And it can keep it fresh for weeks, months and even years, discovers Sam Wylie-Harris.
Greg Lambrecht, founder of Coravin, a needle-based wine gadget (yes, it sounds a bit scary) that has changed the face of wine preservation, is nothing if not charismatic.
“I could sleep on a bed of nails at a rock concert,” declares the innovator, who has made it possible for sommeliers – and wine enthusiasts – to serve wines by the glass without ever having to open the bottle.
The New Yorker, who perpetually travels the world (and never suffers from jet lag) with his game-changing gizmo, has shipped a case of wines from his personal collection for us to taste, using his latest Coravin Model Eleven invention.
A former medical device inventor specialising in needle-based products, who’s been described by some wine cynics as a ‘techno-fetishist’, he’s fused his passion for wine and innovative technology by inventing a gadget he describes as: “Easier and faster than opening a bottle of wine, and much more fun… especially when you can go straight through a waxed sealed bottle.” And undoubtedly, wax is the hardest cork to pull.
I’ve been invited to an exclusive lunch at private members’ wine club, 67 Pall Mall in London (which happens to offer the largest Coravin wine list in the world, with more than 800 wines available by the glass) and we kick off with a champagne reception.
“Pierre Gimonnet & Fils is a personal favourite which I seem to run into a lot,” says Lambrecht, who then excitedly encourages us to give his shiny new Model Eleven a go.
Feeling a little bit timid, I rise to the challenge of placing my personal Coravin device (if only for a few hours) on top of the bottle, pressing the needle down through the cork, watching the light ring turn a neon green and tipping the bottle as high as I possibly can. The wine then flows, ever so slowly, into the glass.
Within time, I get the knack of it – sort of.
“My career is innovation, and bringing innovation to the market,” says Lambrecht, who hopes to show you can “drink any wine in any quantity and never have to worry about when to drink it again.”
“Coravin is a wine bar in the house,” he adds, “and only limited by what you have to open in the cellar.”
So what is it?
Coravin was founded in 2011 and there have been a couple of models along the way, mainly targeted at restaurants and wineries.
Today, the Eleven kit is far more consumer friendly and comes with an aerator, works for screwcaps and the Coravin Moments app provides tasting notes and offers recommendations on wine pairings from food and film, to music.
How does it differ from other wine preservation systems?
Unlike other gadgets that require you to remove the cork, Coravin allows users to pour wine while leaving the cork in place. “Its most common and least expensive competitor is drinking the whole bottle,” says Lambrecht wryly.
How does it work?
Firstly, it doesn’t make wine taste any better. If you use the Coravin system, a £10 bottle of wine will always taste like a £10 bottle of wine, but it will last a whole lot longer.
Leaving the cork in place eliminates the oxidation process. A thin hollow needle passes through the foil and cork to access the wine and the bottle is pressurized with argon gas, which allows the wine to flow without allowing any oxygen into the bottle. Once the needle is removed, the cork naturally seals up and the wine can be put back on the shelf or re-cellared as if it had never been opened.
Each argon gas capsule pours about 15 full glasses of wine and the 225mm needle can stand up to 500 to 1,000 uses.
What’s our verdict:
It’s safe to say a few wines were flung around the table. Over a lunch of steamed asparagus followed by fillet of beef Wellington, a lofty 1997 Cos D’Estournel Saint-Estephe, which was accessed by Lambrecht on April 12, 2008, nearly 10 years ago to the day, tasted absolutely superb.
A glug of 2002 Step RD Shiraz Langhorne Creek, accessed on October 23 2008, maintained its elegance.
Fellow taster Joe Fattorini, TV presenter, The Wine Show and wine critic said: “For a shiraz older in years than its price in pounds, the wine’s doing well.”
A sauvignon blanc dominant 2011 Matthiasson Napa Valley White accessed on June 6, 2015, maintained its freshness and citrus acidity, and I never would have guessed this bright white was a wine that had effectively been put on hold for nearly four years.
Lambrecht, Fattorini and myself signed a bottle of Eben Sadie Treinspoor 2016, South Africa, which was then dated – and we’ve been invited back to 67 Pall Mall to taste the wine in a year’s time.
In the meantime, I’m convinced Coravin needs to be in my drinks repertoire… once I get the hang of it.