The Great Coravin Test, Part 3: Two Weeks In

2 08 2015

OK, so to recap:

  • I got lent a Coravin and figured out how to use it (Part 1).
  • On July 17th, I accessed three different bottles – a white and two reds – via Coravin and wrote up control tasting notes (Part 2).
  • Exactly two weeks later, on July 31st, I Coravinned the bottles again to see how they were doing.  Now the real fun begins (Part 3, right now).

FullSizeRender-91Some brief methodological notes:  after tasting the bottles on July 17th, I put them back in my cellar as if they were brand new – on their sides, no special treatment.  They stayed there till the 31st, when I gave them a brief chill before accessing them again.  I took detailed tasting notes without looking at my initial set of notes and then compared the two sets after the fact to see if the descriptions were similar and if any notable changes to the wines had taken place.  After the second round of tasting, the bottles are all about half full, and they have been put back in my cellar until I pull them out again for the grand finale of this Coravin experiment six months from now.  So how did the wines do?  Is the Coravin all it’s cracked up to be?  Let’s get to it, again:

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

On its first go, this Viognier-predominant white Rhone-style blend from the Central Coast of California was lush, aromatic, spicy and voluptuous.  The second time around, it was very much of the same, coming out of the Coravin spout immediately as bright and potent as before, smelling of nutty marzipan, golden apple, tarte tatin, gingerbread, honey and cinnamon, like brunch in a glass.  There was no sign of deterioration or loss of freshness, and still energy and verve to the wine on the palate, which started out with very Viognier-like honeysuckle/candied flower and melon flavours and a silky oiliness to its texture.  The acidity hides a bit at first but rears up on the midpalate and powers into a roaring finish edged with maple and graham crackers.

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Comparing the notes above to my ones from before, it was easy to tell I was talking about the same wine.  The words used are slightly different, but both sets of notes mention assertive floral, melon, honeyed and baking spice flavours, a viscous mouthfeel, and a combination of plush texture and vibrant acid that works in concert to elevate the wine.  From memory, the Cotes du Coast seemed near identical to when I had it the first time – it definitely did NOT seem like a two week old wine.  Coravin 1, preservation doubt 0.

Coravin Preservation Score:  10/10

 

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

This bottle gave me a scare and made me think at first that I had botched the whole experiment.  It came out smelling a little crispy and muted, which I didn’t remember from before (I recalled this beautiful Chilean Pinot seeming fresh and juicy right from the get-go).  I smelled the non-fruit aromas first, tomato leaf and underbrush and funk, before some dried currant and prune crept through.  Something was up – it seemed like it had lost a lot of its liveliness.  I immediately feared user error:  before plunging the Coravin needle through the cork of a bottle, you’re supposed to pulse the trigger a bit to expel any excess air that might be sitting in the needle.  If you don’t, rather than keeping oxygen away from your wine, you might actually be injecting oxygen INTO it, which has the opposite preservative effect than you’re hoping for.  Had I done that?  The Pinot seemed a little better on the palate, with the acid still juicy and the strawberry, herbal and medicinal flavours seeming fresher.  The finish was crisp and tart, and the dusty tannins were crisp and assertive, each like I remembered.

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The more the wine sat in the glass, the better it appeared to get, although it never quite got back to the wine described in my original notes, which was bursting with wild and fresh red fruit.  The herbaceous and cough drop-like accompaniments set out above were initially present as well, and the structure was quite similar, but the whole impression of the wine was slightly faded compared to the way it was.

FullSizeRender-94I was going to leave things like that, chalk it up as a good try, potentially blame myself for accidentally dosing the wine with the very thing the Coravin it supposed to protect it from, and note that, with any other preservation system, the bottle would likely already be toast.  But right before writing this I decided to give things one more go with the Tabali Pinot and poured a tasting-sized glass through the Coravin.  It was completely fine.  Totally back to normal, the way I remembered it.  I have no explanation for this.  Maybe the wine was going through a bit of a reductive reaction (occurring when there is insufficient oxygen contact) when I poured it a couple days ago and that had blown off or resolved itself by now?  Maybe the Coravin decided it was going to give me a bit of a challenge so you wouldn’t get bored reading?  Who knows.  But as of a half hour ago, this Pinot Noir was as good as new.  Can’t wait to see it in six months.  Your Coravin lesson, to steal a line from Ace Ventura:  if the wine doesn’t seem quite right when you re-Coravin it, just wait longer.

Coravin Preservation Score:  8/10(?)

 

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

It did not remotely surprise me that this wine was exactly the same:  given how mammoth and concentrated this 16% abv behemoth of a Chateauneuf-de-Pape is, I probably could have left it open on my kitchen counter for the past two weeks and had it taste identical to how it did before.  As soon as I took my first smell and sip of the re-accessed wine, I put down my glass and wrote in my notebook:  “Still a beast.  Still a monstrous gigantic beast.  In a good way.”  That basically sums it up.

Remember I said there was an awesome embossed Pope Hat on the bottle?

Remember I said there was an awesome embossed Pope Hat on the bottle?

Given the wackiness of the Tabali Pinot re-tasting experience, I gave the Halos a few extra minutes in the glass before diving into it, but it seemed fine, hugely perfumed, with blackberry jam, mesquite, leather armchair, violet and boiled down Saskatoon berry notes exploding out of the glass.  As big as the wine is, it still seems a bit coiled up in a way that suggests it may get even bigger when it fully unfurls itself.  Smouldering coals and wild herbs lingered around the edges of the monumental finish.  This is rich, juicy and unabashedly bold, although it nicely melds its gobs of deep dark fruit with its secondary flavours.  Comparing tasting notes to my first set, I was pleased to see the words “mammoth” and “beast” repeated verbatim (thank you, metaphorical consistency!) and a very similar flavour profile described with slightly different words:  incense instead of perfume, blackberry compote instead of blackberry jam, etc.  Not everything was that aligned, but it’s not hard to find the same wine in both posts.  I suspect that in six months’ time I’ll be saying the exact same thing.

Coravin Preservation Score:  9.5/10

 

My time with the Coravin comes to an end in a couple weeks, at which point I’ll do one more post summarizing my overall thoughts about the device, whether you should run and get one, and who would most benefit from having one.  Then join me in half a year when I actually pull the cork on this trio of bottles and see what’s what.  Stay tuned!!

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