Five years ago, Wired published the first ever review of a little gizmo called the Coravin, a device that inserts a needle into a bottle of wine, letting you draw its contents without removing the cork—or spoiling the remaining liquid.
This oddball device has since become a worldwide phenomenon in the wine world. With four different models now available, the Coravin is prized by both collectors looking to see if that bottle of Masseto is ready for drinking and by high-end wine bars aiming to serve cult wines by the glass.
Today, Coravin finally enters the digital age. All versions of the device thus far have required a somewhat arcane series of manual steps in order to get it to work. A tab on the back of the unit dispenses argon into the wine, but the bottle has to be held at the right angle or else wine gasps and sputters out all over your bespoke suit while you're pouring. Recognizing when to press the tab and knowing the particular dance of dipping and raising the neck takes practice—my own experiences with Coravin-powered wine tastings have shown me that some people just never get the hang of it.
That all changes with the Coravin Model Eleven, which takes great strides to simplify the operation of the device by making key functions electronic and automatic.
The new Coravin retains the basic design premise of the original. While it lacks the original's spring-loaded arms that grip the wine bottle's neck, you still attach it to a bottle by manually pressing the svelte needle down through the capsule and cork, which engages the system. From there, a colored LED on top of the Coravin lights up, informing you that you're ready to pour. Just tap the only button on the device to choose between a full glass or a small taste, then tip the bottle. The Coravin Eleven dispenses wine out and forces argon in, automatically, no tab-dancing required. If you don't want the full pour, just set the bottle back upright and the device stops dispensing automatically.
It certainly works well. It's definitely easier for novices to grok the Eleven, and the system is more intuitive than ever before no matter what level of experience you have. It's still a little daunting to jam the needle down through the cork, but a couple of practice rounds should make anyone comfortable with it. I should also note that Coravin's main selling point—that wine remaining in the bottle does not spoil—is still entirely valid and doesn't seem to have changed at all in the last five years. In my hands-on testing with several different bottles, I couldn't detect a difference between the first glass from a fresh bottle and the last one, which I left suffering in near-empty containers for up to two weeks.
All told, the Model Eleven is clearly the best Coravin to hit the market to date. The catch is that this will cost you one thousand dollars, which is probably more than that Masseto. Now, you get a lot in the box for that G-note: USB charging cable, cleaning equipment, six argon canisters, six screw-cap adapters, Coravin's aerator, and a carrying case. You also get to use Coravin's new app, Coravin Moments, which offers food and wine pairings in addition to providing a dashboard for the device.
That's a lot of stuff, but it's not $800 more stuff than you get with the lowest-end Coravin, the Model One, which works great and costs just $200.
So, is removing a tab you have to manually press down really worth five times the outlay over the old way of doing things? Well, as with every calculus in the wine world, if you have to think about the answer to that question, then the answer is probably no. But for all of you in the one percent, it's a no-brainer of an upgrade.
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