So how does one give wine a "shot in the arm?" Via hypodermic needle of course! It's actually very easy and while not exactly new, its use is only catching on.
I'm talking about a product, or maybe better referred to as a "system," to help preserve wine named "Coravin." It's a great way to have that sip or glass of wine without having to open the bottle and start the oxidation process, allowing you to drink the wine over a much longer period of time and not have to worry about flavors fading.
I first used the Coravin system back at the wine shop. We started a "Reserve Wine List" composed of higher-end wines that we could pour by the glass and yet not have to worry about the wine losing its appeal due to it being subjected to air for longer periods of time. That is one of the many reasons why Coravin has caught on in a big way at wine bars across America. Waste is a terrible thing and causes shop and bar owners to factor in waste to the cost of a particular wine being poured by the glass.
Another use of this "system" is one of a personal nature. Do you have a number of bottles of wine that you've either never tried or might be waiting to open for that "right moment?" Knowing, too, that you probably won't drink the entire bottle. Not that that tends to be an issue for me too often. But I recently began thinking about just that, pulling out my trusty Coravin and plunging that hypodermic styled needle into the cork and pouring a glass of that wine I have been lusting after for some time.
Wow, I am WAY TOO involved with wine! I think I need more human contact. Anyway, after obtaining my unit, and so you know, they have a number of different models and entire systems available, I did go out and purchase their "Vintage Needle." That's a slightly thinner needle used for older corks. I made sure I had a couple extra capsules (they use argon gas to replace the oxygen) and put the whole thing away. Like I said, I rarely open a bottle I don't finish within a day or two.
It was FINALLY time to dig out my Coravin and put it to use. Deciding to arrange a meal and wine pairing fit for a....... UH, old retired person? My persona doesn't allow me to call myself a "king." The truth may hurt, but let's go with that anyway.
Deciding on a meal that I love not only to prepare but to devour, I selected a nice beef tenderloin (Grass Fed at that). Adding to that some creamed spinach and my mashed, or maybe better described as smashed, potatoes. The wine is a little more difficult as I have a number of wines that I have bought and cellared that I think would be phenomenal. But a decision I did make!
Looking over my cellar, I arrived at 2 choices that would fit the bill. Both from Napa Valley but one from the 2012 vintage the other 2013. Now while I usually prefer the 2013's for their fuller structure and opulence, I felt going with the year older wine would work equally as well coming from the excellent 2012 vintage.
The winner? The Venge Bone Ash Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. A 98 Point Robert Parker, Jr. stunner that I've had my sights set on for some time, actually since I bought it a few years ago. Pronounced Ven-ghee, the winery is now in the capable hands of Kirk Venge. A 1998 graduate of U. C. Davis and fully acquiring the winery in 2008, Kirk has been the driving force behind the winery. The tech sheet for the wine, click here.
So prior to preparing the meal, knowing the wine will need time to "open up," I ready my trusty Coravin unit over the bottle and start the extraction of wine from the bottle. Things progress slowly as, how I mentioned earlier, I am using their "Vintage" needle. A larger gauge needle (gauge is one of those inverse relationships - bigger gauge means smaller opening) that allows less wine to flow. I sense my impatience growing as I watch the wine flow into the glass at an almost imperceivable pace. If you want a faster pour, just use the regular needle that comes with the unit or there is also a slightly smaller gauge needle (bigger opening) for even faster pours.
I sometimes wish there were words out there that could convey how a wine like this tastes and varies from the more everyday style wines. Words like lush and full bodied just don't do the wine justice. It's the "TOTAL" experience you get from a wine this good, and that good it was! Not just upon opening but even after a couple hours when dinner was finally ready. Not that I wanted to "chug it down" but like most great wines, it left me wanting more.
In case you don't want to shell out the $125 or so for their Single Vineyard Bone Ash, I will mention that they produce another wine, the Silencieux. It is a Cabernet that is sourced from seven different vineyards and sells for around $60 a bottle. I've had it and it's fantastic. Not cheap, but worth every penny.
The great part of this experiment, not so obvious in the beginning, was that since I had poured myself about a glass, I could still see that the bottle still had so much more wine left. It would be calling me on future occasions and I could be just as confident that the wine would taste the same. Oh, I like that part a lot!!
So dinner was, not to be too self-effacing, wonderful. The wine? I think I might have dreamt about it. In case my daughter reads this, I want to assure her she hasn't missed out. While the wine will last until she can try it (not likely as I'll probably drink it way sooner), I did have more than one bottle.
So have I convinced you to run out and pick up a Coravin System? If I did, here's my biggest piece of advice I can give you: "READ THE DIRECTIONS!" For this to work in the manner prescribed, there are steps you have to take to use correctly. One of the biggest is that when you have the unit positioned over your bottle and the cork and are about to push the needle into same, you are supposed to press the trigger to purge the needle of any oxygen before inserting, eliminating the possibility of putting air into the bottle (remember air will begin the oxidation process if it comes in contact with wine).
This issue became overly obvious one day at the wine shop when a wine rep came in and was featuring some higher-end wines and was using the Coravin unit. I asked what they thought about it and almost without hesitation, said they didn't think it worked very well. Then I realized why that might be. They weren't purging the needle by pressing the trigger BEFORE they pressed the needle into the cork. A slight discourse (polite word usage here) took place about the proper usage and the fact that they were adding oxygen into the bottle each time, thus eliminating, or at a minimum, minimizing the benefits of the system. To protect the guilty I hid the gender of the wine rep...
One issue I did run across in my usage was that by preserving the wine as well as it does, the wine never "opens up" like it would if you pop the cork. Kudos to Coravin once again as they came up with an Aerator to place on the pour spout to assist in that effort. You might also ask about how does that work with screw tops? Well, specifically, it doesn't. BUT! They did come up with a screw cap you can use on screw top bottles. Since you are opening the bottle and then quickly replacing the bottle's screw cap with their screw cap, the preservation is slightly less, they advertise you should get 3 months preservation. For cork usage, the company says: "As long as you use the Coravin correctly, store the wine correctly and avoid temperature fluctuations the wine should last for the full expected life cycle - as if it had never been touched. So you can finish it within weeks, months or years depending upon the life of the wine." Nice!
The last item I wish to point out is the use with various wine bottle closure systems (plastic, synthetic, glass and even sparkling wines). There are some limitations, so, as I said previously, "READ THE DIRECTIONS!" If unsure, you can go to their website and review the various systems and the benefits and limitations. This is a nifty wine gadget and while it may not get used often, it comes in handy for those moments when you want to try a wine and then need to preserve that wine for a longer period of time.
By this time you're probably thinking I got paid to write this glowing review. Well, you'd be wrong. Just like the wines I review, I don't get paid for my efforts. No wonder I'm not making any money at this!!