What if, when you opened a bottle of wine, you didn't have to worry about finishing it within a few days? What if you could have a glass from five different bottles throughout the week, and not waste any of the excess wine? Using a dual-valve system that supposedly lets into the bottle .01 milligram of air per glass poured, Kuvée's smart wine bottle -- now available on Indiegogo for preorder at $199 for the device plus four bottles -- claims to extend the life of the opened bottle of wine considerably.
I had reservations about the system right away, simply because the bottles of wine themselves must be purchased through Kuvée, which provides specific cartridge-like bottles that fit into the Kuvée device. But the bottles were just under market price and had competitive shipping rates (free for four or more bottles), and using the device was slick. The only remaining question: does it work? The answer: not well enough.
Right now, I can't recommend the Kuvée Bottle -- especially given the planned, decidedly less-appealing retail price of $250 for the device alone. But if Kuvée's wine selection expands and the valve system on the cartridges improves, it could become a cool product for intermittent wine-drinkers and those interested in household wine technology.
How does it work?
The central mechanic of the Kuvée Bottle has a simple underlying concept: use valves to block air from entering the bottle as you pour a glass of wine. That way, oxidation doesn't set the bottle's quality on a slow path toward spoiled wine. Instead, the bottle should last for weeks.
Kuvée isn't the first developer to combat oxidation. For less than 10 bucks, you can easily get a canister of argon or another inert gas. Spraying one of these into a bottle before re-corking it will slow the oxidation process, lending the wine a few more days of freshness. On the other hand, you can buy a device like a Coravin for $350. The Coravin uses a hollow needle to pump argon through the cork, pressurizing the bottle of wine. Then you can pour the wine out through the needle. And when you're done, the naturally elastic cork reseals.
Kuvée doesn't concern itself with replacing the displaced wine with anything. Instead, each canister contains a collapsible bladder -- a similar approach to box wine, only with higher-quality components. Kuvée surrounds this basic mechanism with some clever technology.
The bottle that houses each cartridge has a slick touch screen, on which you can peruse information about the plugged-in cartridge's winery, tasting notes, and suggested food pairings. You also order new cartridges from this touch screen, since the Bottle is Wi-Fi connected.
The Kuvée Bottle is a sleek device, no question. I like the information it offers for each wine, and I like how easy it is to snap a cartridge in and out of the sleeve while serving people with different tastes. But a couple big questions gave me pause, even with such a clever device. First off, how's the wine selection?
For serious aficionados, a limited library of wine curated and brokered solely by Kuvée should raise some eyebrows. I found the prices of every bottle to be equal to or less than market price for the wine. But the competitive prices don't make up for a current selection of 14 wines, and a planned selection of forty-odd wines from fewer than 20 California wineries. Of course, Kuvée says those numbers will rise over time, but I would need some old-world wineries before even considering a product like this.
Such limited selection doesn't preclude the product from everyone, though. In fact, I could see a lot of younger adults like me who casually want to get into wine, and for whom a slick device like this could make learning about wine fun and easy. Plus, entertaining a crowd with varied tastes won't leave you with too much excess wine to handle.