08-04-2019 ~ 6 Comments

Et tu, Eto? Redefining single-serving wine, again.

The core issue with First World problems is that there are simply so many and they’re all so equally “serious”. The grocery store has run out of your preferred bottled water. Your personal trainer only has a slot at 4PM and not at 5PM next Friday. And of course, proper wine comes in 750ml bottles.

It’s laughable in the purest sense of actual world problems of course but, for those who enjoy wine, it’s an issue as wine, at 3/4 of a liter (25oz), and clocking in at 12-16% ABV, makes one whole bottle pretty massive for a single serving–trust me as I know this better than I should. But if you’ve more self control than I do and just want to drink half a bottle and keep the wine you’ve opened for more than a day, the solutions were historically never ideal. Yes, those vacuum stopper things do a decent job as well as tossing it in the fridge but it wasn’t until the invention of the Coravin that things really changed.

The problem with the Coravin is that it’s somewhat complicated to use, it’s expensive, and the gas cartridges for the Argon add up fast. It’s a great solution for a wine bar or winery, especially when paired with the Bottle Thief, but for the home user, it was never a great fit. Most people I talked to said, “Yeah, I take off a glass and enjoy it. Then I look and see that there are more glasses staring at me in the bottle and so I pull the cork.”

Where the problem exists is that Coravin was trying to solve the problem of drinking wine slowly in terms of using the same bottle. This was in actuality a more complicated solution to the problem than it needed to be. It’s a lot like the oft-told story about how the Russians used a pencil in space instead of trying to invent a pen that could write in zero gravity (note that this is actually debunked as everyone used the same special, expensive pen, made by a guy in the US) but the point is well taken.

This is why the “Eto” was such a revelation as they went about solving the same problem that the Coravin (or rubber vacuum stoppers or Enomatic machines) tried to do but they changed the terms of engagement and simply did away with the bottle. When reviews for the prototype started popping up, I didn’t really understand how it worked but the fact that people I respected were saying that it did made me want to take a chance and I contributed to the Indiegogo campaign.

At 1.4€ million in total funding, the campaign was a rambunctious success but once it finished, delivery times kept getting pushed out as they worked to manufacture the device en masse. While it ended up taking a year and a half for the Eto to finally arrive, the team sent out 35 very detailed notes explaining where they were at, why there were delays, and what was happening. While I would have loved the instant gratification of having received it much sooner, this was very well managed and they’ve been working for weeks now to get everyone their Eto(s).

How does Eto go-go?

The brilliance of the Eto is its simplicity as it is essentially two parts: a glass cylinder and then a plunger with a cap that threads on to the cylinder so you can take it apart for cleaning.

You pour in your wine through the neck (they say “decanter” but should change the wording) and then press the plunger down until it fully covers the wine in the cylinder. Where the secret lies is in a small ball that rests down when the plunger is up and then fits up inside a socket when the plunger is down; also known as “a valve”. This was the part I didn’t understand when initially looking at it and once receiving the device, it was readily clear how it worked and it’s a simple concept: you keep nearly all oxygen away from the wine and thus, it stays fresh.

Eto in the wild

I tested out the Eto with various applications in terms of drinking. The first was to put a Mas Alta La Basseta 2007 into it which is a mainly Grenache wine from Priorat. This would be the exact kind of wine to oxidize easily and thus “spoil” after even just a day of being open. I poured off one glass the first night, came back two nights later for another, and then another the next night, and then finished it two nights later. So essentially over a week I drank a bottle of wine that had only been sitting in the Eto, kept under the plunger. The result was that each glass was as fresh as the first one as far as I could tell and this, is revolutionary.

I then tried a Chablis Premier Cru Fourcharme 2015 from William Fèvre as I find that Chardonnay can go south pretty quickly as well. In this instance, I had two glasses and put it away for a week before having the other two. The wine was still fresh but it wasn’t as fresh as the initial test and I realized that it was a case of PEBEAG (Problem Exists Between Eto And Glass, ie “user error”) as I made the only mistake that I think one can make using the Eto which is that while the plunger was fully down on the wine, the ball hadn’t nestled fully up into the socket and so there was a small bit of room for oxygen to get it. Still, as the top of the pour spout has a cap, it wasn’t nearly as bad as when I’ve just put a cork back in a bottle to have it the next day.

I don’t know how many other tests should be run on the device as for me, it does everything that it seems to need to do. This will be crucial for couples where one person likes to have a glass with lunch and the other doesn’t as it makes him (me) too sleepy.

Or more importantly, it stops you from finishing an entire bottle of wine on your own. That may sound like silliness but it happens more than anyone in the wine trade would like to admit and I have to say that ironically, the ease of pouring from the Eto makes you drink less wine. I say that because to get a glass out of a wine with a Coravin is a number of steps and if you feel like a second glass, you’ll most likely just think, “Fuck it, I’ll just open the damned thing.” Whereas with the Eto, because it’s easier to pour and plunge, pour and plunge, you really stick to fewer glasses and I’ve found myself drinking far less because of it.

A Pour Future

The arrival of the Eto is not insignificant and I can’t see how it’s not going to take a massive chunk out of Coravin’s home wine drinker market, if not all of it, especially as those initial claims that you can store a wine you’ve Coravin-ed indefinitely are simply not true and it’s more like 2-3 months from what I’ve seen in most wines. The Eto won’t offer that although I’ve yet to try and see what’s the maximum amount of time that wine will stay fresh in one. It appears to be easily two weeks and it’s possible that it could be a great deal longer but I only bought one in the crowdfunding campaign and I’m making too much use of it to test such a scenario.

It’s ironic that just as the Eto has come out, Coravin has launched the insane techno-crazy Model 11 which has added more “things” to the device whereas Eto has stripped all of that away. Oh, I forgot to mention that the Model 11 is 800€, the Model 2 is 300€, and the Model 1, 200€. Each gas cartridge is about 8-10€ depending upon where you buy it and you get about 15 pours out of one–and they can’t be recycled. Also, the Model 1 is a pretty chintzy build. The Eto on the other hand is 75€ and that’s it. No gas, no extra needles, no nothing.

The Coravin is still a very useful device but it’s easy to see that in certain applications such as casual wine drinking, this simple little Eto is amazing for what it does and unless you’re a “Real Housewife of…” cast member, it will help you maintain a more sane drinking pattern when it comes to your vino.