Oxygen is the enemy of wine. Once a bottle is opened, the challenge is keeping it fresh. There isn’t a lot of leftover wine around my house, but the issue is a pressing one for collectors who can’t finish an expensive bottle in one evening--and particularly for restaurants that want to offer an upscale wine by the glass program.
Wine lovers tend to be gadget-happy, and there are many preservation systems available. The most successful of them use an inert gas, such as argon, to keep wine in good condition. The theory is simple: Argon is heavier than oxygen. Spray some into a bottle, and the gas will collect on the surface of the wine, forcing oxygen out.
None of these systems are perfect, but a new entry into the wine preservation market has created a huge impact. It’s called Coravin, and its drawing rave reviews from everyone who has tried it. The Coravin system injects a thin, hollow needle through the cork that allows you to draw out the amount of wine you want. When you’re finished, argon is sprayed into the bottle and the cork is resealed. The technology was developed by Greg Lambrecht, a wine lover who previously specialized in medical devices.
The Coravin system currently costs $299; accessories such as gas canisters and replacement needles have to be purchased separately. That may seem expensive, unless you have a cellar full of rare bottles and the desire to sample a number of wines in a single evening. The system has been a boon for wine bars and restaurants that want to offer glasses and tastes of high-priced wine. While there are other high-tech solutions that are equally effective, such as Enomatic machines, a single Enomatic machine easily costs thousands of dollars.
To put it another way, a Coravin system will set you back roughly one dollar a day for the first year---a small price to pay if you have a large cellar and a desire for variety.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); his second book, Moonshine Nation, is forthcoming in the spring of 2014. For more information, go to amazon.com