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We purchased the Coravin Model Two so our reviewer could put it to the test in their home bar. Read on for the full review.
The Bottom Line:
If you are looking to regularly extend the life of a bottle of wine from days to weeks, chances are good you won’t regret this purchase.
- Nothing else like it on the market
- Extends the life of a bottle
- No charging needed
- Room for error
I was first introduced to the Coravin Wine Preservation System nearly a decade ago at a fancy restaurant over a white tablecloth and a multi-course tasting menu. The futuristic device was wheeled in on a cart with a bottle of wine that likely cost more than my rent at the time. It was the epitome of excess, an over-the-top display designed to give the user—or in this case, the guests—a taste of rare and expensive wines without committing to the whole bottle, by siphoning the liquid out through a needle inserted into the cork and replacing the lost volume with argon gas.
The benefits of the Coravin are written all over its packaging, “Pour wine without pulling the cork.” Of course, this applies to that bottle of twenty-year-old Bordeaux you’re saving for a special occasion, but it also is for those nights when you want red and your partner wants white. In my case, as a single person who lives alone, it comes in handy when I want a glass on a Tuesday night without “accidentally” drinking half a bottle. So, no, it’s not just for when you want to bust out the good stuff.
"Think of investing in a Coravin like investing in a fancy new kitchen appliance."
Design: The Wine Opener of the Future
I remember hearing mixed feedback from the wine community when Coravin first started appearing in restaurants and wine bars. Some thought this futuristic system disrupted the sacred ritual of wine-pouring. It didn’t help that some early users had issues with bottles exploding. This resulted in a halt in production in 2014. The current system now comes with a sleeve to place your bottle into while using the Coravin. Others hailed the system as a “game-changer,” a piece of truly innovative equipment that extends the life of a bottle of wine from days to weeks.
In practice, both takes are valid. The Coravin Model Two is a matte black plastic contraption that clamps onto the neck of the bottle, allowing the user to insert the needle through the cork and siphon wine out of the bottle. The volume of the liquid removed by the Corvin is quickly replaced with gas from an Argon-filled capsule, which is stored in the body of the system. It sounds and, in many ways, it looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, but at the end of the day the design functions exactly as it's supposed to, in a quick and efficient way.
Material: Let’s Talk About Argon Gas
There are two components of the Coravin system that set it apart from other wine preservation options. The cork-piercing needle and Argon gas capsule. Argon is an odorless, colorless, and food-safe case that, unlike oxygen, won’t react with wine, causing it to oxidize. It’s also denser than oxygen, meaning that it will hold its place in the bottle without allowing oxygen in. Other wine preserving processes also rely on argan gas to extend the life of an open bottle of wine. These products offer the gas in a spray bottle that can be applied to an open bottle and then sealed in with a cork or stopper. It’s not as effective as the Coravin system, but it is the same principle.
Performance: How the Heck Do You Use this New-Fangled Contraption?
Was I terrified the first time I clamped this bad boy onto the side of a bottle? Yes. Because it doesn’t matter how many times people tell you that an airplane is one of the safest modes of transportation, you still imagine that metal tube smashing into the ground when you hit a pocket of heavy turbulence. The protective sleeve is not much more than a nylon bag and only slightly lessened my fears. These fears stemmed less from the slim possibility that the bottle will fracture and more from the fact that, upon first use, the Coravin is a foreign and intimidating piece of technology. The bare-bones instructions that come with the system leave a lot of room for questions, so I turned to YouTube to learn how to use my Coravin.
Any trip down Coravin Street starts by affixing the system to the neck of the bottle. Easy enough. Here’s where things get tricky. The instructions recommend a quick press of the lever to release a burst of Argon gas before asserting downward pressure on the top of the system, inserting the needle into the bottle. Once that is done, take a deep breath, because you’re halfway there. Here’s where things get tricky, at least for me. The instructions tell you to tilt the bottle to 45 degrees over a glass and press the lever again, allowing the wine to be siphoned through the needed and replacing the lost volume. Et voila, wine from out of the bottle lands in the glass and the cork remains intact.
Exactly how much wine ends up in the glass is a bit of a roll of the dice. I’m sure, with practice, you can figure out the right amount of time to compress the lever and release the wine so the desired amount lands in your glass. During my testing, I got everything from a small tasting to a quarter-full glass. I could see this lack of control causing some frustration, especially if you’re dealing with a particularly pricey bottle. For me, it was more a matter of getting used to the system through trial-and-error until the desired amount of wine was in my glass. Once that is achieved, simply pull the needle out of the cork, release a bit more Argon gas to clear any residual wine from the needle and go on with your night like you didn’t just sneak a glass of wine out of the bottle.
Cleaning: More Maintenance then a Corkscrew
Unlike traditional wine bottle openers, which get cleaned once a year if it’s lucky, there is some cleaning involved with the Coravin system. However, this cleaning process involves little more than dripping some water into the spigot and squirting it out the needle. Newer models also come with a needle clearing tool to clear out any cork particles. For a more thorough cleaning, you might want to also wipe down the needle, which can be difficult to access past the clamp. These needles are also replaceable if you find yours too dull or dirty.
"There really is nothing like Coravin on the market. The product has truly earned its reputation as a “game changer.”
Price: A Real Investment
Think of investing in a Coravin like investing in a fancy new kitchen appliance. Do you need another contraption to chop or heat food? Probably not. Will it make your life better? Probably yes. The Coravin system ranges in price from $198 to $499, depending on the model as well as how many bells and whistles it comes with. There is a catch, however. The basic system comes with two Argon capsules and each capsule will allow you to pour fifteen 5-oz glasses of wine. So you’re getting 30 glasses from our original investment and, after that, will be shelling out a little under $10 per refer capsule, depending on how many you purchase at once. It’s not a huge expense, but add on the cost of replacement needles at $29 a pop and this little money-saving system could become a bit of a money pit.
Competition: A Class of its Own
There really is nothing like Coravin on the market. The product has truly earned its reputation as a “game changer.” So instead of talking about the competition, which pales in comparison to the Coravin, let’s talk about the results of sitting on a bottle for weeks with the system. After pulling my first glass from a bottle of white wine, I returned the bottle to my fridge. As promised, the second glass tasted just as fresh as the first. A wine shop owner warned me that once you get past the halfway point of a bottle, even the Coravin will become less effective, because there’s too much space in the bottle to prevent the presence of any oxygen. True enough, when I pulled the cork on the bottle almost two weeks later, the wine had lost some of its brightness. That being said, it was still highly drinkable.
Final Verdict: A Oenophile’s Best Friend
There are many uses for the Coravin (view at Amazon) and, in the weeks following its arrival, I found myself leaning toward the system rather than a traditional bottle opener. If you can fork over the cash for such a pricey piece of equipment, it will quickly become a welcomed addition to your wine collection.
- Product Name: Coravin Model Two
- Product Brand: Coravin
- Product Number: B0168AT5HE
- Price: $198.00
- Material: Stainless steel, plastic
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Sarah Freeman is a food and beverage writer based out of Chicago. She has been writing about, as well as frequenting, restaurants and bars for the past decade—from learning about what makes a perfect piece of cocktail ice to the exploring art of beer label design. At the moment, she doesn’t have enough room for food in her refrigerator, because it’s filled with cans of beer and bottles of wine.