Tip-top wine by the glass, thanks to wine-loving inventor
HANKERING for a taste of 1979 Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino with your dry-aged steak? At New York's Del Posto restaurant, a three-ounce pour is US$169 (S$215), six ounces, US$338.
The by-the-glass list includes hard-to-obtain 2000 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino for US$100 and US$200, and last month, rare Italian stunner 2002 Masseto.
All this is thanks to a new wine preservation device, the Coravin 1000.
"It's a wine populist's dream, giving more people access to the world's great wines," says Del Posto wine director Jeff Porter. He's been offering them "alla Coravin" since last November.
The ingenious US$299 device went on public sale two weeks ago and may just revolutionise how we drink wine at restaurants - and at home.
Most restaurants offer up a boring selection of wines by the glass. Usually this list includes only current vintages, yet they frequently taste dull, cooked and lifeless, signs they're oxidised from being open too long.
Once you pull a cork, contact with air causes the wine to start deteriorating. The Coravin prevents that by allowing you to access the wine without actually pulling the cork. Really.
Inventor Greg Lambrecht, who'd founded his own biomedical-device company, Massachusetts-based Intrinsic Therapeutics, was a wine lover who'd been stymied when his pregnant wife stopped drinking.
Then, the 44-year-old wished for a way of getting the wine out of the bottle without opening it so he could drink a glass without the remainder oxidising.
Mr Lambrecht's "aha" moment came when he recalled a project with high-flow needles used to filter blood.
He pushed his first needle through a cork and into a wine in 1999, then spent years experimenting with various sizes of Teflon-coated hollow needles, using compressed argon gas to prevent oxygen from entering the bottle.
He would buy a case of wine, poke the needle in one bottle and date it, then compare it blind at one month, six months, a year later, with a fresh bottle.
Mr Lambrecht has 600 wines in his cellar that he's Coravined (his word) at least once. Another 800 await the needle. He obtained a patent in 2007.
He says when he showed it to Del Posto co-owner Joe Bastianich, "Joe asked me, 'Who do I call to invest?'"
Today, the sleek black-and-chrome device is effective and easy to use: Clamp it on the bottle's neck; pull a lever to push the needle into the cork; push a button to bubble argon from a cartridge through the needle into the wine. The pressure from the gas forces wine up. You tilt the bottle and pour.
Since cork is elastic, it re-seals itself after you pull out the needle.
Eight bottles of 2008 Vietti Barolo that had been accessed on different dates over several months exhibit little variation.
Wine shops are already testing it as a way to let customers taste a sample bottle before they buy.
"But there's one thing the Coravin can't do," Mr Lambrecht says. "It won't turn a bad wine good."