Greg Lambrecht’s dream was to pour wine from a bottle without removing the cork so he could enjoy a single glass and then put the bottle back into his cellar where it would continue to age. He spent more than a decade of development before introducing his product.
As one who enjoys wine and who even plans vacations with my wife based on the wine regions of the world, the Coravin seemed too good to be true. I’ve tried many devices through the years to extend the life of an open bottle of wine, such as pumps that remove the air and gas that fills the empty space of the bottle.
In my experience, nothing preserves an opened bottle of wine for more than a few days to a perhaps a week. The problem is that once the wine is exposed to air, oxidation begins to occur, which hurts its quality. The only solution that has had some success has been expensive dispensers, mostly found in wine bars, which prevent air from entering the bottle.
The Coravin (www.coravin.com) allows you to pour a glass of wine without removing the foil or the cork. Instead, the device pierces the foil and cork with a thin hollow Teflon coated needle that lets you access and pour the wine into a glass. The cork is never removed. Argon, an inert gas, is used to pressurize the bottle, which both propels the wine out through the needle and preserves the remaining contents by reducing contact with air.
The device is about the size of a large corkscrew and is made of chromed metal and heavy black matte plastic. The small argon cylinder is screwed into its handle, and the device is placed over the neck of the bottle, held in place with a spring-loaded clamp. The top is then pushed down, carrying with it the needle and spout, as it easily pierces the foil and the cork.
The bottle is then tilted in position for pouring, initiated with a short push on the trigger that forces more argon into the bottle, causing the wine to slowly come out of the spout. One glass takes about 30 to 45 seconds to pour, with three or four quick trigger pushes each 10 to15 seconds as the wine slows down.
After pouring, part of the unit is slid upward, extracting the needle. The cork then seals itself, so that the bottle can be put back into your cellar or wine rack in its normal near-horizontal position.
The Coravin 1000 comes with two argon cartridges about the size of a thumb, and retails for $299. A replacement cartridge, good for about four bottles, costs $11, or about 75 cents per glass.
I’ve been testing the Coravin using a bottle of 2005 Château Prieuré-Lichine, a Bordeaux Margaux. I extracted a glass on day 1, day 5 and day 10, and found that the wine tasted the same, as best as I could tell. I have always been able to detect a noticeable degradation using other devices, such as a Vacu Vin pump.
The significance of the Coravin is that it provides much more flexibility in drinking wine. You no longer need to use a half-bottle, waste part of a large bottle, or even consume more than a single glass at a sitting. You can select a different wine each day if you choose, pair wines with dinner, all without needing to consume entire bottles at one time or within a few days. And when you have guests, each can have a wine of their choice.
I heard about this device from my son and daughter-in-law, both wine sommeliers and owners of a fine restaurant in the Bay Area. They offer wine by the glass, but have a limited selection because they want to serve only wine that’s not degraded from being open for more than a day. This device would allow than and other restaurants to expand their list, and even offer premium wines that would normally not be sold by the glass.
While my test worked well, a true test would be to spread the tasting from a bottle over many months or even years. Lambrecht claims he has conducted such tastings and there is no deterioriation over a span of years.
Other reviewers and wine experts also report very positive results. Alder Yarrow, editor of Vinography, wrote “I’m sitting at my kitchen table, enjoying a glass of 2000 Pontet-Canet from the same bottle that I opened 63 days ago and it tastes exactly the same as it did when I first opened the bottle.”
When the company first introduced the product, testers found that some defective bottles cracked from being pressurized by argon. The company now includes a zippered neoprene sleeve that zips around the bottle for protection.
Are there negatives? Pouring a glass of wine takes longer, the needle needs to be occasionally cleaned with the included wire, and the spout should be rinsed after using, all minor. Perhaps the biggest issue for some would the cost of the argon and the device.
But all this is a small price to pay for having incredible flexibility in being able to choose your glass of wine. This is also a great product for people who buy young wines to cellar until they are ready; they will no longer have to guess when the bottles are ready. The cost is minimal compared to having to pour an expensive bottle of wine down the drain because it spoiled!