Would you, interested in wine wine-related products, buy a $300 device?
If your immediate inclination is to answer no, consider this: Your collection of wine paraphernalia may already include the basic butterfly corkscrew, or maybe you’ve upgraded to the Rabbit, the elegant, easy to use opener that costs around $60. You probably have a decanter as well, because you’ll occasionally have a wine that needs it. Finally, to store a small collection, you may consider investing in a wine cooler, lest your subzero become overloaded with bottles and your weekly haul from the farmer’s market. And to amass all of that is about $300, minimum.
That makes the Coravin, just unleashed on the market and priced at $300, seem much less absurd.
The tool is equal parts dispenser and preservation system: It allows users to pour wine from a bottle of still wine stopped with natural cork without actually pulling the cork and exposing the remaining wine to oxygen. Days, weeks, even months, and–supposedly–years later, that same bottle will taste just as fresh and lively as the first time you sampled it. Seriously.
So how does it work? A light, handheld device pierces the seal and cork with a needle-like stem, displacing wine with inert argon gas, thus preventing oxidation. The cork seals naturally after removal of the needle. I tried nearly a dozen wines at the recent launch party. All had been tapped a few weeks earlier at the wineries, and the dates had been scrawled on the bottles by the winery owners as testament to their commitment to using the system. All tasted perfect.
The Coravin is, as far as I know, the only solution in the world for two primary consumer problems: wasting a bottle of wine when you just want a glass and testing a bottle you’re aging to determine if this year is the optimal year to drink it.
For the first problem, Vacu-vin pumps have been marketed as a short-term solution, although studies show they don’t work. On the other end of the spectrum, Enomatic systems are rarely an option for consumers because they cost nearly $5,000 (commercial versions are also priced beyond reach of many restaurants and wine bars). And, cost aside, bottles on these systems only last two months.
The only solution for the second problem, until now, has been to buy a case of wine and drink a bottle every year or two to track the ideal drink date. That’s expensive, too.
Greg Lambrecht, a medical industry innovator, developed the device to solve the first dilemma: He didn’t want to waste a bottle of good wine just to drink a glass after his wife (and drinking partner) became pregnant. He formed the company with friend and co-founder Josh Makower, a doctor who spent 20 years in medical innovation, to bring it to market. Greg and Josh are far too modest (read, circumspect) to make official claims that their wine preservation system can maintain bottles in their original state for years, but I have it on good authority that a bottle accessed in 2006 tastes unimpaired this year.
The cartridges cost around $10 each and draw approximately 15 wine glasses. It was easy to use: Tilt the bottle as if you are pouring it, press a lever, and wait about 10 to 15 seconds to complete the pour.
All told, this is a good investment if you want to upgrade your in-house wine program. Rather than four $10 throwaway bottles, buy yourself one $40 bottle and have a glass when you like. The clock no longer ticks on that pulled cork.
The restaurants applications are even farther ranging, especially for establishments with pricey wine lists: the Coravin allows those spots to offer tastes of ultra-premium wines by the pour, broadening the wine-by-the-glass program. Large-format bottles can finally be accessed by slightly lesser mortals than P. Diddy. Del Posto was the first restaurant in the United States to adopt the device, and Eleven Madison and Kristalbelli in New York have now followed suit.
The appeal for smaller restaurants is more exciting. I am often frustrated when wine lists with interesting by the bottle selections have limited, rather pedestrian, by-the-glass options. You pay a higher markup for these glasses, anyway; at least now maybe they’ll be worth it.