Coravin review: Is it really worth it?

Article Tags: Coravin | preserver | wine

There are A LOT of options when it comes to preserving your wine, from bottle stoppers to air pumps to gas systems. There are pros and cons to each system, and really none is better or worse than another. They just have different purposes. A bottle stopper works perfectly well if you’re planning to finish the bottle the next day, while an air pump will keep your wine fresh for a few days. A gas system that displaces oxygen in the bottle will keep your wine good for a few weeks.

Want a summary of the different preservation systems? We’ve got you covered.

And then there is the granddaddy of wine preservation: The Coravin. This bad boy claims to make your wine taste like it’s never been opened, even if you pour a glass years after the first one. Sounds too good to be true, right? I was both excited and skeptical when I first heard about the Coravin, but I took a gamble and got one, and now I’m sharing the dirt with you.

Spoiler alert: I cannot say enough good things about my Coravin.

The Problem

One of the big struggles I had when I started getting serious about wine was that I sometimes wanted to try just a little from several bottles, or wanted to have a glass of Viognier on Monday and Cabernet on Tuesday. Pre-Coravin, I had to strategize what I would drink over just a few days (or a few weeks once I got the Private Preserve) and throw out anything I couldn’t finish, which drove me insane.

Then I came across the Coravin. I’d seen it advertised in a few magazines, but at the time I didn’t personally know anyone who had one (it was advertised more for restaurants at the time), so I didn’t give it much thought. Eventually wasting wine got to me, so I looked into it, polled some wine groups I’m in, and bit the bullet. There are currently 4 models available, from basic to all the bells and whistles. I won’t get into them here because they all do essentially the same thing, but Coravin has a great comparison tool if you’re curious.

Now let’s talk a little about what makes wine spoil and how the Coravin prevents that from happening.

The Science

Here’s the issue with opening a bottle of wine: wine starts oxidizing the second you pop the cork. A little bit of oxygen helps wine age gracefully- tannins soften and flavors deepen and develop. Too much oxygen makes wine oxidize too quickly and turn to vinegar before you can enjoy it. Opening a bottle of wine starts the oxidation process, which you can slow but not reverse. Most preservation systems are focused on slowing the process. The Coravin prevents it from starting in the first place.

The Coravin has a needle that moves through the cork without displacing it. Since cork can expand, it just moves back into place when the needle is removed. There’s a short period of time before it’s fully expanded, so the Coravin also inserts Argon (an inert gas) into the bottle so oxygen can’t get inside. Since oxygen never reaches the wine, oxidation never begins and the wine stays good indefinitely.

I have used the Coravin on dozens of bottles and still have a few I used it on when I first got it over a year ago. So far it definitely seems to live up to its promise.

The Caveats

Nothing is perfect, so here are a few things to keep in mind with a Coravin:

  1. It’s best for bottles with real corks. There is an adapter for screw caps, but the wine will only last for a couple months. The Coravin doesn’t work on synthetic or champagne corks at all- the synthetic corks can’t reseal and the champagne corks can take out your eye if you’re not careful (think puncturing a pressurized container with a needle and a cork that can exit the bottle at 25 mph. Ouch!).
  2. It’s an investment. Depending on the model you get, expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $500 for the Coravin itself, plus about $9 per gas capsule. Depending on how often you use your Coravin, those capsules can add up. You may also occasionally need to replace the needle if it gets bent or broken, or add to your Coravin accessory collection.
  3. There are some tricks to using it without wasting gas. Make sure you install the gas capsule tightly when you first put it on and always make sure the needle is on tight as well. The first time my needle came loose I wasted almost an entire capsule trying to figure out what was wrong. A simple Google search solved the problem right away, so make sure to look on the Coravin website or do a search before trying to figure it out on your own. It’s also tempting to hold the switch down for a long time to get more wine out faster, but it doesn’t really help and just wastes the gas.
  4. The bottles need to lay down, so they can take up a lot of room if you have a number of bottles to store. Laying the bottles down helps the cork stays moist, which keeps it from shrinking and allowing oxygen into the bottle. You can leave a bottle upright but it will decrease the amount of time it stays good.
  5. There is a limit to how long a bottle will stay good, so you need to pay attention to which bottles may need to be finished soonest. Cork’s ability to expand and essentially reseal itself when the Coravin needle is removed is nothing short of magic (not really, it’s science, but it can seem like magic), but there is a limit to how often it can do it. Repeatedly puncturing a cork to pour just a sip will eventually damage its integrity. This is a more common problem for wine stores or bars and not necessarily for private homes where you pour a glass at a time.

The Verdict

Overall, my only regret with my Coravin is that I didn’t get it sooner. It has allowed me to try many more wines without worrying about wasting them than I otherwise would have been able. If you have this issue as well, I’d highly recommend checking it out.

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