The Great Coravin Test, Part 2: Initial Tasting Report

23 07 2015

The journey continues.

The journey continues.

If you missed Part 1 of this soon-to-be-epic tale, wherein I got a Coravin to borrow and figured out how to use it, you can click here to get caught up.  This post will set the control for my test of the Coravin’s wine-preserving prowess, documenting my initial tasting impressions of three different bottles that I was provided along with the device so that I could give it a spin:  one white, one lighter red and one fuller red.  I actually tasted these last Friday, July 17th, so that’s the point from which the preservation clock starts ticking.  I will taste them all again in a couple of weeks and report back, and then again in a few months to see just how far the magic of the Coravin can stretch.  Word of warning if you ever try this yourself:  when you have a tool that lets you taste as many wines and access as many bottles as you want in a night without pulling a cork, you end up drinking a LOT of wine.  Duly noted.  On to the wines — be sure to check back in two weeks to see how they’re doing!

Wine #1:  2012 Sans Liege Cotes-du-Coast (Central Coast, California)

Let’s first agree on something:  this is the wine label of the year.  I love everything about it.  I would buy the wine just for it.  And thankfully its contents would justify that decision.  The Cotes-du-Coast is a play on a white Cotes-du-Rhone, employing an intriguing blend of white grapes native to France’s Northern and/or Southern Rhone Valleys (54% Viognier, 19% Roussanne, 15% Grenache Blanc, 12% Marsanne) and done in an unmistakably California style.  The Viognier runs the show here, delivering hugely aromatic, floral, honeyed, spicy flavours but lent some texture and complexity by the remainder of the blend.


This was my inaugural Coravin test bottle and came through the hollow needle of the device a deep golden straw colour, radiating aromas from the second it hit the atmosphere.  It smelled so lush and intense that it was almost Gewurz-like:  I didn’t have to try too hard to grab notes of lychee, candied ginger, lilacs, brown sugar, spice cookies (clove/nutmeg/cinnamon) and crème brulee.  That’s a lot of dessert, and it was followed up by a silky, almost slinky, plush mouthfeel and a slightly viscous body on the palate, but the Cotes-du-Coast was lifted and kept in balance by a circular saw blade of acidity running right down its spine, making the wine seem at the same time languid and alive (and dare I say…sexy?).  Honeyed, crystallized white peach and cantaloupe fruit bore a hint of maple and danced with more rugged peppery/spicy undertones, leading to a finish that thankfully wasn’t remotely mealy or cloying.  Simply put, this wine comes out to get you, and succeeds.  Super fun – I will grab this again.

89+ points

$30-$35 CDN

Wine #2:  2012 Tabali Pinot Noir Reserva Especial (Limari Valley, Chile)

Chile is not exactly known for its Pinot Noir…yet.  Its international wine reputation has been staked primarily on two big reds, Cabernet Sauvignon and national grape Carmenere, grown in the warmer central valleys of the country.  However, as it matures as a wine nation, it is starting to take advantage of cooler and more intriguing soils and climates stretching both north and south, expanding its repertoire of quality varietals and putting out wines of surprising character.  This is one of them, made from Pinot Noir grown in the cool Limari Valley, one of Chile’s most northernmost vineyard regions on a strip of land between the Andes mountains and the ocean.


I almost should have Coravinned (as mentioned last post, I am totally verb-ing the Coravin) this before the white, as it was much more precise and delicate, a quiet step back from the Cotes’ exuberant power.  The Reserva Especial — a term which, I should note, has no legal meaning in Chile but may be an internal designation by the producer — was a gorgeous, fully transparent ruby colour and featured a classic fruity-meets-earthy Pinot nose of raspberry, currants, bramble, underbrush and fall leaves, with a touch of mintiness/cough drop mixed in.  It was like a crisp autumn day in a wild orchard.  Unsurprisingly, given the cooler growing region and fairly restrained alcohol level (13.5%), it was lithe, clean and tart, yet remained juicy, bursting with red fruits tinged with minerality.  There was no bitterness or greenness to be found, however, and superb balance and structure, including mouth-watering acidity and unexpectedly bold (yet not astringent) tannin.  I would not have lined up for Chilean Pinot, but I was all over this, and am particularly curious to see how the bottle will hold up over time.

90- points

$20-$25 CDN

Wine #3:  2011 Les Halos de Jupiter Chateauneuf-du-Pape Adrastee (Rhone Valley, France)

I have been a big fan of renowned oenologist and consultant Philippe Cambie’s Les Halos de Jupiter project ever since trying his base Cotes du Rhone last year, a bottle that has since become a regular in my buying rotation for its insane quality-to-price ratio (and its Superstore availability).  This is not the base wine; it’s the peak of the Halos de Jupiter mountain.  And it makes the Cotes-du-Coast seem meek, not least because of its mildly terrifying 16% (!!) alcohol content.  The booze level comes from the Grenache from which this wine is made, a grape which is known to be able to ripen to extremely high sugar levels.  These grapes have pedigree, though:  they’re from 100+ year-old vines from the renowned La Crau vineyard, site of some of the world’s top Chateauneufs (including Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, true CNDP royalty).


But I digress.  The Adrastee is not the colour that “16%” brings to mind, instead showing up an eerily benign and translucent ruby-garnet in the glass.  I swear I started smelling this stuff as soon as I pressed the Coravin trigger for the first time.  This wine is a beast:  mammoth proportions, explosive flavour, fruit forever, and sledgehammer power, but underneath it all, insane depth, quality and persistence.  The flavours are a run-down of delicious and appealing:  blueberry pie, strawberry, blackberry jam, maple, incense, sage and English Breakfast tea, pleasantly dirtied by charcoal and smoked meat.  Amazingly, it only barely seems full-bodied, keeping the alcohol well-contained until the finish, where it crescendoes.  This is hedonism and passion melded with technique and finesse — a gigantic Chateauneuf-de-Pape.  Also, an awesome embossed Pope Hat on the bottle.  Cue the video.

92+ points

$65-$75 CDN



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