Showing posts with label cork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cork. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Coravin, My First Review (Thank you, Prime Day)

Last year, I wrote about three ways you can save your wine when you can't finish a bottle. One of them is the cost-prohibitive Coravin wine preservation system. Then Amazon Prime Day happened, and I am now the proud owner of Coravin Model Two.

As mentioned in my last post, Coravin allows you to extract wine from a bottle without removing the cork. A hollow needle is inserted into and through the cork. Argon, an inert gas, is then pumped into the bottle through the needle to pressurize it, allowing wine to be drawn out through the same needle. Argon then displaces the space left by the wine. The wine in the bottle maintains minimum contact with air, preventing oxidation. The cork then reseals from the needle hole naturally.

Coravin Model Two Plus Pack

Coravin is best for savoring that special bottle over time, which allows you to experience the evolution of the wine. It is also terrific if you want to taste multiple prized bottles side by side without worrying that you have to finish all of them before they go bad.

So here is my first try at using my brand new Coravin Model Two. I am super excited to extract some wine from my bottle of 2012 Joseph Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers. The drinking window for this wine is from 2019 to 2040, and I plan to taste it every year or so. (It probably won't last through 2040.)

A note about the instruction manual...

The multi-lingual "Getting Started" instruction manual that came with my Model Two was generally inadequate. It would have been better if it just pointed to the Coravin website, which it didn't. The Coravin website contains a robust set of instructions, both static and video. So if you are using the Coravin for the first time, just go to the website.

Step 1 - Familiarize yourself with the Coravin system

Compared to a regular wine opener, the Coravin system does have more components to consider. It is of course not a wine opener after all. Still the numerous components can be overwhelming at first glance. Take a look at the Coravin Model Two picture (see below) to get the lay of the land of all the components.

Coravin Model Two Components

Start with the needle (4). There should be a yellow needle cover at the sharp point of the needle to protect it from damage during shipping. Remove the cover.

Unscrew the capsule cup (8) from the system, insert the argon capsule (7), and screw the cup back.

Press and release the trigger (1) quickly to test the argon release. You should hear a hissing sound.

When using the Coravin, it should be positioned the same way you see in the picture above. The handle (2) is at the top, and the capsule cup (8) is at the bottom.

Step 2 - Prepare your bottle

While it may be optional, I would remove the foil from the bottle so that I can see the cork. It is important that the bottle has a natural cork. Synthetic corks do not reseal after a hole is punctured through them.

Clamping and positioning the bottle
You can use the bottle sleeve that comes in the box. It was Coravin's response to bottle pressure issues a few years ago. Apparently, the increased pressure from pumping the argon was causing some bottles to break and/or leak.

The instruction manual didn't indicate any of that so I didn't use the sleeve. Thankfully, I did not have any bottle issue. I suspect that Coravin has since figured out how to better manage the pressure increase.

Step 3 - Clamp the bottle and position the needle

While holding the Coravin upright by the handle (2), squeeze the clamp (6) to open it and release to close it. It works very much like a clothes peg or a hair claw. Use the clamp to secure the neck of a bottle.

Release and tighten the clamp as you adjust the position of the bottle till the needle guide (5) rests somewhat in the middle of the cork. This is to ensure that the needle goes through the cork safely without hitting the bottle.

Step 4 - Insert the needle and extract the wine

Once you are comfortable with the position of the needle guide (5), push the handle (2) all the way down firmly but gently. That pushes the needle straight down through the cork.

Pouring the wine

Lift the bottle with one hand and hold onto the handle (2) of the Coravin with the other. Tilt the bottle like you were pouring wine out of it into a glass.

Quickly press and release the trigger (1) to release the pressurized argon into the bottle. Your wine should be streaming out of the pour spout (3) into the glass. Repeat this action till you get the desired amount of wine. If needed, hold the bottle upright to stop the flow of the wine.

