Product Review: Coravin Model One
I have been wanting a Coravin ever since I first heard about it six months ago. Some friends of mine were promoting wine and mentioned that they would occasionally do special events at Costco to sell these units, mostly during the holidays.
“You could Coravin it,” they told me, after I expressed out loud my desire to open expensive bottles just for one taste. I dismissed their brief explanation of what a Coravin was and how it worked, thinking to myself that it sounded like wine witchcraft.
Fast forward a few months later when a wine rep left a bottle for me to taste that was half-empty yet sealed with a foil. It remained on a shelf for a week before I had the chance to open it with my staff.
“It’s got to be bad by now,” I said while holding up the bottle to display the large fill gap.
“Well, he used a Coravin so it should be fine,” my colleague explained.
Ohhh, that’s right, I thought to myself, that Coravin contraption that allows people to dip into a bottle without ruining the whole thing. A device such as that seems perfectly fitting for a person who wants to sample the same bottle with multiple buyers over the course of a couple of weeks. The juice in that sample was just fine, as if it had come from a freshly opened bottle.
My Coravin Model One arrived in a timely manner and packaged in a sleek black box. The instructions, a series of illustrations with arrows but very few words, were confusing and somewhat inadequate. Although using a Coravin does not require a degree in rocket science, I feel that a first-timer needs more orientation than what a comic strip can provide. I managed to completely waste the first argon capsule, which was frustrating considering that the system only came with two.
Forgive me, you are probably wondering at this point what the argon capsule is for because I have not yet explained how a Coravin works. A Coravin allows one to “open” a bottle of wine without having to actually pull the cork out. This is achieved when a tiny needle is inserted into the cork, extracting the juice while simultaneously replacing the displaced oxygen with argon. The cork naturally reseals once the needle is removed, and the argon preserves the remaining juice by protecting it from oxygen. Makes sense, right?
After I managed to properly insert the second argon capsule, I could easily use the Coravin to taste through a couple of big reds. The juice remained fresh over the next couple of days and overall, I was pleased with the system. It did exactly what it claimed to do.
Coravin currently offers three different models for sale through their website (four, actually, but the Model 8 is currently sold out). I received the entry-level Model One ($199.95), which has a plastic white and blue exterior as opposed to the Model Two ($299.95), which has a more “modern look,” while the Model Two Elite ($349.95) features chrome accents and is available in multiple colors. All Coravin systems have the same internal technology; the differences between the models are the external features and design.
So, what are the pros and cons of owning and using a Coravin wine preservation system? After using the product for over a month, I would like to now share my thoughts.
1. Saving Wine. You can protect your wine from oxidation without committing to the bottle. There are multiple scenarios in which one might benefit from this unique situation:
Sampling aging wines. Curious if that ’01 Brunello is peaking? “Coravin a taste” to find out.
Wine pairing. Let’s say that you have four people over to dinner and eight different wines to pair with the meal. With a Coravin, you don’t have to worry about wasting wine; you can simply hold it for whenever you’re ready to re-visit them.
Splurging on yourself. It’s Friday night and you want a glass of Opus One but your significant other only drinks Chardonnay. Coravin a glass for yourself and then lay the bottle back down.
Wine education. The best way to learn about wine is to drink it. I try to drink as many kinds of wine as possible, as often as I can. The Coravin allows me to sample multiple bottles in one sitting without worrying about spoilage. I can then sample others on those wines whenever it’s convenient for me.
2. Portability. The Coravin is portable, fast, and easy to use. Using a Coravin to open a wine bottle is actually faster & easier than using a corkscrew. You simply clamp the unit onto the neck of the bottle, push the needle through the cork, and press a button. It’s that simple.
3. Cost. Relatively speaking, the Coravin system is very affordable. The only other similar and alternative wine preservation system that I’m aware of is a scaled-down version of what you sometimes see in high-end wine bars. These systems preserve four bottles for several weeks, take up a decent amount of counter space, and cost roughly $1700.
1. Argon Capsules. Anyone who has owned a Coravin will probably agree with me that the number one annoying thing about the system is having to constantly purchase and replace the argon capsules.
While each capsule is allegedly good for fifteen 5-ounce glasses of wine, if you load the capsule incorrectly then it will be good for approximately zero 5-ounce glasses of wine. I learned this the hard way.
I have not strictly tested the capsule life, but it does seem that they last a decent amount of time once properly installed. Capsules cost an average of $9 a piece to replace. If you do the math (and I did) then each 5-ounce glass of wine poured with a Coravin costs an additional 60 cents, assuming you are pouring correctly and that no additional argon gas is being leaked from the unit.
2. Thousands of Years of Tradition. Attaching a bulky unit to a nice bottle of wine and pressing a button to release a slow drizzle of wine doesn’t exactly press the same comfort buttons as the tradition of uncorking and pouring it.
3. Decanting. Unless you have enough patience to pour one glass of wine and wait three hours, you aren’t going to see how the wine develops either with slow ox (natural open bottle aeration) or in a decanter, if you’re only pouring a half glass at a time and constantly preserving the remaining juice. This means that if you use a Coravin on an aged wine that needs to breathe, each glass is essentially “fresh out the bottle.”
4. Exclusions. Certain wines are excluded from Coravin use. You cannot currently Coravin a wine that has a synthetic cork or screwcap.
However, my unit came with a Coravin Screw Cap which will soon be available through the company’s website. Coravin Screw Caps combine self-sealing silicone with a premium cap liner to create a tight seal that protects wine for up to 3 months. The obvious drawback to this is that you must have a Coravin Screw Cap for each bottle of wine that you want to preserve. Coravin Screw Caps will be available for purchase later this year in 6-packs for $29.95.
5. System flaws. My unit is still functioning, although every now and then the wine won’t come out like it’s supposed to. I have heard from reps about their needles breaking when accidentally using a Coravin on a synthetic cork, and of course if the argon gas leaks at all then you will have to replace the capsules sooner.
6. Time. Lastly, nobody seems to know how long a bottle of wine will last, uncompromised, after using a Coravin. Coravin states that “after enjoying a glass of pouring, the remaining wine in the bottle will be perfectly preserved for weeks, months, or even years.” I have a couple of bottles that I Coravined a week ago that I’ll be dipping into regularly to see if this is in fact the case.
Overall, I am very happy with my Coravin Model One and I would recommend the unit to any wine lover whom I think the unit would be a good fit for. You can purchase Coravin at participating Costco warehouses during Coravin Special Events. That event schedule can be found here. You can also purchase Coravin units directly through the company website or through various authorized retailers.
I received a Coravin Model One system on behalf of the company for the purpose of writing this review. Coravin, Inc. nor any of its affiliates paid me for this review. I requested a Coravin unit for the purpose of writing this review as well as for ongoing use to taste the wines that I review for CostcoWineBlog.com.