4) Life of argon cannister – the Coravin argon cannisters are rated for 15 x 150 mls of wine dispensed. So far, as I tend to dispense two glasses at a time – one for my wife and one for myself, I have managed to access 9 different bottles of wine (with one bottle accessed twice) which definitely exceeds the quoted figure, and the first cannister is still going strong. Perhaps dispensing two glasses at a time tends to be more frugal with the argon used compared to having one glass at a time. When there is only a small amount of wine left in the bottle, uncorking it will allow you to access the last bit of wine without the need for argon – so the argon should go much further than what is quoted. Great!
5) Screw caps – The one weakness of the Coravin wine system is when it is used to serve wine bottles with Stelvin closure. Using the Coravin screw caps, the bottles are rated for up to three months after opening the bottle, unlike the bottles with cork, as these can be kept for many years even after accessing them. Don’t get me wrong – this is still on par with the next best available system out there. This would not be so much of a problem, except there are some very high quality wine from Australia and New Zealand with Stelvin closure which are definitely worth tasting over many years e.g. Esk Valley The Terraces, Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz, and one of the top wines from Australia Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz which also sport Stelvin closures in recent vintages.
Below is a bottle of Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2002 in its collector’s box, which fortunately has cork closure. This is a wine I would like to taste over many years to see how it evolves. Now that the new vintages only come in Stelvin closure, it means that unless there is a way to extend the life of the bottle beyond the 3 months after opening, I am likely to avoid buying these top quality screw capped wines.
I did buy a pack of the Coravin screw caps to use for my Stelvin closure wines, as this will allow me to experiment to see if I could find a way to extend the life of these wines once opened.
An experiment I wanted to carry out was to see if purging the air from the top of the bottle after the Coravin screw cap is put on and before wine is served, would reduce the oxidation of the wine and enable it to be kept for longer after opening. So I basically followed the included instructions, but with the bottle still standing upright I purged the air out of the bottle with 4 short bursts of the argon. The hope is that with less ‘fresh’ air in contact with the wine, it will last longer. As the Coravin screw caps will not allow the wine to breathe, it is unclear how this will affect the wine’s development – which may be why they only quote a three month storage life after opening.
But the two questions that remain to be answered for me and which I will only know in time are:
a) Will purging most of the air from the bottle affect the wines development, since the Coravin screw cap will not allow the bottle to ‘breathe’ after it is on (unlike cork closures)? Perhaps the manufacturer could experiment with different levels of purging the air (1, 2, 3 bursts of argon), to see if there is an optimal way of doing this and extend the life of an opened bottle.
b) Should I purge the needle of air with a burst of argon before accessing these bottles after the Coravin screw cap has been on? Will injecting a tiny amount of fresh air actually do the wine some good and aid its future development? Perhaps if the purging with argon is helpful, the manufacturer could experiment with this as well.
I am hoping these questions will be answered over time – I have already opened 3 bottles of wine and replaced the Stelvin closures with the Coravin screw cap – Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz 2005, Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2005, Peregrine Pinot Noir 2006. The plan is to test each wine at 3 months & 6 months after opening the bottle, and then at further intervals depending on the results of those tastings (unless it has become oxidised – then it would be end of test).
Hopefully I have shared with you some useful insight on the Coravin wine system, and how I have tried to get the most out of it.
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