Saturday, August 3, 2013

Do You Like Drinking Day-Old Wine?

My mom used to go to the Day-Old Hostess bread store. She would get apple pies and Ho-Ho's and freeze them for our school lunches. They were really good....maybe not that healthy but Hostess advertising said they were healthy snacks back then - wholesome goodness I think was the pitch line, and even day-old Hostess snacks never were stale. Of course now we know it was due to the overuse of preservatives which by themselves can cause a corpse to never decompose.

There is no Day-Old Wine Store for good reason. With Twinkies and Snowballs, freezing made the product usable on my schedule. With wine once its opened, you either drink the whole thing or risk letting the remnant oxidize. Personally, I hate oxidized wine but there's a dilemma. Do I drink a really nice bottle with dinner and have some left that might not be consumed? Or, do I drink a lesser bottle and not be as concerned if I have to dump it? Of course I can just drink the whole bottle, but the calorie thing is becoming a real problem these days .... maybe it was the Twinkies. Either way I blame it on my mother pushing me into addiction. Twinkies are a gateway drug you know.

I can't tell you how much day-old wine I've had to dump over the years. I'd hate to think about what that cost me; maybe thousands of dollars given my drinking habits stemming from my traumatic childhood. While I've not found a solution to my Twinkie addiction, I have found the solution to my dilemma of wasted wine. If you like this solution as well, there is a deal for you at the end of this blog - only for SVB on Wine readers.

Meeting Brain Pickers

Gadget to Hold Your Glass When Drunk

In my role at Silicon Valley Bank, I get lots of calls from people wanting to pick my brain. It's probably why I can't remember what day it is anymore. Brain pickers come in all flavors; as investors, the press, people with a business concept, and on occasion people who have the latest and greatest new product or gadget. Some of the ideas are novel but never has anyone presented me with something that I saw as a disruptive or transformational innovation. That changed in September of 2012 when I saw the beta model for the Coravin Wine Access System.

Gadget to Never Buy Wine Again
In August of last year I got a call from Josh Makower. He told me he had a product that "preserved opened wine for months" and "the transformational potential of the product for consumers, restaurants, and wine producers would be unprecedented!" To say I was skeptical would be a massive understatement as I've seen hundreds of gadgets in wine fail, but a few things intrigued me here. It turned out Josh had been involved with several successful medical start ups with Silicon Valley Bank on the Tech side of our organization, and he was a part of NEA which is a top tier Venture Capital Firm. He also said he was bringing his colleague Nick Lazaris who was one of the early CEO's of another of our technology start ups, Keurig.

The "AH-HA!" Moment

Gadget So Your Glass Never is Empty

Josh brought in one of the beta models of the Coravin system. With a special needle that's used in the medical field attached to a device that looked like a rabbit wine opener, he easily inserted the needle through the capsule of an unopened bottle. Then, pressing a button with his thumb and pumping in argon gas, he pumped out a single glass of wine. He removed the needle and the cork resealed itself. That was interesting but not earth shattering to me. Then the ah-HA! moment came: The bottle was half full, had the original capsule intact, and was first opened 4 months prior! This was not day-old wine! We popped the cork on an unopened bottle for a side-by-side comparison:  No difference whatsoever. The wines were identical. Now that WAS earth shattering. A wine that had the first glass poured months prior, tasted the same as an unopened bottle. My mind started racing to applications.

Gadget to Turn Wine into A Tree
I could have a glass of white, pinot, and cabernet every night at dinner and never worry about spoiling a bottle. Corked wine? A fine wine retailer or tasting room customer could take a very small sample and test it with reactive test strips to check for specific flaws before taking it home (First someone has to invent those strips). Tasting rooms could use an industrial version with a 1 ounce meter on the gadget that could be attached to a larger argon tank thus eliminating waste or accidentally pouring oxidized wine. My mom could drink her magnum of moscato one glass at a time for 2 months without the wine changing. That case of wine you bought a decade ago and stored ... has it reached the point where its time to drink it? The applications are limitless.

Product Release

On Monday July 29th; almost a year from the date I took the meeting, Coravin announced the launch of their new wine storage system. Robert Parker had interesting comments saying, Coravin is “the most transformational and exciting new product for wine lovers that has been developed or invented in the last 30-plus years.” He also posted a series of videos about the Coravin System based on his own testing. You can find those on his website.

Gadget to Make Sure You Spill Wine
I don't think the product is perfect yet:. The argon canister only contains enough gas for about 15 pours. It would be nice if that handled a few more glasses but I'm guessing we'll see more canister options at some point in the same way we saw so many different extensions from Keurig through the years. In addition, the product at first blush is a little pricey at USD $279.00. That said I drink a bottle of wine at that price on occasion so maybe its a bargain? Thinking further, after paying for the machine itself, we're talking about getting the freedom to try any wine in your cellar and not worry about spoiling it for 66 cents a glass based on 15 pours at $10 for a canister. Given the price of those bottles, the all-in price actually seems very reasonable, so I take it all back. Its a fair price.
Some of the skeptics out there might think I have a personal interest in promoting this. I assure you I don't. I haven't been asked to recommend this product by anyone and don't have any incentive. I'm just really jazzed with the utility of this gadget and the people behind it. The applications for the consumer, winery, restaurateur, and wine shop are game-changing. Me? I just can't wait to have any glass I want any night, or share any bottle with a friend without having to drink the whole bottle.

A Deal For SVB on Wine Readers

The good news for you is I did contact the founders last week to let them know I was going to dedicate the SVB on Wine Blog to the Coravin product. So while I don't get anything for recommending this, they have offered to anyone reading this blog, 3 gratis argon canisters if you buy a package between now and Friday August 9th using the PROMO CODE: SVBWine. You can do that through this link to the Coravin website.

