I’ve been using the Coravin system profusely for a few years now. While I don’t own a wine bar or a winery (two of the best use cases), it serves me exceedingly well to taste samples without having to toss the bottles afterwards as well as aiding in blind tasting practice for myself or setting them up for others. I’ve written about the various uses at great length previously so I won’t get into it any deeper other than to say it’s a very useful little device for anyone from the top wine professionals through to the casual drinkers and everyone in between.
While I used the original, very beefy, “Fort Knox” model a few times back in the day, once it came time to finally invest, I bought the Model Two about three years ago. For those who know the series, this is from the period when there was the basic Model One, the “standard” Model Two, and then the crazy doohicky Model Ten. This Model Two has served me well and I’ve used it to tap into literally thousands of bottles and while busting a needle here and there (which is par for the course), it’s stood up to the challenge.
New year, new models
Things changed a bit in 2020 however when Coravin introduced a whole new numbering system. Now, the basic version is the Model Three, the “standard” is the Model Five/Six, and the crazy app-based, kitchen sink number is the Model Eleven (insert Spinal Tap reference, here). On top of all this, they’ve introduced the much more affordable Coravin Pivot which is essentially a gas-charged stopper that replaces the cork/screwcap and allows you to drink a wine over a few weeks as opposed to the potential storage of the others which can be months and months.
I was curious how the Model Five/Six stacks up to Model Two and lo and behold Euroselecció Wine Tools in Barcelona was gracious enough to send me a Model Five for testing purposes. As a side note, they’re also the distributor in Spain for Riedel glasses and EuroCave bottle fridges.
Same needle, different clamp
Ultimately the new Coravin models and the older ones from before 2020 do the same function. They have a needle that goes all jabby like through the corks, injects gas to then offset the quantity of wine you want to pour out. As far as I understand, all the needles are the same for the different models as well as the cartridges, with the exception of the Pivot which uses a larger one now.
But, the immediate difference anyone will note between the old Model Two and the new Model Five/Six is how the device clamps on to the bottle. The Model Two came out with this system that seemed like a carpentry clamp. I’ve gotten very used to using it after much repeated practice and so it’s second nature for me. I have noted that this wasn’t the case for some people who either got the needle insertion way off base or then, when taking the Coravin off the bottle, broke the device into two pieces. Ouch.
I have to imagine this wasn’t an isolated incident as more and more people started to use the devices in recent years and so the new, “SmartClamps” system was designed to avert these problems. Admittedly, it caught me as a bit strange when first using it as I was accustomed to the old system. Once I got the hang of it, I could see the immediate advantage. Instead of meandering about while trying to center the needle, you can basically snap the Coravin on to the bottle and press the needle in, all in one go. This new mechanism is no end of smoother, and it’s clear to see that the needle lines up far better.
Five greater than Two?
So, taking these changes into account, is it worth buying a new Model Five/Six? Well, first off, why do I keep saying Five/Six?
As I was told in talking to a Euroselecció rep, the Five and Six are essentially the same device on all fronts but the Six has an upgraded finish whereas the Five is a bit more basic-looking and aimed more at trade professionals as it’s a bit cheaper. Unless I understood incorrectly, the Five will also be discontinued in the near future with only the Six remaining.
If you don’t have a Coravin at all and are looking to dig in, there’s probably not a better time as they’ve been running massive discounts leading up to the Christmas holidays. Even if you’re not a wine professional, it’s still a fine tool to help you be able to taste more and ideally drink less.
If you own an old Model One, I would say to definitely take advantage of the discounts and get a Model Five or Six depending on what’s available. I say this because most people who have a Model One and use it often will have seen a lot of wear and tear, given that it’s more of a casual device than professional.
If you own an old Model Two and it’s still working well for you, the choice is really if you want the SmartClamps setup or not. I will note that the Model Five is a good deal lighter than the Model Two which makes the Five better for travel (whatever that feels like). I have yet to understand the effect on build quality but at the very least as lighter doesn’t necessarily means flimsier these days.
If your Coravin is just to use at home from time to time, it won’t make much of a difference other than its increased user friendliness. If however, you’re really burning through bottles and have a bar, winery tasting room, or like me, tasting 50 wines in a day, it’s definitely speedier to use. That and it’s new and shiny, plus the discounts at the moment again, are really tempting. Lastly, it shouldn’t need to be stated, but it does make a quite excellent gift!
Whatever you decide, the nice thing about a Coravin is that you can get one and there’s no minimum or maximum use to justify purchasing it. It just sits in the corner until called upon and then does its duty quite admirably and has seriously changed the game in terms of how to approach drinking and tasting wines.
My coravin experience has not been that great. I make wine for a few clients and have been asked to taste wines to see if they are ready for release. I used to use the coravin and pull a glass and then pull a glass in subsequent days until there is one glass left at which time I open the bottle. The wine is nowhere near the same as the original glass. It seems to mute the nose as well as lend a metallic taste to the wine. No matter how small the hole you are compromising the cork every time you pull a glass. This was done with the second generation model so perhaps things have changed.
There’s a great deal of variation and I’ve found some varieties react poorly to the gas such are Carignan which goes into a strange state after a few days. Also, corks can vary widely as well.
Suffice to say, your experiences aren’t isolated ones but I’ve had wines that taste perfectly fine after a week and others after 2-3 months and then I’ve had some that are never the same as the first glass. It’s not perfect, but it does the job better than anything else at the moment. I’d also say that after half the bottle is gone, you should probably pull the cork.