The Coravin wine system ($299) is to wine what the black hat is to the white rabbit: a magician’s portal. Without removing the cork (which would aerate the wine and disrupt the rest of the bottle), it takes wine inside the bottle and allows you to pour it outside the bottle. How it works is relevant and interesting on the level that all small engineering marvels are interesting, but the big reveal is the fact that it actually does work.
Nick Lazaris, Coravin’s CEO, acknowledges that “sometimes pulling the cork is the right thing to do.” But, that’s not the world that Coravin’s living in. Coravin’s here on a sip or glass basis, and those applications are varied: to test a bottle of wine that’s aging, to taste across varietals or years or collections, to pour multiple bottles across a meal without waste, and, most commonly, to enjoy a single glass without spoiling the rest of the bottle.
Drinking wine without ruining the whole batch is a sort of holy grail in grape consumption that’s eluded mankind for the past few millennia. The Coravin’s solution makes cork the real superstar. With the highest natural elasticity of any organic material, cork’s comfortable being pushed aside and then rebounding. When the Coravin’s teflon-coated, non-coring, medical-grade needle pierces the cork, the cork surrounds the needle; as the needle is removed, the cork decompresses to retake its place, stopping any disastrous oxygen from entering and oxidizing the bottle. This was big development number one for Coravin; number two was getting the wine out.
In a gathering of oenophiles, Coravin conducted a blind tasting that tested vintage wines that had been poured from four months earlier against a perfectly preserved bottled. Only one out of twenty experts correctly identified the Coravin pours.
To pour the bottle means to give something (wine) and get something in return (oxygen). Coravin solves the pressure problem by adding argon into the bottle instead of oxygen, effectively disrupting the inner balance of the wine bottle by adding a substance that essentially does nothing (argon’s extremely inert; it’s named after the Greek word for “lazy”). Every pump of argon that goes in, wine comes out. Complex engineering, simple result.
It sounds good on paper, but how about in the real world? In a gathering of oenophiles, Coravin conducted a blind tasting, testing a perfectly preserved bottle of vintage wine against bottles that had been poured with the Coravin four months earlier. Only one out of twenty experts correctly identified the Coravin pours, which can be chalked up to a lucky guess. The system works.
The novelty of wine flowing from a mysterious, bird-like device makes up for the non-theatrical trickle.
The Coravin is built sturdy and strong, and the construction inspires confidence that it’s worth its three bills. It’s also surprisingly intuitive. When tilting the bottle into pouring position the clamps of the Coravin held secure, and after a quiet press of the lever the wine came streaming out; after that, no instructions were necessary. Placing the needle and penetrating the bottle is simple and, thankfully, you don’t have to fiddle with removing the foil cover. The wine pours in a steady thin stream, and while it’s less showy than the glub-glub of an open bottle pour, the novelty of wine flowing from a mysterious, bird-like device makes up for the non-theatrical trickle. Once a glass is poured, removing and cleaning the system is simple, and then the bottle goes back on the shelf or into the cellar.
Argon capsules have to be replaced about every 15 pours, which, at $10.95 a pop, means your argon costs are about $0.75 a pour. If you’re using it on a Grands Echézeaux Grand Cru Pinot Noir, you don’t blink at the cost. For the rest of us, it’s something to keep in mind.