Step 5 - Remove the needle and detach the Coravin

Once you are satisfied with the amount of wine in the glass, place the bottle upright with the Coravin still clamped to it. Holding onto the bottle with one hand, lift the handle (2) firmly straight up with the other hand to extract the needle completely from the cork.

Squeeze the clamp (6) to release the bottle from the Coravin. You may see a drop of wine from the needle hole in the cork. This is completely normal. Give the cork time to reseal and then wipe it dry. It took me a few minutes.

Drop of wine surfaces on the punctured cork
After you are comfortable that the cork has resealed, you can test it by turning the bottle upside down. There should be no leakage.

Cork has resealed, and there is no leakage
Step 6 - Be a wine geek

I put a little post-it note on the bottle with the date I extracted the wine. Then I lay the bottle sideways in the cellar. Here's the geeky part - I started a spreadsheet and put down the tasting notes of the wine with the date that it was tasted. I look forward to trying the wine again in a year or two and compare notes.

Coravin Tasting Notes

My Verdict: While the proof is in the next pour a year from now, I expect nothing but stellar results from Coravin. The science is sound, and there are plenty of expert reviews on it. I bought the Model Two Plus Pack. It came with two argon capsules, three types of replacement needles, and a carry case. I paid $229.99 on Prime Day. While the price was nothing to sneeze at, it was a screaming deal compared to the regular price of $349.95. I now can drink that special bottle as and when I like rather than saving it for the right occasion.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cork Taint in a Screwcap?

In my last post, I wrote about the difference between corks and screwcaps, about how the latter has significantly circumvented the problem of cork taint. Then the unexpected happened to me - I got a screwcapped wine that was corked!

One of these was corked
It was a gorgeous summer afternoon in Portland, and I was thrilled to find a new wine bar and bottle shop to try. We sat down at the patio, and I ordered a flight of three mid-range Oregon Pinot Noirs. I swirled the glass of the first wine, took a whiff, and immediately got that faint but unmistaken smell of wet cardboard. I took a sip, which confirmed that off-putting taste devoid of fruit and flavor. I tasted the other two glasses, and they were fine.

I took the corked wine back to the shop and waited patiently for the shopkeeper to finish his conversation with another customer. Then I told him discreetly that the wine was corked. He took it back and came out to the patio with a new bottle and a new glass. He twisted the screwcap off the bottle to pour me a new glass and said, "That wine was fine, but here's one from a newly opened bottle."

Now, I have up to now experienced only half a dozen corked bottles. While it was not a common occurrence to get a corked wine these days, the last three happened in the past year so I am unfortunately quite familiar with the smell and taste of a corked wine; the earlier two being a Brunello and a California Super Tuscan-style red. I have even tried the Saran wrap trick to remove the taint, which, I am sad to report, does not work.

I digress. Now how does a screwcapped wine get corked?

I mentioned in my last post that the main cause of cork taint is TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), a compound that leads to a musty fungal or wet cardboard aroma.  TCA belongs to a family of volatile compounds called haloanisoles, that cause moldy aroma. There are other compounds (TBA, TeCA, and PCA) that may be responsible for the taint.

Haloanisoles may be transferred to the wine from contaminated materials in the winemaking facility, such as tank coatings, hoses, barrels, and oak chips. It can also be transferred to the polyethylene film, which is commonly used as a liner for screwcaps. So while opting for a screwcap over cork will significantly reduce the chance of cork taint, it does not eliminate it. In my limited sample size, it is one to five.

Here's another interesting factoid - the sensory thresholds of different tasters for haloanisoles may vary as well. So one taster can be highly sensitive to it while another may not find it quite as objectionable. A well-known sommelier once discovered that a rare and expensive bottle ordered at his restaurant was corked. Despite his offer and attempt to replace it with a different bottle, the diners claimed that not only was the wine fine, but it was delicious. At which point, he had to back off against his professional judgement.

My Verdict: Regardless of the closure used, if you believe that your wine is corked, trust your taste and take the wine back. Even if the wine merchant disagrees with you, he or she will likely still replace your wine. It is better than to be stuck with an off-putting wine.