With a quick, sure motion, Coravin founder Greg Lambrecht plunged an automated wine preserver through the cork of a bottle of 2015 Italian Moccagatta Barbera D'Alba. It's not the stuff of cellars, but a heck of a lot better than the typical CES trade show fare.
A light on top turned green. He tipped the contraption-topped bottle and spilled some contents into the glass in my outstretched hand.
An upward tug on the unit -- matter-of-factly and unimaginatively called Model Eleven -- and the contraption shot a puff of argon gas through a slim needle through the cork.
This is important: The cork stays in the bottle. It never comes out. Peer at the cork afterwards, and you can barely tell it's been pierced.
A connected app then shares details like how much gas you have left, and what kind of wine you should pair with an exciting night of David Bowie music and cake (very important). And that was just the prototype.
I've been debating buying a Coravin wine preserver for years. It's stupid-expensive, but something that a serious wine drinker might own, or might want to. Now at CES 2018, this model could sway me. Could, if I had an extra $1,000 laying around. (The cheapest model starts at a relatively reasonable $200.)
What's the big deal? The element of preservation. Wine nerds or wannabes worry about the amount of oxygen that seeps in to the wine still in the bottle and saps it of flavor in as little as a day.
If you open a bottle, have a glass, push the cork back in, and don't pour another glass for another day or two, you may know what I mean. The wine could taste flat, flavorless and basically blah when you finally reach for it again in the fridge. What a sad waste.
But use some other method to remove or block the oxygen, like an oxygen pump or an $8 can of gas you shoot into the bottle, and the wine tastes more like itself the next night, and the next.
The deal with Coravin is that the needle it sticks into the cork allows the cork, a natural material, to shrink back into itself. Less oxygen seeps through that way than when you pull out the entire cork and expose the juice to the open air. The founder, Lambrecht, says he cellared a bottle for three years and his friends couldn't tell the difference when tasted side-by-side with an unopened bottle.
Bottom line: The less air that gets into wine when you aren't drinking it, the better.
If you're tempted to wave off the device because "once you crack a bottle, there aren't any leftovers", consider the Tuesday nights you want to have a great glass, without committing to all 750ml in a sitting. Or take my dad: He's the solo drinker of his household, which also consists of my mom, and a prudent quaffer. A Coravin would be perfect for his single glass a day, and he digs the tech. But $1,000 is a pricey sell.
If you're a wine lover and a tech lover who wants to marry the two, this Model Eleven uplevels previous versions while throwing in two argon gas capsules (about a $16 value). It's pretty clear this is for restaurants and wineries, and not individual families -- most of them, anyway.
Other Coravin Model Eleven details
- Older cartridges are compatible with the Eleven
- Lifespan: 500-to-1,000 uses per cork needle
- Replacement needles cost $20
- $8 per new argon gas capsule, which lasts for 15-20 glasses
- App does entertainment and food pairings through Delectable database
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