Wine may look impervious in its thick glass bottles, but it is sensitive stuff. Once it’s uncorked, oxygen will drive even the most elegant quaff toward vinegary ruin. Most restaurants, including those serious about their beverage programs, restrict what they offer by the glass, reserving the pricier, more finessed wines for the bottle list.
But the Coravin, a $300 gadget (invented by a wine-loving engineer) that looks like a cross between a microscope and a hand drill, is the sommelier’s new best friend. Using a medical-grade needle, the device extracts wine through a cork and its foil, while simultaneously releasing an equal volume of argon, a nonreactive gas, into the bottle. Argon displaces any oxygen in the bottle, and the cork naturally reseals itself. Excluding sparkling wines, screw tops, and bottles with plastic corks, any bottle tapped by the Coravin can be kept indefinitely.
The Coravin came on the market last year, and local wine-focused restaurants—including Miller Union, Canoe, Aria, Empire State South, and brand-new wine bar Vine & Tap in Buckhead—are all over it. At Aria, for example, sommelier George Kientzy offers a 1996 Chateau d’Yquem—France’s famed, complexly sweet Sauternes—for $74 for a two-ounce pour. Sure, that sounds exorbitant, but it’s a relative bargain: Ordering a bottle would cost more than $400. “The Coravin isn’t some fad,” says Kientzy. “In the next year, every fine-dining restaurant in Atlanta will be using one.”
This article originally appeared in our May 2014 issue.