When early civilizations put away wines in ancient amphorae for later enjoyment, various materials were used as stoppers to hold oxygen at bay. Rudimentary wooden plugs wrapped in cloth or animal skin, dipped in resin or wax, and then enrobed in pitch or mud were widely used.
Cork stoppers did not come into wide use until the 17th century when the British invented strong glass bottles viable for holding wine. These hand-blown vessels were not uniform, therefore corks had to be designed individually to accommodate each bottle. Eventually someone came up with the one-size-fits-all conical-shaped cork.
With the advent of the molded standard-size bottles in the 18th century, manufactured standard-size corks became the norm. Today, metal screw caps and synthetic corks are widely used, but cork remains the most popular method of wine closure.
Fortified wines like Port survive for extended periods after being opened and recorked. Table wines, on the other hand, have a limited lifespan. Once opened, even if recorked and refrigerated, their original traits become increasingly muted. Thus, leftover wine becomes a dilemma.
Bottles can be resealed using a pump-like device such as the Vacu Vin and others like it, which extract air from opened bottles and reseal it with a reusable rubber stopper. These devices work to a point, but every time the bottle is opened and resealed the wine loses a bit more vitality.
For a price of $300, a device called the Coravin now offers a solution. The system is the brainchild of Greg Lambrecht, who sought a solution to his leftover wine once his pregnant wife could no longer join him for an evening tipple. In its sleek, futuristic holder, the Coravin — which took Lambrecht a decade of development and testing to release — is likely the new must-have gadget for wine technophiles.
When the Coravin is pressed into action, a thin, hollow needle is inserted through the cork to extract the wine. According to the manufacturer, the foil cap does not even have to be removed.
Once the cork is breached, the bottle is pressurized with argon, an inert gas present in the air we breathe, and after bottle pressurization, the wine flows through the needle producing a 5-ounce pour in about 20 seconds. The cork then reseals itself, assuring the remaining wine is never exposed to oxygen and will continue to evolve naturally.
The Coravin can be used as many as five times without compromising a cork’s original integrity, ensuring it won’t break apart when removed by corkscrew, Lambrecht says, adding he has used the device on a magnum as many as 10 times over the course of many years without issue. The device is not recommended for corks that have lost their integrity due to age and will not work with synthetic corks or metal screw caps.
For those who prefer to drink expensive wines in the comfort of their homes, the Coravin might offer a viable solution. Perhaps its greatest use is for restaurants offering expensive wines by the glass.
The Coravin and its accessories and instructional videos are available at coravin.com.
Email Pat Kettles at email@example.com