Can a new technology, such as the Coravin (www.coravin.com), bring back the need of a very old tradition, natural cork, and make useless what was supposed to be the future of closures i.e. screw caps? As reality in the wine industry keeps changing, I agree with Randall Graham when he says that “reports of the death of #screwcap slightly premature”, but I also thought it was premature when he, Jancis Robinson, and others declared the death of the cork back in 2002… and now I am certain. Natural cork was never dead but, if it ever were, the Coravin system would be resurrecting it.
You don’t know what Coravin is? It’s a preservation system and a new way of serving wine and it only works with natural cork. Natural cork is a porous, flexible closure, which can reseal itself after being pierced by Coravin’s surgical grade needle. It doesn’t work on screw caps (for obvious reasons) and synthetic closures because, unlike natural corks, they cannot reseal themselves. Portion control and preservation are the biggest benefits of this system. The user is able to serve one glass at a time without compromising the wine in the bottle by exposing the liquid to more oxygen than it can withstand without deteriorating.
I can’t be alone in this, can I? Will this cause an industry wide reaction? Will retailers and restaurateurs do the same? Will consumers be more willing to purchase expensive bottles if they know that they can drink it over the course of a few years rather than a few nights? Yes! Imagine not having to agonize over the perfect time to open that “birth year bottle.” Have a glass every year on your birthday to see how the wine is evolving. Even if consumers only buy one more ultra-premium bottle per year it will have an impact at the retail level. If the customer is buying, the retailer should be stocking. In fact, they should be stocking the Coravin right next to the walk in wine cellar to entice the customer!
The impact should be similar on premise. Theoretically, restaurants now have the ability to pour a first growth Bordeaux by the glass. Before Coravin this would have been impossible because the restaurateur assumes the risk of the wine deteriorating before the entire bottle is consumed. While the jury is still out on the rate of deterioration, initial taste tests by wine experts including Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers have shown that there is little to no change in the wine texture of flavor after using Coravin. This should be exciting and attractive news for diners who can’t afford to purchase the entire bottle or simply want a taste or a test drive of a wine they have always wanted to try.
I believe that this will have an impact at the producer level as well. The wine industry is highly reactionary. It reacts to consumer demands just like every consumer driven industry. In fact, the prevalence of screw caps is due largely to consumer demand, which expanded further when certain critics suggested that they could perform better than natural cork. The appropriate reaction should be a return to what has been the choice of closure for centuries: Natural cork (you can read more about it here: http://www.corkforest.org/history_of_cork.php).
I don’t think anyone can be certain at this point that screwcaps will die with the advent of Coravin. The system is not intended to be used on every wine in the market but, for these cheap wines, why not go with “bag-in-box” in the first place? They have proved to work well with wines that are supposed to be consumed without aging anyway. But see, this increases the probability of the death drastically! For some wines Coravin, for others “bag-in-box“… Bye bye, screwcaps…
The truth is: With this new technology, there is no room for an impenetrable closure. I have already changed my buying habits because of it. If I can avoid buying a wine under screw cap, I will.
Natural cork only, please!
To finish, I have a couple of disclaimers:
1) I’m not sponsored by Coravin. Not yet anyway… I had to buy mine at Amazon, but I hope that Greg Lambrecht (the founder of Coravin) will see my efforts and will start to ship me some free argon capsules!
2) The #winelover community is sponsored by Amorim. If you want to see this article as a “thank you” for their generous contribution to the celebration of our 3rd anniversary in Portugal … it’s because it is!
- >>> Founder of the #winelover community
- >>> MW candidate
- >>> Member of the Circle of Wine Writers.
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