preserve cork during periods of prolonged storage. The vertical position is ideal once you’ve opened a bottle (obviously).
The display is refreshing and simple, featuring just a simple temperature indicator. It also includes touch controls in the form of two arrows to set the temperature.
If you think the Mini Wine Cellar looks awesome, here’s one caveat: It’s a slightly different experience up close, which is why we’re glad we had a chance to check it out at CES. The base is made of a cheap plastic that seems at odds with the wood and stone environments of most wine cellars. But then again, maybe you’re not using this thing for a wine cellar. Maybe you want it in your kitchen, where cheap plastic is more routine.
To the point, as it should be
A simple device should be simple to use, and the Mini Wine Cooler is pretty darn simple to use. The shell separates into two units, forming a lid and a wine receptacle. The top part is removed by pushing a collapsed handle on the lid. This also allows you to easily transport the unit from place to place.
Inside, a 130 x 430mm container awaits all manner of wine and beer bottle. Just toss in the bottle, close the lid, and set the temperature. Done.
The interface is also pretty easy to use, and can be controlled directly via touch, or through a mobile app. The cooler connects to your phone through WiFi and allows you to set the temperature remotely, but that’s not all you can do with it. And this is where it gets pretty interesting...
An intriguing mobile component
While we didn’t get a chance to play with the app itself, you can apparently use it as a barcode scanner for price comparisons or to find details on nearby wineries and tasting events. It also offers suggestions for meal pairings and “social media syncing,” whatever that means.
The Mini Wine Cooler also features an Auto Temperature Control function that identifies the best storage temperature for each bottle of wine. No word on whether that would work for beer.
As mentioned, the main cooling unit attaches to the base in two different ways: vertically or horizontally. If you plan on storing a bottle in this thing for a while you’ll probably want to position it horizontally. Haier claims the Cooler can preserve the wine’s temperature for up to 10 hours once unplugged. The company also claims it has five times the cooling speed of other wine chillers. But those claims will have to wait for our lab tests before we can verify them.
A Unique Wine Cooler
For unique circumstances
There are a few things to really like about Haier’s sleek Mini Wine Cellar, but each depends on the particular needs of the consumer. For one, the design is sleek and futuristic, but those traits are sometimes at odds with the design elements of the wine world.
Additionally, the single-serve functionality appeals to travel, outdoor events, and even some kitchens, but only if you’re so serious about the temperature of your wine or beer that you’re willing to forgo a time-tested ice bucket
Finally, the app features are pretty nifty, and could add a compelling consumerist element to your wine research. But in a way, that too is at odds with the idea behind the product: If you’re an amateur wine enthusiast and concerned about price, you’re probably not very interested in high-precision temperature control technology—at least not yet. Likewise, if you’re a knowledgeable wine connoisseur, you probably don’t need an app to tell you about prices and meal pairings.