Vins & Needles: Coravin

Gaëlle Laforest

08 July 2016

Since it burst onto the scene three years ago, Coravin has revolutionised the options for by-the-glass wine drinking. Gaëlle Laforest finds out what sommeliers think of the mark II version

Who would have thought that epidurals would one day be the key to finally cracking open that Château Petrus 1989? And yet that’s exactly how Coravin, the gadget that’s changing the game in the wine world, came about.

Back in 1999, it was his frustration at not being able to drink anything by the glass without having to commit to a full bottle of wine that led founder Greg Lambrecht to use his experience in medical product development and apply it to the wine world.

Sixteen years on, and three years after the original device launched in the US market, Lambrecht says the UK is the second biggest user of Coravin after France, with London the ‘most accepting’ city when it comes to using the device in hospitality. So when Model Two launched last year, London was top of the list for sharing it with the trade.

We had the input of tens of thousands of people when working on this model

Greg Lambrecht

New features have been added, based on feedback from users. Mainly, the speed of pour has been improved by making the walls of the Teflon-covered stainless steel needle thinner – it now pours 20-25% faster than before. This also means pouring one measure uses less argon gas than before. The manufacturers aim for 15 (175ml) glasses per capsule.

The device has also been modified to avoid gas leaks and ensure the needle doesn’t come unthreaded. The clamp
that grips the device to the bottle has been made softer so it’s easier to use.

‘We had the input of tens of thousands of people when working on this model, and we changed everything we could improve,’ Lambrecht says.

The innovation is set to continue, with one of the key goals being sparkling wine. ‘I spend night and day working on sparkling wine,’ says Lambrecht. While it will definitely happen, it will have to be via a different device, which means no timeline has been set.

The company is also looking at making Coravin work on three-litre bottles – although six-litre is looking unlikely as the quantity of gas needed would be extremely high.

But does it work for you? We asked some Coravin users for their thoughts…

‘It’s great to give people choice…’

‘At Annexe, we offer our entire wine list – more than 75 wines – served by the glass using Coravin. We never did that before because of the wastage, but with Coravin that isn’t a problem any more, and we think it’s great to give people such a large choice. Customers are impressed when they discover they can have any wine by the glass – not many places offer that.’

‘I couldn’t do without it…’

‘It might have been invented with white tablecloth restaurants in mind, but these days, people expect the same quality of wine offering from all restaurants. At Casa Tapas it allows us to serve wines we didn’t previously have on our list. We were pouring mostly Rioja before, so now we can look at different regions. A lot of customers were asking to try different wines but there are some I wouldn’t have opened and just sold by the glass. I don’t think I could do without it now.’

‘We use it for wines between £100 and £400…’

‘It’s a great device; the design is spot on and it’s very sturdy. It’s a little fiddly at first but with more practice it becomes very easy and staff use it with confidence. At The Jugged Hare in Barbican, we use it only for wines between £100 and £400. We’re slowly building trust in this device with our guests, and are monitoring the quality of open bottles to then offer more exclusive, rare and expensive wines. So far, the feedback has been very positive – the perfect quality of some fine Burgundy that’s been open 12 months is quite formidable.’

‘Some sort of label scanner would help…’

‘I always have a separate page for Coravin listings, where I like to focus on one particular region, style or producer – or list older vintages. At the moment I’m redesigning the wine list at Plateau, and Coravin will play a big part in the new one. I want to encourage our guests to explore the wine list a bit more and discover something new. It would be great if it had a measurement setting to see how much you’re pouring – and some sort of label scanner to help track how long ago and how many times the bottle was pierced.’

‘We’d love to have it for sparkling wines…’

‘It’s a very clever invention, especially for the on-trade: it allows us to sell fine wine by the glass without any wastage and to be able to expand our by-the-glass selection. The wines we pour with it are finer wines, older vintages or ones we know might move more slowly – such as Sassicaia 1996, Vieux Château Certan 1995 or some orange wines such as Radikon Jakot 2007. We’d love to have it for sparkling wines, so we could do more fine champagne by the glass.’

‘It looked silly on the table…’

‘I loved Coravin for the first few months; it worked well with premium wines, but I couldn’t figure out how to use it for service. It looked silly on the table – especially if you run out of gas – but if you do it at the sommelier station, you can’t show the bottle. And going to the table with the device, the bottle and glasses felt like a mechanic going to repair tyres. We still use it now, but for pouring wines behind the bar, and without mentioning Coravin on our wine list.’

‘You do those things and the wine is going to keep tasting the same’ Greg Lambrecht

  • Wash the device often by running hot water through the pourer at the end of the night to prevent build-up.
  • Just before you pressurise the bottle, give the trigger a quick press to get rid of any unwanted air going into the bottle.
  • Bottles that have been accessed by Coravin should be stored on their side.

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