A Wine Advice Column by Charles Fredy
Have you ever wanted to enjoy a glass of wine without committing to the whole bottle? Maybe you’d like to make a six-course wine-pairing dinner for two, but don’t want to be left with six open bottles. Or you’ve splurged on some wonderful wines, and don’t want to risk opening them too soon. How to savor some of the wine without having the rest of it spoil?
Exposure to oxygen is what ruins wine. Most reds begin to deteriorate within a day of being opened. High-acid white wines are more stable, but most wines begin to fade in a few days. Various products aim at reducing oxidation. Some pump oxygen out of the bottle after it’s been opened. Others spray argon inside the bottle; this harmless gas creates a buffer between the oxygen and the wine. In my experience, these methods aren’t very effective. You can also purchase a Cruvinet system, a temperature-controlled cabinet that keeps open bottles fresh for up to six weeks — but at $5,000 or more, it’s not very practical for the general consumer.
I recently discovered the Coravin device. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, I’d say it’s revolutionizing the way we preserve and serve wines. This small, hand-held device inserts a thin, hollow needle into the cork to extract wine without opening the bottle. Once you pour the desired amount of wine and remove the needle, the cork reseals itself as if the bottle were never opened. The remaining wine safely rests in the bottle until you want to tap it again.
I have about 250 bottles of wine that I’ve opened using the Coravin device, and have been enjoying them for over a year. I like the idea of extending a wine’s useful life over many servings, and having numerous opportunities to savor it. Thanks to Coravin, many restaurants can now offer ultra-high-end wines by the glass as they would never have been able to before.
The device has a few drawbacks. You can’t use it on glass closures (vino seal) or screw-top bottles, and it doesn’t appear to work well with synthetic corks. It uses pressure, and there have been some rare instances of cheap or cracked bottles exploding — though I haven’t seen reports of serious injury. The company now provides a protective neoprene sleeve that slides over the bottle. And of course, you’d want to check any bottle for cracks or chips, bubbles or white spots before using the device. I’ve used it on hundreds of bottles without a problem.
The Coravin device sells online for $300; cartridges cost around $10. If you like two-ounce servings, a single cartridge will let you tap about three bottles, up to fifteen times each. I also like the fact that you can take the Coravin device with you when you travel. You can’t fly with the cartridges, because they’re under pressure, but you can purchase them at your destination.
Here are some favorite wines I tap often.
- Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis, Vieilles Vignes, Burgundy, 2011
- Shafer Vineyards, Chardonnay, Red Shoulder Ranch, Carneros, Napa Valley, 2012
- Bodegas Muga, Reserva Seleccion Especial, Rioja, 2009
- Nickel & Nickel Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hayne Vineyard, Napa Valley, 2011
Got a wine question? Contact Charles Fredy at twitter.com/ChambersWinesHI.