Taste & Drink Without Opening the Bottle

World, say hello to the next hot thing in wine gadgetry, the Coravin wine access system. After years of testing and impressive demonstrations for wineries, collectors, restaurants and critics alike, the Coravin is poised to revolutionize the world of wine, a statement not made lightly. While gadgets and novelty wine tools abound, so to, for the most part, does their uselessness. Other than the logically simple Durand – a combo ah-so/corkscrew opener that has revolutionized my personal consumption of aged bottles – the Coravin system seems to be the only other new wine related product that has legs. Conceived with the perfect balance of technological/engineering saavy and wine appropriate knowledge, the system was created by Greg Lambrecht a nuclear physicist developer of high-tech medical devices and wine collector.

“Made from stainless steel and aluminum, the device does not open the bottle. Instead, a thin, hollow, Teflon-coated needle pierces the cork (and foil). When the thirsty drinker lifts the bottle, the wine travels down the needle and out to a waiting glass, but no oxygen gets in. At the same time, the device injects argon into the bottle – an inert gas that displaces the wine that is taken out. When the needle is removed, the cork reseals itself, allowing the remaining wine to stay in pristine condition.”

The implications for the Coravin as related to collectable wine are, as I mentioned, revolutionary. Never having to open a bottle means that by-the-glass menus at exclusive restaurants can expand into the world of fine wine, auction houses can sample and guarantee the authenticity of rare bottles and collectors everywhere can check in on their prized possessions, all without having to take that final destructive step past the point-of-no-return. The icing on the cake? Much to the chagrin of counterfeiters this device cannot be reversed and used to put wine back into an empty bottle.




(currently available for $299 plus an additional $9.95 for replacement argon capsules)




CAV – France’s Militant Wine Group

“The headquarters of the local Aude socialist party in Carcassonne was the site of a bomb explosion around midnight on Tuesday, July 16.” The existence and reemergence of Comite d’Action Viticole (aka CAV, tagged on the wall of the bomb site) is a dramatic reminder of an important event in the history of French wine, the Winegrower’s Revolt of 1907. While details of that historically significant uprising will follow in a future post, here, the existence of the CAV and their hardline agenda is the important thing to note. On the spectrum of French defenders of terroir, the Comite d’Action Viticole inhabits the most distant extreme.

Just as intriguing as the existence of the French Inter-regional Wine Investigation Brigade (original post on 4/2/13), so too is the existence and of CAV. Other than the unique niche within the French wine world that each organization inhabits, they share an additional similarity in that each works, in their own way, to champion and protect the quintessentially French ideal of terroir. The Wine Investigation Brigade operates from a traditional hierarchical power structure and within the guidelines of the law, while the CAV operates anonymously, in shadowy corners, through acts of sabotage. The devious actions of CAV combined with the added diabolical flair of public addresses issued by balaclava clad men lends a particularly nefarious air to the group. Whether they desire it or not they have the look of post-9/11 terrorists.

For basic coverage of CAV exploits check the links below.


Most recent


From 2007




Tasting Group 75 Selections for July

2011 Graf Hardegg Riesling “Vom Schloss”                  Weinvertel, Austria

100% Riesling “from the castle” belonging to the Hardegg family.  The winery is located in the Weinviertel, 75 km north of Vienna.  All vineyards are operated organically, supplemented by biodynamic and homoeopathic preparations. This improves the quality of the soils, making the vines more resistant whilst steadily increasing biodiversity at the same time.  Austria is clear about its interpretation of the world’s greatest white grape versus Germany’s.  Austrian Rieslings are technically dry, period.  Hate sweet? Fear not – this wine has a residual sugar of 5.7g/l, fairly low in Rieslingland – and the correspondingly high acidity will make it taste even more dry.  Intense nose of apricot and peach combined with a cool mineral note with delicious stone fruit on the palate.  Excellent with antipasti, fish, shellfish and seafood, as well as white meat.

2012 Antoniolo Rosato “Bricco Lorello”                         Piedmont, Italy

100% Nebbiolo.  This is what happens when you put a harness on the muscle of Nebbiolo.  The red grape that produces some of the most age-worthy, complex & broad-shouldered wines known to man also makes its pinks with more power than the vast majority of other roses in the world.  This is due to the high level of tannin in the skins of Nebbiolo.  Antoniolo is based in Piedmont’s Gattinara, where the wines are an excellent lower-priced, off-the-beaten alternative to more southerly & well-known Barolo & Barbaresco.  In Italian, a bricco is a vineyard area with “a steep or precipitous rugged rock.” Lorello is Rosanna Antoniolo’s daughter.  She must be a difficult teenager….!  Very low doses of sulphur are used in Antoniolo’s wines and no chemical fertilizers are used in the vineyards.  As its fairly rosy color indicates, this is a sturdy rosato, no delicate flower from Provence, and will stand up to main course dishes including grilled meats and strong cheeses.

