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Max Allen gives an awesome review of Coravin and the new Screw Cap accessory now available in Australia.
Reference - Max Allen, Australian Financial Review, Life & Leisure Jul 28 2017
Greg Lambrecht is crazy about wine. When he talks about the great bottles he's enjoyed it's with the wide-eyed passion of the collector, the infectious enthusiasm of the completely obsessed.
"I'm never happier, or more relaxed, than when I'm drinking a glass of good wine," he says, bringing his glass of Tasmanian pinot noir up to his nose, closing his eyes and taking a blissful sniff.
"Oh, that is so pretty," he says. "So beautiful."
As well as being a wine lover, Lambrecht is an inventor. And one of his inventions, Coravin, is changing the way we enjoy wine – by allowing us to drink rare, old and expensive bottles without opening them.
The ingenious device works like this. You clamp the Coravin to the top of an unopened bottle. It inserts a long, hollow needle through the capsule and the cork. You press a trigger and wine comes out, replaced by inert argon gas. Because the cork remains in place and seals up once the needle has been removed, the wine in the bottle isn't exposed to air and the remaining contents stay fresh for months, even years, meaning the next time you use the device to extract a glassful, it'll still taste the same. And the next time. And the next.
Take that Tasmanian pinot Lambrecht is enjoying. He first poured a couple of glasses from it using a Coravin device back in April, and hasn't touched the bottle until now. He pours me a glass. I take a sip – and he's right. It is very pretty. And very fresh. Even though the bottle has been half-empty for months.
Observant readers will have noticed a discrepancy by now. "Hold on," they'll be thinking. "How can he be using a Coravin on a Tasmanian pinot? Aren't they all bottled under screwcap these days? Not much use trying to get the needle through one of them."
True. Which is precisely why Lambrecht has travelled to Australia from company headquarters in Boston: to address this problem by launching replacement caps filled with an airtight silicone bung that the wine drinker swaps for the metal cap on the bottle.
Australia is the first market to have access to these Coravin Screw Caps – no surprise, really, given how enthusiastically we've embraced the twist-off alternative to cork over the past 15 years or so.
"What I love about Australia is your obsession with coffee and wine – the only two things I drink apart from sparkling water, by the way," smiles Lambrecht, enthusiastically. "You make really good coffee. You make really good wine. And 90 per cent of the wine you make is under screwcap."
Home consumer biggest market
My initial reaction is to think of how this will benefit the rapidly growing number of restaurant sommeliers who are using Coravin (see below), allowing them to offer better selections of wines by the glass to their customers. Until now, they have been restricted to cork-sealed bottles only.
So, it comes as a surprise when Lambrecht tells me the home consumer is by far the biggest market for his invention: 80 per cent of sales, he says, are to mad-keen wine collectors like himself, people who are happy to spend $550 on a unit. A more affordable version, the Model 1, has also just been released and costs about $330.
Another surprise is that Lambrecht developed and built the first few Coravins at home, hand-machining the units in his basement workshop and giving them to friends.
But then he reminds me that his background (and his day job, still, as founder and executive director of Intrinsic Therapeutics) is in inventing and making precision surgical devices.
"It's a … nice workshop," he deadpans.
So, what's next for Coravin? What's on the bench in that basement?
"I want to be able to try two different champagnes in an evening without wasting the rest of the bottles. And then two more the next day. I want to break the connection between the volume wine is sold to you in and the volume you consume. I want to change behaviour."
The Coravin Files: who's pouring what where
Coravins started appearing in a few Australian restaurants a couple of years ago, brought back by sommeliers who had bought the radical new device in New York or London. Since launching here in 2016, however, sales have been brisk, and you'll now find Coravins in dozens of the best restaurants and bars across the country.
Below is a list of some of the wines that have been poured in these venues using the device. By the time you read this, very few – if any – of them will still be on offer (in some cases, there may only have been a single bottle available). But this gives you an idea of what you can expect.
Aria (Sydney) 1991 Best's Old Vine Pinot Meunier, Great Western, Victoria. 100ml for $65. Aria offers about 20 wines using Coravin, including bottle-aged reds such as this rarity made from 160-year-old vines.
Budburst (Perth) 2012 Maria & Sepp Muster "Graf", Sauvignon Blanc, Steiermark, Austria. 50ml for $8, 150ml for $23. One of the world's best biodynamically grown, minimal intervention, unfiltered sauvignons.
Hardy's Verandah (Adelaide Hills) 2003 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier Murrumbateman, NSW. 75ml for $23, 150ml for $46. At 12 years old, this modern Australian classic is drinking superbly.
Stokehouse (Brisbane) 2002 Vega Sicilia Valbueno 5, Ribera Del Duero, Spain. 75ml for $40, 150ml for $75. One of Spain's greatest red wines, renowned for its ability to age gracefully over many decades.
Me Wah (Hobart) 1998 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, South Australia. 150ml for $40. You've probably got some of this Perennial Penfolds favourite in your cellar. Here's your chance to see how it's evolving.
Dinner by Heston (Melbourne) 1975 Château Suduiraut, Sauternes, France. 60ml for $75, 100ml for $105. Dinner offers a staggering 50 wines by the glass using Coravin, including gems such as this 40-year-old Sauternes.