The Coravin is a device that allows one to extract wine from a bottle without removing the cork, replacing it with an inert gas that helps protect the remaining wine in the bottle from oxygenation. When introduced to the market earlier this year, the Coravin sent wine collectors and fanatics into a giddy frenzy of excitement. I have no idea how many units have sold, but I’m sure so many that it’s considered a wild success.
Restaurants (Del Posto, in particular) have been toying with the device, using it to pour bottles so pricey that including them on a “by the glass” list previously would have been unthinkable. Other restaurant-adopters are on the way. Probably this is the most practical application of the gadget, though individual collectors have been playing around with it too (just take a peek at the Wineberserkers bulletin boards for hundreds of posts on the topic).
Personally, I was shown the Coravin at the beginning of 2013, and offered the chance to sell it at Domaine LA. For sure, the demonstration was a cool sight to behold. But my instinctual response to the offer was a firm no. I was actually kind of repulsed by the Coravin. Did I make a huge mistake? I probably could have sold plenty, I’m guessing. But I still feel strongly that it’s not right for my store, for most of my customers, or for my approach to wine in general.
My aim in selling wine isn’t to fetishize it. I want people to open more bottles, not fewer. I want people to open wine with a meal, amongst friends, and to enjoy it rather than analyze its greatness or perform what essentially amounts to a scientific experiment with bottles.
The Coravin is really designed for the purpose of doing the opposite of these things. It devalues wines that are “everyday” bottles, and places on a pedestal those that aim for “greatness”, that are collectible, that have been canonized. It encourages fetishization of wine, and removes emotion from the consumption of it. It further solidifies our already too-strong emphasis on “brands” and known quantities, at the expense of the unknown, of exploration or adventure.
Is it interesting that I might be able to go to a restaurant and order an older vintage DRC by the Coravin pour? Sure. Will I (or most people) be able to afford that? No, not even by the ounce or milliliter increments the Coravin’s accurate dispensing system will allow for. Ultimately, the Coravin is a device that discourages wine as a social activity and further solidifies the 100 point scale, cult wines, and the elitism and commodification of wine in general: exactly the things that I work very hard every day to try to get my customers away from.