The second big question is more important:
Does it work?
Here's how I tested the Kuvée Bottle. First, I bought a few bottles of 2014 Schug Carneros Chardonnay -- a good wine that was in one of the cartridges sent to me by Kuvée. Then, each day for a week, I opened a new bottle to use as a control, and compared it to both the Kuvée cartridge opened at the beginning of the week and a normal bottle opened at the same time, re-corked, and refrigerated. The goal was simple: to determine if the Kuvée Chardonnay degraded along with its normally bottled counterpart, if it retained the flavor and aroma of the fresh bottle, or landed somewhere in between.
Day 1: For the first day, we had no control. It was simply a taste test between a normal bottle of Schug Chardonnay and a Kuvée cartridge of the same. Out of six tasters in the office, the responses were mixed. Everyone agreed that they were nearly identical, but some preferred the bottle, and some the cartridge. Because the aluminum cartridge and the glass bottle also insulate differently, the minor differences in flavor could be due to slightly different temperatures. Conclusion: The cartridge and bottle are essentially identical in flavor. Kuvée doesn't lose any flavor points despite being stored differently.
Days 2 and 3: Both the day-old bottle and the Kuvée cartridge were noticeably degraded by the second and third days. The differences were subtle: the Kuvée cartridge retained better freshness, but lost some of the full-bodied flavor of the fresh Chardonnay. The bottle retained some of the flavor, but the nose was more subdued, and it tasted a little less fresh and less oaky. Responses from tasters were again mixed -- some preferring the Kuvée and some the bottle. Conclusion: The cartridge is doing something to the Chardonnay, but what exactly is unclear. It isn't simply preserved.
Day 4: For the final day, I went to a local winery to get the opinion of experts. After three days, both the bottle and cartridge were still drinkable, though neither was close to the quality of a newly opened bottle. Both the professional and I preferred the Kuvée cartridge over the three-day old bottle, but only marginally. Conclusion: The aroma and certain flavors were better preserved in the Kuvée cartridge, but the result was an unbalanced structure -- not the full body and bright character of a quality Chardonnay.
After testing the Kuvée Bottle, it seems semi-effective. But when it comes to preserving wine -- especially a Chardonnay that depends on freshness -- semi-effective is the same as ineffective. The reason I won't dismiss the Kuvée technology outright is primarily because the disappointing valve system is built into the cartridges, not the Bottle. So the cartridges could be redesigned and improved at no cost to users. For now, though, the wine isn't adequately preserved.
Is the potential worth the price?
The $199 preorder price for the Kuvée Bottle and four assorted wines on Indiegogo before it releases in October is a pretty good deal -- if you want to invest in the company's potential. If the valve system of the cartridges improves and the selection expands considerably, the Kuvée Bottle could be a great deal. But until it realizes that potential, the retail price of $250 is just too high.
In addition, for anyone serious about displaying bottles in their homes, or aging wine before drinking it, the Kuvée smart wine bottle just won't work. And for many who drink wine regularly, finishing a bottle over the course of two or three days really isn't enough of a problem for the price.
After working with Kuvée for a week, I can't recommend the device. That said, Kuvée has the potential to improve greatly as its cartridge technology develops. In other words, the Kuvée is bright and fresh as Chardonnay, but lacks the depth of a good Cab. Here's to its potential.