The buzz around town is not about a celebrity winemaker or the release of a highly anticipated vintage. Rather wine professionals are talking about a high-tech device that allows them to pour wine from a bottle without popping the cork.
Coravin Wine Access System, developed in the Bay State and on the market since last summer, uses a Teflon-coated needle, housed in a metal casing, to pierce a bottle’s cork. Argon, an inert gas, pressurizes the bottle, allowing wine to stream through the needle and out from a spout when the bottle is tipped. (The cork reseals itself once the needle is pulled out.) Oxygen, the bete noir of wine freshness, never touches the liquid. Invented by MIT-trained nuclear engineer Greg Lambrecht, a Coravin and two argon capsules retail for $299. A replacement argon capsule, which allows about 15 pours, is $10.95. Though expensive, the new mechanism has quite a following.
When Liz Vilardi, co-owner and wine director of Belly Wine Bar in Kendall Square, saw an early prototype, she thought, “What a great tool for a wine by-the-glass program, especially for older bottles.” That’s exactly how she and her team now use the technology. Vilardi pours a taste from a 1993 bottle of Bourgueil, from which wine has been drawn eight times since last November. The Loire red is still fresh and sound, tasting like it did months ago.
Some restaurateurs offer special lists of wines that they Coravin (yes, the brand has become a verb). Jennifer Ziskin, co-owner and wine director of La Morra, a Northern Italian restaurant in Brookline, offers a 2009 Barolo, normally $100 a bottle, that can be sampled as a 3-ounce pour ($18) or 6-ounce pour ($36).
The device is well suited to diners who want to sample rare, prestigious bottles, says Olivier Flosse, beverage director of the MARC Restaurant Group, which includes the Back Bay’s Bistro du Midi. “Guests can get a touch of the best without breaking the bank,” he says.
Wine consultant Nick Martinelle of Enomass, the Massachusetts distributor of Vinifera Imports, uses Coravin to show a portfolio of Italian bottles to his accounts around the state. Recently, he used it to draw samples from a 1999 bottle called “Tato,” a Bordeaux-style blend from Friuli producer Sant’Elena, to multiple tasters over several weeks. Each pour, he says, was as sound as the first, without wasting a drop.
For wine buffs with cellars, says TJ Douglas, co-owner of The Urban Grape in Chestnut Hill and the South End, where he sells the device, Coravin is ideal for cellar consultations he does with clients. “It’s changing the high-end wine business for restaurants, retail, and home consumption,” he says.
Without one, you might be in Ralph Hersom’s shoes. The owner and wine director of Ralph’s Wines & Spirits in Hingham, doesn’t own a Coravin, but bought some mid-’90s Barolos. The prospect of sampling each, putting those nearly full bottles aside, then bringing them out months from now for a gathering tempts him.
The Coravin buzz will be going strong long after Hersom caves.
Coravin Wine Access System, www.coravin.com