“…the most dynamic winemaker [in Gattinara] is Rosanna Antoniolo with markedly improved single-vineyard wines…Rosanna Antoniolo is a driving force behind the recovery in Gattinara…” — Burton Anderson, The Wine Atlas of Italy

2012 Lo Triolet Gamay                                                       Valle d’Aosta, Italy

100% Gamay.  Compare & contrast the flavor & structure of this gamay with the cru wines of France’s Beaujolais region.  This is a special wine – very limited production and hand-made. Grapes are grown on a tiny .6 hectares in two separate plots of 15 year old vines – one at 600 meters above sea level and the other at 900m.  It’s rare to come across any wine from of the Valle d’Aosta, a small region the size of Rhode Island in Italy’s Northwestern corner.  The proximity of the Alps influences wine styles – extreme elevations create crisp whites & light reds. The area is not known for any commercial wines like the vast lakes of Pinot Grigio & Sangiovese that other Italian provinces produce.  Lo Triolet ferments the fruit in temperature-controlled stainless steel and time on the skins lasts a quick seven days. Just 480 cases produced!  Perfect for summer, on the lighter side, though fruit forward with great balance.  This can take a little chill so pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes before opening.

Art for Wine – Jeff Koons Marketing Modern Antiquities

2010 Koons Mouton Label

2003 Koons Limited Edition D.P. Rose (above) & 2003 David Lynch D.P. (below)

Consume or speculate, the iconic luxury brands (and lands) of France are in demand and have never been hotter. Within France few vineyard sites are more coveted than Cru sites in the Champagne region or the 1st growth vineyards of Bordeaux. Within Champagne, the house of Dom Perignon certainly inhabits a respected place among the pantheon of luxury brands and within Bordeaux, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild is second to none. To get to and stay at the top requires constant work and forward motion, like a shark in water the actors must continue to “swim or die.” With constant vigilance, quality winemaking, master blending and smart, often artistic, marketing, year after year D.P. and Mouton maintain their prestigious positions and continue to grow. Whether these venerable houses strive to produce collectible items of speculative value or decadent products to be consumed at the dinners and soirees of the global elite, Mouton and Dom Perignon, along with their collaborating artists, seek to reflect precisely what buyers wants to see and celebrate within themselves.

For a splashy follow-up release to the David Lynch designed 2003 vintage offering, the team at Dom Perignon has taken a page out of the Baroness Rothschild’s book by engaging American artist Jeff Koons to launch a limited edition of their 2003 rose. Since the goal is to use marketing to distinguish the house of Dom Perignon even further from among luxury champagne brands, a collaboration with former commodities broker and onetime “world’s most expensive living artist” Jeff Koons is an infinitely logical solution.

In his work Koons employs artistic technique to alter and transform familiar images/objects into his finished product. A perfect illustration of this is the 2010 Mouton label on which he has reproduced the “Birth of Venus” scene from a fresco in Pompeii and altered it by overlaying a simple silver line drawing of a ship sailing under a full sun. In choosing to use the iconic Birth of Venus motif for the label of an iconic chateau in a potentially classic vintage, Koons exhibits nuanced artistic vision in his successful creation of a label that both looks appropriate and feels respectful of the product. Inside the bottle the 2010 Mouton is 94% Cab (the most ever) and has been called magnificent, reminiscent of the classic 1947.

For his collaboration with Dom Perignon Koons sticks with the Venus theme but employs a much older incarnation of the allegorical figure called the Venus of Willendorf. “Venus” only in name, the Willendorf statuette is actually a 25,000 year old fertility carving that predates mythical Venus by millennia and is the inspiration for Koons’s famous “Magenta Balloon Venus” sculpture.  The “Balloon Venus” is in turn being repurposed as the piece that will launch the 2003 Dom Peirgnon Rose, in miniature, as housing for each limited edition bottle. The decision to use a replica of one of his own “iconic” pieces in promotion of Dom Perignon is divergent from his Mouton effort in that it feels distracting and creates a show of cross-branding that risks making the actual wine a complete afterthought. Bright, shiny and futuristic, like a “dazzling trophy made for the super-rich,” the 2003 Dom Perignon rose will certainly be recognizable by the sculpture in which it is housed.

So, if it is considered “fashionable to have a multi-million dollar Koons on order,” will people be lining up for his miniature Balloon Venus that comes with free champagne? At $20,000 I bet D.P. is hoping so, their limited edition launch signals the transformation of a luxury consumption item into an item of much more rare and potentially speculative value. What do you think, will you see yourself smiling in its reflective magenta surfaces?