© Coravin |
I know what you’re thinking, wine lovers. If only there were some way to preserve screwcapped bottles of wine after opening them, for days or months, so that you can have one glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc tonight and another with Thanksgiving dinner.
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That’s the idea behind the Coravin, which revolutionized restaurant wine by-the-glass programs with its ability to extract a glass of wine from a cork-sealed bottle without the need to remove the cork. You poke a needle through the cork, inject some neutral gas to prevent the wine from oxidizing, and extract a single glass of your prized ’61 Lafite Rothschild, saving the rest for later.
I don’t know how enthusiastic home users are about the Coravin (you can tell me in the comments), but there’s no doubt fine dining restaurants like it.
The screwcap line extension is an affordable add-on. For $30, you get a package of six Coravin screwcaps, which is simply a dongle that screws on top of the bottle, replacing the regular screwcap. There’s a gummy plastic section in the middle of the Coravin screwcap through which you insert the needle of the Coravin device.
So you need a regular Coravin to use the Coravin screwcap. I didn’t own one so the company sent me one for the purposes of this review. But I’m not certain if I gave the Coravin screwcap a proper trial or not. The needle’s entry hole in the gummy center was still visible the next day, and there must have been air leakage. I think I did it right, but the wine …
Well, the wine just wasn’t very well-preserved.
Economically, the idea of a Coravin screwcap is amusing because most screwcapped wines aren’t expensive enough to get the fine-dining treatment. I decided to try it out on the finest screwcapped wine I had sitting around: the 2013 Bird in Hand Nest Egg Mt Lofty Ranges (Australia) Shiraz.
I loved the first glass of Shiraz I dribbled slowly into a glass after I deactivated the Coravin’s initial «spray the kitchen with wine» mode. It’s excellent Aussie Shiraz for the non big Barossa fan. It’s generously fruity, but has good freshness and a backbone of tannin that makes it well-balanced. It’s a delightful wine and I think the restraint would make it an interesting stumper on an MW exam. I had no problem finishing the first glass of it I pulled.
Then I put the bottle on a counter in my living room, alongside a decanter of Chardonnay I was leaving open for five days as a test for another story (Coming Soon on Wine-Searcher: The Chardonnay Left Open For Five Days.) Both of them sat at San Francisco room temperature, which meant mostly mid-60s but one day over 80 Farenheit (27C).
Three days later, I put the needle back in the Coravin screwcap and extracted another glass of Shiraz. It was still drinkable, but it was now simple and fruity, with the tannic backbone seemingly gone. It still had decent acidity, and if I paid for the glass in a restaurant I would have drunk it but, as it is, I didn’t finish it. I did the same thing the next day; same result. That glass I poured down the drain. The experiment is ongoing: I will leave the bottle on the counter for another week to see if the wine is still drinkable. But I don’t think the balance will come back.
In contrast, a few days earlier I opened a screwcapped bottle of cheap Chilean Chardonnay – 2016 Apaltagua Reserva Casablanca Valley Estate Grown Unoaked Chardonnay – to have a glass with dinner. I liked it, so I simply screwed the cap back on the bottle, no Coravin or preservation system of any kind, and put it back in the fridge for three days.
Then I had another glass of Apaltagua Chardonnay, and it was excellent. The following day I had another glass, from a bottle opened four days earlier, and drank it greedily. I just realized there was a splash left in a bottle that had been open nine days in my fridge, resealed simply by reclosing the screwcap, so I tasted it (the things I do for readers). It wasn’t as good as it was five days ago, but it was still drinkable. It was as close to peak after nine days as the Coravin-screwcapped Shiraz was after four days, with no preservation system whatsoever other than the refrigerator.
Granted, that’s a big difference. With limited bottles of screwcapped wine and limited time to review a new product, I wasn’t sure how to include refrigeration as a variable. I don’t have a walk-in cellar and I wasn’t going to put the Shiraz sideways in my wine fridge with a small but visible hole in its gummy center. I could have put it in the regular fridge, but I chose not to because I thought the point of a Coravin is to preserve the wine as if it were unopened. This, it did not do.
It doesn’t help that the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay sitting at room temperature in an open decanter next to the Coravin-screwcapped bottle aged better.
So the one-word review for the Coravin screwcap: Unnecessary.