The Coravin is a fairly new device that allows you to extract wine from a sealed (with cork) bottle. When using it, the device inserts a needle through the foil and through the cork. The wine is then extracted through that needle and into your glass. Coravin uses a small amount of Argon gas under low pressure to push the wine from the bottle and in to your glass. Since the cork reseals and Argon gas is inert and weighs more than air, it keeps the oxygen from connecting with the liquid. Therefore, the wine stays fresh.
Whether the wine stays perfectly fresh over long periods of time is address by Alan Greenberg, Coravin’s Region Sales Manager for the Eastern United States:
“Life of the bottle is finite, Coravin won’t extend or shorten that life as long as the cork is good. If the cork fails, the wine will eventually fail as well. One thing that is important to make sure wines maintain their freshness is to purge the device before accessing the wine.” (Clearing the needle of residual gas and air before bringing in to the bottle.) “Most of those who have issues with the wine’s freshness do not purge at all.”
One of the ways that the Coravin is changing the dining landscape is in giving sommeliers the opportunity to pour older, rarer and more expensive wines by the glass for their customers. As a guest of Coravin, I went on a “tour” of restaurants in Manhattan that utilize the device:
Sirio Ristorante, 795 Fifth Avenue/61st Street:
Massimo Schiavon, the restaurant manager and sommelier, demonstrated how the Coravin works. Then we were served an excellent small meal with two very impressive wines poured from the Coravin into carafes. The first wine was the 2010 Gaja Alteni di Brassica Sauvignon Blanc from Piedmont ($155 per bottle or $20 for three ounces on their list), much more complex than the average Sauvignon Blanc, it showed honeyed and citrus notes, a round mid-palate and very long length. It was paired with a threesome of sea scallop with celery puree and black truffle sauce, branzino with lemon caper sauce and broccoli rabe puree, and braised octopus with a chick pea puree, Dijon dressing and blue potato chips.
The second wine was the 2011 Tignanello from Marchesi Antinori in Tuscany, 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot ($175 per bottle or $23 for three ounces on their list) . The wine had a very earthy nose, and offered lovely red fruit, orange pith and very subtle floral (rose) notes. It had excellent structure, finish and length. This was paired with an other threesome: veal tortoloni with porcini sauce and Parmesan foam, smoked lamb tartare with croutin and spicy aioli, and butternut risotto with black truffle and crispy speck.
Next we moved on to The Modern, Nine West 53rd Street. Master Sommelier Michael Engelmann used the Coravin to introduce us to the 1978 Louis Sipp Riesling Kirshberg from Alsace. The wine was soft on the palate, totally dry with good minerality. The structure was elegant and the wine continued on to a lovely, super-long finish. After that, he poured the 2006 Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux-Hudelot Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières, which showed a clean and creamy Chardonnay nose. The wine was subtle, elegant with excellent balance and flavors. It was quite possibly my favorite wine of the evening. It sells at The Modern for $46 per glass. This is a wine that can be held for many more years. It will still retain its beauty and develop even more complex notes.
Maialino, Two Lexington Avenue, was our next stop. Using the Coravin Jeff Kellogg, the wine director, poured for us two Italian wines from the 1997 vintage. First was the Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi Riserva (Aglianico from Campania; $165 on their list). It had a seriously smoky nose with notes of tar and tobacco. The fruit and the tannins were beautifully integrated, with the fruit still showing itself on the palate. The wine was elegant, long and lovely. This is another wine that will show well for quite a while.
Next up was the Giuseppe Quintarelli Alzero Cabernet Franc (made in the style of Amarone; $450 on their list). For lovers of Amarone, this wine is wildly cool and over the top. It was massive on the nose and palate – with highly raisonated sweet fruit and a length that could go on forever. It’s also a love/hate thing. For Quintarelli fans, it’s totally awesome; otherwise, it would have to be an acquired taste with its huge body and residual sugar.
When we arrived at Costata, 206 Spring Street, Sommelier Colin Thoreen, had already poured the wines for more people than showed up (don’t you hate stragglers?). Paired with a lovely pasta with lamb ragu were a 2003 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo ($218 on their list), which showed bright red fruit, awesome acid, minimal tannins and great length, and a 1985 Domaine Gros Frere Vosne Romaneé. The 1985 Burgundy was drinking beautifully with bright strawberry notes with earthy notes on the nose. The palate followed the nose. It had excellent acidity, great balance and long length. This vied with the white Burgundy for the #1 place in my heart. And I got to have seconds!
At Manzo Restaurant at Eataly, 200 Fifth Avenue, Emily Hand, the sommelier poured some interesting wines through the Coravin. The first was a 2010 Marisa Cuomo Fiorduva Costa d’Amalfi (a blend of Ripoli 40%, Ginestra 30%, Fenile 20%). The grapes are hand-picked late in the season, bringing the alcohol level up to 13.5% and the wine sits in new small oak barrels for three months. These make the wine a medium dark gold color, and mouth-filling, intense and long on the palate. There are aromas and flavors of spices, white fruits and even some flowers. It paired well with tuna Carpaccio over melon with balsamic.
Our final wine of the evening was certainly not a letdown. The 1995 Martinenga Barbaresco was stunning with beef cheeks and polenta with a Barbaresco sauce. Though the wine is made in a more modern style, it aged like a traditionally made wine. Beautifully balanced with a fully developed nose, serious acidity and lovely integration of the fruit and tannins.
Because of the sommeliers’ ability to pour awesome, odd and rare wines through the Coravin, it was an epic evening of wine and food pairing.