Have you ever spent an evening on your own at home, longing for a nice glass of wine, but knowing that if you open a bottle you will finish it all? That’s the last thing you want to feel the next morning, just before that important business meeting, is a little hung-over. Though we’ve even got a hangover cure for the office, so go for it. However, instead of opting to open the bottle, you just sit there in a quandary.
A New Kid on the Block
Now, a remarkable invention can put paid to the above scenario. Despite its fairly hefty price tag, it’s catching on quickly with those people who enjoy a glass or two of good wine fairly regularly and also wine aficionados and connoisseurs alike. This gadget is called a Coravin and it allows you to dispense wine without removing the cork from the bottle and in a way that won’t harm the further development of the wine. It’s the perfect mix between a wine opener and a wine preserver.
The Coravin is the brainchild of a 44-year old ex-engineer called Greg Lambrecht. He has been around a bit has Greg, a spell at MIT when he was younger followed by a stint in Japan’s nuclear industry. He then spent his working life setting up small companies focused innovative designs to solve particular problems, such as the need for more effective spinal implants. Greg acknowledges that he has a flair for wine, although, when he started the Coravin journey almost a decade and a half ago in his basement workshop, he was a long way from being an expert and still wouldn’t claim to be.
A combination of factors motivated Greg, starting with his desire to retire early from his full-time occupation and do something that he enjoys and which might generate an income. One of his goals was to take the Master of Wine exams and he knew how much work he had to do to be successful, including sampling lots of wine.
Naturally, it was to the world of wine that he looked for an opportunity. Around this time, Greg’s wife fell pregnant and lost her appetite for wine. Not being able to share a bottle with her helped to concentrate his mind on what he had identified as an unmet need: to be able to dispense wine out of a sealed bottle with no detriment to the remaining product.
That was back in 2003 and Greg put all his engineering know-how and knowledge of patent law into solving the problem he had set himself and after much experimentation produced a Coravin prototype.
The Coravin looks like a small microscope. It has two key components; a long thin needle which can pierce cork with relative ease and a small cylinder containing the inert argon gas that replaces oxygen lost from the bottle during extraction of the wine.
The needle makes it possible to pour the wine and argon replaces the oxygen lost from the bottle during the dispensing process, further preserving the wine. Once the needle is extracted from the cork it reseals itself and only a small needle mark remains for those eagle-eyed enough to spot it, to show that wine has been extracted.
A Simple Idea Fills a Gap In the Market
It’s a simple enough idea, often those are both the best and the most difficult to come up with. Prior to the Coravin, the options for storing an open bottle of wine without it losing its character were limited. A specialist wine fridge would provide the best solution, but these are very expensive and hardy suitable for home use, unless you live in a mansion. There are various gadgets available that enable you to create a vacuum in a bottle from which wine has been poured; they might help to preserve the wine for a few hours or even until the following day The Vacu-Vin a rubber stopper, fits into this category and retails for around $9. There is also the Platy, an air-tight plastic pouch into which you pour any wine that you wish to keep. The Savino is a glass cylinder that works in a similar way to the Savino. These last two options are not particularly cheap or effective.
The Coravin, on the other hand, won’t cost you anything like a specialist wine fridge would and it is much more effective than any other so-called solution for keeping a partially full bottle of wine at its best.
Solving the problem faced by the lone drinker who doesn’t want to consume a whole bottle of wine in one go or who wishes to try different wines in the same sitting, isn’t the only situation in which the Coravin can be applied. Greg’s view is that it opens up a whole range of game-changing possibilities.
Suppose you are holding a small dinner party and aim to emulate, so far as you can, what your guests would experience in a high-end restaurant. This would include a wine flight, where different sorts of wine would be paired with each course. Small glasses of wine are appropriate for such situations. The Coravin facilitates this and enables you to pour from as many different types of wine as you wish, without having the problem of the number of partially filled bottles left at the end of the evening.
Connoisseurs don’t just drink wine; they study it lovingly, monitoring the wine they have laid down as it evolves. In the past, it hasn’t been possible to do this by taste without opening a bottle and this can be a costly business. With the Coravin, samples from different bottles can be taken with no detrimental impact on the bottle’s contents.
Your Very Own Wine Tasting
The Coravin enables you to hold a wine tasting for family and friends. It allows you to provide a much greater selection of wines to suit your preference. The wine can be from your own cellar or bought especially for the occasion in the knowledge that none will be wasted and you are not going to be left with a large number of open bottles. You may, in fact, wish to spend more money than you normally do, in the knowledge that nothing will be wasted. You can compare wines from the same region, grape, manufacturer, vineyard, vintage or any combination of those. If Dick likes a particular type of wine, he can have a couple of glasses and, thanks to the Coravin, the remainder will be stored until he visits again.
How many times can you recall perusing the wine list in a restaurant, finding a wine that really grabs your interest only to be told by the sommelier that sadly, that wine is not in the limited range served by the glass? Restaurants and specialist wine bars, most notably 67 Pall Mall and the 28°-50° Wine Club, are discovering that with the Coravin, when a customer’s eye is taken by a particular wine, they no longer have to sell them the bottle but can offer then a glass.
There are, inevitably, those who cannot accept that the wine remaining in an uncorked bottle after the Coravin has been applied, doesn’t suffer. Overcoming this was one of the biggest challenges Greg Lambrecht faced. Central to this is whether the replacement of oxygen by argon affects further development of the wine. Greg learned that oxygen has little or no effect on this. Wine ages and develops in character as a result of chemical reactions caused by the interaction of sugars, acids and water and not because of oxygen. Of course, he needed to be able to prove this.
