My Take on the Coravin Situation

Recently the makers of Coravin put out a press release regarding a handful of bottles that ruptured while their product was being used. Coravin is a device that allows a needle to penetrate through the cork, displacing the air with argon while pouring out a glass of wine, and when the needle is pulled out the cork reseals itself like nothing ever happened. Quite a visionary concept that was all the rage until this bottle breakage issue arose.

http://decanter.media.ipcdigital.co.uk/11150/000005fcd/6019/Coravin.jpg

Having tested the Coravin many times here’s my 2 cents. It is an amazing product but doesn’t quite do all that Coravin claims. Their stance is that you can use this and put bottles back in your cellar for months on months without affecting the integrity. I have gone back into bottles after months and while the wine was still ok, it was not all that it should have been. Regardless, it does allow wine consumers to tap into bottles and see how they are aging and allows a restaurant to serve just about any bottle by the glass. So that alone makes this an outstanding serve and preserve device.

So now there are reports of a handful (under 10) bottles breaking after being tapped into by the Coravin, a miniscule percentage compared to amount of bottles that have been “Coravined”. So how can that happen? In one word…pressure. The way the argon is introduced into the bottle is with pressure. So if there is too much pressure in a bottle, and the bottle itself is made of thinner glass and doesn’t have the punt at the bottom guess what can happen?  You got it… crack!!!

But think about Champagne. Those bottles have pressure as well from the secondary fermentation which is what forces the cork out of those bottles. However Champagne is bottled in a much thicker glass so it can handle the pressure appropriately. Most quality wines that you would use a Coravin on also are made of thick glass and I’m sure have not been the culprits in this breakage issue that is all the buzz in the wine community.

My take on this situation is that some wine nuts out there are going Coravin crazy! They are using it on inexpensive bottles of wine when there is maybe only a glass of wine left or so in the bottle. So if you take a thin glass bottle with very little liquid and fill it up with gas, in turn over pressurizing the bottle, of course that bottle will break. I am not saying this is not an issue and yes, Coravin should have tested every facet of the product to avoid this from happening. But if you have one I wouldn’t be too concerned over this ordeal. Just make sure you are using it properly as well as on bottles that can withstand a little bit of pressure. Chances are if you spent $300 on this product you are not bothering using it on very inexpensive wine regardless, so Coravin away!

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One thought on “My Take on the Coravin Situation

  1. Marshall, You raise a very good point about pressurizing still wine bottles that are NOT designed to be pressurized. As specialists in wine and Champagne preservation techniques for over 20 years we are very familiar with the myriad of pros & cons related to super & sub-atmospheric pressurization of wine bottles. Whether using Vacuum ( sub) or gas pressurization ( super) there are many ramifications to consider for both preservation performance and user safety. The other key drawback to this needle aspiration device is the total lack of control of pressure ( which partially explains the less than ideal preservation performance you experienced) . This lack of control means that a new argon cylinder can pressurize a bottle to over 25 psi, this is not a ‘little bit’. Still wine bottles are not designed to stand these pressures, even thicker more expensive bottles. As you mention Sparkling wine bottles have to be built to a much higher specification to sustain the 4 to 6 atmospheres of pressure they can attain to make them safe. In a nutshell still wine bottles should NOT be significantly pressurized , cracking / exploding will happen if anything over a few psi is applied. It is just not worth the risk, especially in public / hospitality settings, where there are more effective, totally safe commercial grade wine & Champagne preservation systems available. Perhaps in the privacy of you home, there may be an attraction to flirting with danger, but personally drinking fine wine by myself is not what it is about. Uncorking the bottle and pouring into a delicate stem and sharing the experience is an integral part of a fine wine experience for me. I think wine should be fun.

    The biggest and most obvious drawback concerns me the most, the risk of someone picking up this seemingly innocuous device and accidentally jabbing themselves with the needle and injecting cc’s of gas into their bloodstream !!! Now that certainly wouldn’t be fun.

    As many ‘wine nuts’ know there are many expensive domestic grade wine service gadgets filling landfills, that did not live up to the marketing hype, and most most of them were perfectly safe. As wine enthusiast we enjoy paying attention to many critical factual details: vineyards, vintages, varietals, terroir, storing temperatures, serving temperatures, stemware etc etc .

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