Now the Coravin Model 1 comes with a standard 16.5 gauge needle, but the one I will be using (bought as an extra) is the vintage needle which is the smallest gauge that Coravin make (18 gauge). The reason for this is that the smaller the needle, the less damage it does to the cork when being inserted and withdrawn each time the wine cork is accessed to get wine. That way the older bottles with more fragile corks will be able to survive this process. Coravin do make a premium needle which is supposed to do less damage to the cork than the standard needle, while allowing faster flow. The downside of using a smaller needle is the increased time needed for wine to come out, but I am happy to accept this in order to preserve the cork as much as possible. After all, many of these wines will have been waiting many years to be drunk – so what does it matter that it takes an extra few more seconds to get into the wine glass. Patience is a virtue.
Below I have the smaller vintage needle on the left and the standard needle on the right. The holes near the end of the needle allow argon to enter the bottle when you press the lever and pressurize the wine bottle, but also allows the wine to exit the bottle when the lever is released.
For our first encounter with the Coravin, I chose a bottle of Penfolds Grange 1997 (20 year old) which I had bought many years ago from Sainsburys when they were clearing stock(great value at £55), and a bottle of Domaine de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes CDP 2005 which cost me £50. Now the Grange is probably one of the best and most iconic wine from Australia, albeit this bottle was from a not so good vintage, and the Janasse is made from grapes of older vines (most from 1940 & 1965) from a very good vintage, so being able to taste these 2 great wines and then lay them down again as if it was never accessed until next time – perhaps a year or two down the line – and taste how it has developed naturally is a great feeling. This gives me the confidence to taste more of the wine I have collected.
Process to pour the wine is as follows:
- Lift the handle up so needle is as far up as possible.
- Apply the bottle clamp onto the bottle so the device is sitting neatly on the foil of the bottle.
- Press the lever to prime the argon and remove any residual air in the needle.
- Push down to insert needle into the cork.
- Tilt the bottle head side down to 30-45 degrees and then press the lever (short pulses) to introduce argon into the bottle.
- Wine comes out from the spout whenever the lever is released until the pressure inside the bottle goes too low.
- Keep repeating this until enough wine has been dispensed. Tilt it back up and any excess argon/air will come out of the spout.
- The needle can be pulled out. For bottles kept in cold storage, it is recommended to leave it standing for a minute afterwards so the cork can seal up properly.
- Bottle can then be put back into storage and you can enjoy the glass of wine.
- Rinse the metal spout with water. A press of the lever will discharge some argon to discharge any residual water. It is then ready to be used again.
After accessing the bottle, there was no leak from where the cork was accessed. I even checked this bottle again two days later and no leak noticeable. Great.
Below is the foil of the Janasse which has a small puncture mark on the foil where the cork was accessed by the needle.
What I like about the Coravin?
- It works. I can now taste wine a little at a time over many years.
- Makes those rare single bottles of wine last longer and allows you to experience how the wine evolves over time.
- Great for wine tasting and learning about wine, as you can try more wines at one sitting and not worry about the wines spoiling.
- Makes drinking/tasting wine fun again.
- Compared to the price of some of these wines, the cost of the argon is minimal bearing in mind the pleasure it gives and extending the longevity of the bottle of wine.
What could be improved?
- It would have been great if the argon cannisters could be a little bigger so they last longer in between changing cannisters.
- For Stelvin closure wine bottles you still need to remove the closure which means exposure to air before you apply the Coravin screw caps with self-sealing silicone – which is probably why the bottle can only be preserved for up to 3 months. Perhaps Coravin could consider making a coring-device to puncture a hole into the Stelvin closure where the needle can get through and their screw caps would fit onto this. That way there is no need to remove the Stelvin closure, and hence the wine lasts longer.
As you can tell, I am very excited about the Coravin Model 1 wine system, as it makes wine tasting fun again – saving money by giving more fun from a bottle as it can be tasted time again over many years. Now I can taste those bottles of wine I have collected over the years and not worry about them spoiling. This was the first time my wife and I have tasted Penfolds Grange, and we were not disappointed. This was more like a Bordeaux wine than Shiraz with amazing aroma emanating from the glass – I can understand why the Grange is so highly regarded. The Janasse was no slouch either but needs more time to develop. Hence it is great that this bottle can continue to evolve until the next time I taste it again.
For those who would like to enjoy wine by the glass over the years, the Coravin wine system is definitely a great tool to own. I have stocked up on the argon capsules, as I can anticipate a lot of fun with this device as my wife and I enjoy the lovely wine from my collection (or at least the bottles sealed with cork). I have bought the Coravin screw caps, and am curious to compare a bottle of white and red wine preserved with the Coravin system vs the Wine Saver Pro, to see how they fare over 3 months. I am now able to drink some of the rarer bottles I have collected over the years, which means drinking wine is now as fun as collecting wine. Definitely recommended.