Drink less but better is a laudable enough aim, but hard to achieve once the genie – or more precisely the cork – is out of the bottle. How different if you could have just one glass, two perhaps, half a bottle even, of a fine wine – without actually having to open the bottle. A fanciful idea? It was until an American medical inventor called Greg Lambrecht decided, when his wife was pregnant, that he was going to find a way of drinking a glass without actually opening the bottle.
After 10 years and 4,000 bottle tests, Lambrecht launched the Coravin wine extracting system, featuring a device whose mosquito-like needle penetrates the cork and capsule, sucks out the wine, and propels it into your glass. The cork automatically reseals itself, and the remaining wine in the bottle is perfectly preserved by the inert gas squirted into it by the device. The wine left in the bottle then stays fresh for as long as you want, allowing you to draw the wine at your leisure, a glass at a time.
I thought it was too good to be true when I first heard of Coravin's prowess. The opportunity to road-test the device arose when Lambrecht invited me and 14 masters of wine to London's Avenue Restaurant. We were given two wines to taste, a red, 1995 Certan de May, Pomerol, and a white, 2011 Sancerre Caillottes. Five glasses of each wine were put in front of each of us. Some of the five contained wine from freshly opened bottles, others from bottles from which wine had been extracted by Coravin a year earlier. The glasses were unmarked.
I noticed, sitting next to Gérard Basset MW, a winner of the Best Sommelier in the World award, that he looked as baffled as I was feeling as we tried to guess which was which. When the tasting was done and the results collated, a mere three of the 15 professionals had correctly guessed which was which in their five glasses of red. None of the 15 had guessed the white correctly. Lambrecht said this reflected the results of 25 previous tests that had been conducted in other cities.
To me, it was a vindication of Coravin. It doesn't work on wines with screwcaps of course, nor yet on sparkling wines, and I suspect it's not ideal on older wines with a deposit. There's also not much point in using it on everyday wines but for fine wines that you want, or need, to savour over a period of time. It's a godsend for me and wine geeks everywhere, not to mention wine bars and restaurants that sell wine by the glass but don't want to invest in a much pricier Enomatic machine.
What about the ceremony of uncorking the bottle? You simply do it for the last glass and not the first. Coravin is around £270 and stockists can be found through coravin.co.uk.Reuse content