Before we get into the bones of the article, there are two important things I need to declare up front:
1. This device costs €299 so it is not a casual purchase!
2. Along with the other writers at the press launch last year, I was given a Coravin (though this review reflects my personal opinion only).
Now if you’ve recovered from the “sticker shock” I have a fairly bold statement for you:
The Coravin is the most important gadget for fine wine since the invention of the corkscrew!
So what is it, what does it do? It allows one or more glasses of wine to be taken from a bottle without removing the cork, and without damaging the wine. It uses a Teflon coated ultra-sharp needle to penetrate the cork by parting the fibres rather than making a hole. When the needle is withdrawn, the natural springiness of the cork reseals the gap instantly. Argon gas is pumped into the bottle to displace the wine drawn out. If you remember your basic chemistry, Argon is an inert gas so it doesn’t react with the wine. As air can’t get into the bottle there is no additional oxygen which can harm the wine, and thus it can be kept until you fancy another glass.
Does it work? The evidence seems to suggest that it does indeed work very well. As part of last year’s launch event(s) with inventor Greg Lambrecht, we were given several wines to taste which had been “accessed” using a Coravin. Several months later, the media reassembled and blind tasted five whites and five reds – some of them had been uncorked that morning and some were the same bottles which had been partially accessed at the previous event (we had each signed a bottle to vouch that they were the same ones). I guessed 5 out of 10 correctly – which was probably the perfect score to prove that there was very little difference between the previously Coravined bottles and the new ones.
Who’s going to want one? Restaurants, wine bars and gastro pubs with a decent wine list would be crazy not to get one. Certain wines which aren’t always consumed a bottle at a time – e.g. aperitifs such as Sherries or dessert wines – can now be offered by the glass. Expensive wines can now be offered by the glass with no fear of wastage. Wine lovers who have some nice bottles that they want to drink sparingly over time will definitely want one. It also lets them test a wine that they are laying down, just to see how it’s getting on… without drinking a full bottle.
Are there any downsides? At the moment the Coravin only works with corks, though Greg did assure us that he was refining a version for screwcaps. Obviously Vinolok glass stoppers are out of the question! Canisters don’t last forever (they reckon around 15 medium 150 ml glasses per canister) and replacements have to be purchased at about €30 for 3. And finally, a few really old bottles have cracked when Coravined, but it seems that they had been dropped a few times already in their lives, weakening the glass.
What’s the verdict? It is a well-designed tool, with a lot of thought invested in refining the operation. It all comes down to your current – and future – wine drinking habits. If you tend to only drink everyday wines then it would be total overkill, but if you want to try some good bottles over a longer period then it makes perfect sense!
Find out more at www.coravin.ie
Frankie caught the wine bug living in France in the 90s and has been sharing his love of wine ever since. He also writes for his own blog Frankly Wines, Glass Of Bubbly magazine and he runs private wine tasting events.