Lambrecht knew that endorsement from renowned wine experts would prove a very effective response to those who challenged his claims. Greg targeted the influential wine commentator Jancis Robinson He took a selection of bottles around to her home, allowing her to choose which ones she wanted to sample. Initially, he panicked because Jancis could sense a difference between the wines left in the bottle after the Coravin has been applied.
He soon realised that this was because; although the wine came from the same producer, the wine from the uncorked bottle was from a different vineyard from the Coravin dispensed offering.
With wines from the same producer and the same vineyard, Jancis couldn’t tell the difference and Greg knew, he had achieved his aim. Since then, other experts have failed to detect wines where a Coravin has been used. The consensus of the experts was that there was no deterioration or oxidation in the wines they sampled.
A Word About Price
The Coravin entry model retails at around $300 and deluxe models designed for professional use are close to $2,000. Even $300 (ish) is quite an investment, particularly when you consider that periodically you will have to replace the argon gas canister; each canister lasts for approximately 15 x 5 oz glasses of wine. Less frequently, the needle has to be replaced at a cost of around $50.
If you are an infrequent drinker of wine, the extent to which you will benefit from owning a Coravin is debatable. It is, however, worth considering how much you might potentially save.
Experts tend to agree, that take in small quantities, wine has a beneficial effect and the antioxidants and other substances it contains can both help and improve heart health. Until now, drinking one glass of wine a day meant a gradual but increasing deterioration in the wine that remained in the bottle. The Coravin makes drinking one glass of wine a day easy.
A Saving for You
Suppose you buy three bottles of wine a week and on the evenings you drink your wine, you tend to throw away perhaps a glass full due to watching your overall alcohol consumption. A Coravin will remove the need to throw any wine away, will help you to better control your intake and enable you to select your first glass from a relatively weak wine and your last and final glass from a more potent Valpolicella or Shiraz.
With you new Coravin, now you may only need only two bottles of wine a week. If the cost of your wine averages out at $12 per bottle, over a year you will save over $600 and your Coravin has more than paid for itself. In addition, you are likely to be not drinking as much wine because you no longer have a good reason for draining the bottle in one sitting. You could also see some health benefits and due to the many different types of wine you are able to try, your knowledge of wine should be greater than it was before you invested in a Coravin.
When You Buy a Coravin
Your new standard model Coravin will arrive boxed and protected by a strong plastic bag. In addition to the gadget, the box will contain; a user guide which contains instructions and tips for getting the most from your new purchase; the needle and; a wine sleeve. Once you have taken the Coravin out of its bag, removed the protective yellow tag from the needle and made sure the needle is properly attached, it is ready for use.
Using Your Coravin
A Coravin is simple to use, you just need to make sure that you operate it as shown in the user guide. The first thing to do on getting it out of the box is to insert the argon canister. This is done by simply twisting the black cap of the unit, inserting the cannister and twisting back into position, adding a half-turn to make sure it is secure.
Next, place the bottle in the Coravin bottle sleeve and zip it up. Attach the Coravin to the bottle, making sure that the needle is resting on the foil lid. Release the clamps, press the trigger to dispel any air and, using the palm of one hand, press the handle down. With one hand on the handle and one on the bottle, angle the bottle so that the Coravin pouring spot is lower than the base of the bottle and press the trigger; your wine should now pour.
It takes between 25 and 29 seconds to dispense 5oz of wine. If the wine flow stops, put the bottle into the upright position and begin the pouring process again. When you have finished, hold the bottle with one hand and pull the handle of the Coravin upwards with the other, this will free the clamp and enable you to remove the Coravin from the bottle. Take the bottle out of the sleeve, depress the trigger to ensure the system is clear and your appliance is ready for the next bottle or to pack away. It really is that simple.
Greg Lambrecht has never rested on his laurels. He has continued to develop and enhance the Coravin Model 1, the essential package, is still available and will do the job it was designed to do. It is the cheapest of the models and the one that comes with fewer frills, furbelows and accessories than later iterations. Model 2 is also still available, but the model that is most readily available and within the budget of an ordinary domestic user who enjoys drinking wine occasionally is the Model 2 Elite which retails at around $400. It has a base unit which is a great idea because it helps you to always know where your Coravin is and it makes it more likely that you will use it regularly and not hide it away in a drawer.
The Model 11 is the latest and most expensive Coravin, retailing at almost $2,000. and suitable for professional use. It has a black and chrome design and with its base unit and looks futuristic. Features include an LED display that indicates when the wine is ready to pour. The unit is also Bluetooth enabled and can be linked to the Coravin Moments App, where the user will find all kinds of tips on food and wine pairings and other interesting information. The App will also track your usage and produce statistics.
The Coravin Website
On the Coravin website, you will find video demonstrations, details of special offers and packages formulated to suit different kinds of wine drinkers. Deals are available on replacement argon cartridges and needles (a needle will last for hundreds of insertions). There are different needles too; the standard, one suitable for older vintage wines; a needle designed to ensure a smooth finish and; a micro-hole needle which prevents very small traces of cork being carried through from the bottle into the glass. There is a comparison chart so you can see the design features of each model, how they differ and what is included in the price.
A Final Word
The Coravan is an innovative gadget that really does have the potential to change the way we drink our wine. It isn’t cheap, but then as the only product of its kind on the market, would you expect it to be?