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When the first Coravin Wine Preservation System was introduced to the market in 2013, it completely changed the way that consumers enjoyed wine, allowing them to pour without ever pulling the cork. But what initially began as a solution to better preserve wines for at-home consumption has since evolved into an essential tool for wine trade professionals.
Today, Coravin’s core devices have become staples among sommeliers and beverage directors, and new innovations have allowed them to further expand their wine programs and improve profitability. With the introduction of Coravin Pivot and Coravin Sparkling, Coravin Wine Preservation Systems are fundamental to crafting robust, intriguing restaurant wine lists with healthy top and bottom lines.
Optimizing Coravin for Trade
Greg Lambrecht, the inventor and founder of Coravin, has a deep background in the medical-device industry—work that has had a massive impact on the world of orthopedics. He’s also a wine lover, and like most people who enjoy popping the cork from a favorite bottle, he was troubled by the fact that, once it was opened, he had to finish the wine before oxygen effectively killed it a few days later. Bringing his professional engineering skill set to bear on the then-universal problem of wine preservation, he created what would ultimately become the Coravin Wine Preservation System.
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The wine world hasn’t been the same since. Restaurants and consumers in 60 countries have come to rely on Coravin, and because of it, they can pour their guests or themselves a glass of their favorite wine whenever they want—without the pressure to serve any more than that for months or even years.
Sommeliers and wine managers began adopting it early on, immediately seeing the benefits in terms of maximizing wine choice and minimizing waste. Sandy Block, the vice president of beverage operations for Legal Sea Foods, was the first wine professional that Lambrecht ever asked to test Coravin.
“I was thinking, ‘Sandy, you’ve got these amazing cellars you’ve built, but you’re only offering five whites and five reds and they’re all 12 bucks on your wine-by-the-glass list,’” recalls Lambrecht. “‘So when I buy a bottle and drink it with a friend, and then I want one more glass, I’ve got to take a big step down. There’s got to be a way.’ And that sort of started our relationship.”
Still, that first iteration turned out to be more suited for home use, as Lambrecht learned from sommeliers during a trip to Australia in 2016; while they loved the technology, they’d like it even more in restaurants if it poured faster and was easier to use without training. On the long flight back home, he began sketching out what would eventually become the Coravin Pivot.
The Pivot series was released in 2020, and it’s a game-changer. Designed for everyday by-the-glass pours, the Pivot system allows beverage professionals to actually remove the cork or screw cap from a bottle of wine and still preserve it for up to four weeks. It also pours a five-ounce glass in about five to eight seconds, making it perfect for tableside use, when speed and elegance are of the essence.
Even existing systems have been revamped with on-premise uses in mind. Pivot Pro and Timeless Pro models are designed with longer capsule cups to accommodate Pro capsules, boasting 30 percent larger capacity than the classic Coravin Pure argon capsules. These models are available as part of comprehensive Pro Kits, which contain everything a restaurant needs to implement a Coravin by-the-glass program.
By implementing this Pro device, a replenishment program takes the guesswork out of the equation: Every four months, replacement capsules, Timeless screwcaps (which allow the Coravin to be used even on wines sealed with Stelvin-style closures), or needles are replenished, so restaurants don’t need to worry about running out mid-service on a Friday night.
“This is fantastic for restaurants, where now you can have wine pairings and you can open amazing bottles, and you don’t have to waste the bottle because you only had two glasses to serve or one glass to serve,” says Daniel Boulud, the chef and restaurateur behind spots like Daniel and Boulud Sud.
While once a 40-wine by-the-glass list—never mind a 100- or 800-wine one—might have been inconceivable, these broad glass-pour programs with high-end wines are becoming more and more popular thanks to Coravin. Not only does this serve to bring guests in the door as restaurants aim to maximize holiday sales after a turbulent year, but it also allows restaurants to be more flexible and improve hospitality without sacrificing profitability. Wine directors can offer half-glasses, unique flights, or even slow-moving dessert wines by the glass to gain incremental sales without wondering if the rest of that bottle might fall to waste.
Bringing the Revolution to Sparkling Wine
For all of these developments, however, one issue continued to gnaw at Lambrecht: how to apply all that he’d learned and developed to revolutionizing the preservation of sparkling wine. Piercing the cork with a Coravin needle wouldn’t work, of course. Neither would argon, since it’s carbon dioxide that gives bubbly its effervescence.
It took eight years of research and development, but the new Coravin Sparkling system was released in early September—perfect timing for the traditionally busy and holiday-centric restaurant months of October, November, and December—and it’s already being adopted even faster than he’d hoped.
“In the restaurants where we’ve been testing it, they’ve said, ‘Look, I had one or maybe two sparkling wines on my by-the-glass list before bringing in the Coravin Sparkling, and now I’ve got half a dozen,’” says Lambrecht. Given that consumer desire for sparkling wine and new discoveries is higher than ever, expanding beyond celebratory moments, Coravin Sparkling is also set to draw in guests year-round.
Not only does Coravin Sparkling preserve sparkling wine for up to four weeks—and often much longer—but it works on every possible bottle shape from half-bottles to magnums and ensures that the last glass of bubbly is indistinguishable from the first. To prove that, Lambrecht and his team headed to Napa Valley to blind taste just-opened bubbly alongside bottles that had been opened and then preserved with the new system two weeks earlier.
The Coravin team invited 40 Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, winemakers, and restaurateurs to judge Coravin Sparkling’s efficacy for themselves (“I was shaking in my boots,” admits Lambrecht), but it worked. Even among some of the top palates in the business, there were no perceptible differences between the fresh bottles and the ones that had been preserved for weeks. The patented stopper and carbon dioxide injection charger had performed exactly as planned.
A Much Bigger Bottom Line—and Protection in a Pandemic
Lambrecht and the Coravin team had their most productive period ever during the pandemic, releasing two new models, tweaking existing ones, and continuing to focus more and more on the needs of wine professionals as they navigated lockdowns, to-go ordering, and eventually beginning to welcome guests once again. What they didn’t expect, however, was how much restaurants would be saved by their already-implemented usage of Coravin.
Take, for example, Territoriet wine bar in Oslo, Norway, which had been serving 120 wines by the glass pre-lockdown. “The owner said to me, ‘We were wondering how many bottles we had lost in the year we were closed. How many of the wines had gone bad under Coravin?’ And then she tells me: ‘One out of 120,’” recalls Lambrecht. “The owner said, ‘Greg, you saved us. I don’t know how many tens of thousands of Euros that would have been in lost wine.’” 67 Pall Mall in London, which has 800 wines by the glass, all served under Coravin, relayed a similar experience to Lambrecht: “They went right back to serving those bottles when they reopened.”
It’s a benefit that no one had predicted. Coravin, after all, was designed to allow consumers and sommeliers to pour one glass at a time, or even one taste at a time, which allowed everyone to experience the greatest wines in the world without having to commit to an entire bottle. And it was always conceived as a way for restaurants to offer a far broader range of wines than they ever had before.
But when restaurants and wine bars around the world had to close, it turns out that nearly every single bottle they’d used their Coravin system on had been protected during the protracted period of time that the venue was shuttered.
It’s proof not only of the incredible reliability of Coravin’s systems, but also of the unexpected ways in which they can help increase and, in these uncertain times, protect the bottom line. That may be the one situation that Lambrecht didn’t foresee—and one of Coravin’s greatest assets.