As a final point, for those commercial wineries interested in trying this out, reselling these in their own tasting rooms at some point, or have other questions about commercial use, I've been given the contact at Coravin for additional questions and discussion. You can contact John Fruin, National Sales Manager here:

What do you think? Did you hang in there and read another exceptionally long Blog? Are you skeptical of this product like I was? Log in and offer your thoughts about this product or any other storage devices that you are using and appreciate.


  1. I love this idea! I hate not being able to save some of the wine if I don't want to drink it all, or just want to enjoy one glass. I'd definitely consider buying this if the price comes down at all - which I'm sure it will over time as more competitors come out. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for opining WLT. We'll see if competitors come around in any short order. I'm guessing their patent attorneys have done a good job and they can maintain their first-mover advantage.

    The way I look at the price is like my Keurig. I shelled out a lot for a coffee pot, in exchange for saving money on coffee. Now I don't waste coffee or make a small pot then decide I want another cup and have to clean and start over. With this, I am going to save money on wine dumping immediately.

    I don't have one of these yet since they just started shipping last week. I know they will come down a little in price like Keurigs did ... dropped a little in price after several years, guessing because they could save on production costs as it got up to scale.

    If I have a 'fear' its that the needle is too small and too slow to give a full glass in time that seems reasonable. The other is the second glass of wine out of a bottle might use more argon. I'm willing to take the risk and hope the founders have the 'second sale' in mind as well and provide early adopters who register their product a mechanism for upgrading into Coravin 2.0 without having to pay the full price for a new one. (There's a suggestion Josh)

  3. My first thought was about the sales forces out there. Managing sample allocations and whom to open them for, when, and managing visits that day can be a huge hassle. This could revolutionize the way that they present wines to accounts while hitting the streets.

  4. Nate - thanks for logging in. I totally agree. If you are a road warrior and bring in wine to a region for a drive around, you should be able to bring a lot less wine and sample anything. Over the course of a year, those samples can really add up. It's another one of those game changing uses.

  5. Hi Rob,
    A great tool undoubtedly. But just for cork. And cork is going the way of the dodo. Fortunately there are systems that can be used for bottles sealed with any type of closure. These involve the insertion of a tap/dispenser that can be fed with argon or nitrogen. A much larger cylinder of gas can be used....but at the cost of portability, the great advantage of the Coravin.

    These alternative systems and the parallel problems that exist in a commercial winery are described at my blog 'erlstrellis'.

    1. Erl - thanks for logging in and thanks for the reference to Erlstrellis and your thoughts on alternative systems.

  6. And hey, a day old full bodied red from a careful winemaker is often better drinking on the second and third day than it is on the first.

    1. Erl = I'm going to agree that wines will evolve when they hit air. In fact that should be an issue with this product insofar as the wine has never had time to properly open. That said, while a wine may improve on the second and third day, there is every bit the chance that by day 2 on, it may be undrinkable absent using one of the other products mentioned on Erlstrellis. I had the opportunity to taste a wine older than me once. When opened the nose was spectacular. I put it down on the table and when I went back for the second sip, it smelled like water. I prefer the option to have more control the evolution of the wine.

  7. Rob,

    I have seen this device praised on nearly every Wine Website by the cognoscenti of the wine industry. While I love the idea of being able to sample a bottle of wine and save the rest for later, I am equally perturbed by the fact that this device leaves original capsules and Corks intact. I think that it is rather amazing at how short the memory of the industry is. It was not even a year ago that Rudy K soiled this industry with fake labels and corks that he used on authentic empty bottles. His trial has not even been to court and already Robert Parker, Wine searcher, Decanter, wine spectator, and yourself are already espousing a device that in reality makes it easier to counterfeit wines. What makes you think that it would not be easy to use a similar needle to pump wine back into the bottle to be resold. Then the Con man gets the best of both worlds. He/she gets to enjoy the wine, and then gets to resell it for profit. I know this probably comes off as conspiratorial, but since I am in the fine wine market and I have had to deal with many con men fencing VERY fake wine...I have a fundamental understanding of what this device represents. Any time a fungible commodity is easily counterfeited for massive profits, the criminal mind will look to capitalize on it. I for one would not endorse this device until there is a way to preserve the integrity of the industry, or you will have to start looking for pin pricks in the top of the capsule/cork....which will make the joy of buying properly aged fine wine very tedious.

  8. Scotty - Thank you for logging in and offering this perspective. That is something I actually had considered but tossed it out as irrelevent for impact relative to counterfeiting.

    As you correctly point out, counterfeiting is becoming a far more visable issue of late. Personally, I think its been around for a long time and its the technology that is catching up making it easier to spot fakes. With wine prices what they are now, the industry is finally getting serious about taking steps to ensure the identity of high-priced wine.

    In this case, the capsule is punctured so isn't left intact. A new capsule would have to be put on a bottle. It would be obvious to someone who decided they wanted a single wine when they looked at the top. More important, the device can't work in reverse and fill a bottle with wine.

    All that said, the needle is nothing more than a standard medical needle (think its called a Whitacre needle?). Someone who wanted to remove wine and refill a bottle with something different could easily go to a medical supply store and get the needle then figure a way to inject wine into a bottle. My guess is its already been done.

    So to my point, the product here isn't the issue because it does nothing to encourage counterfeiting. I could go one step further and suggest it could be a salvation to someone who needed to determine the authenticity of a wine but didn't want to ruin the contents. From that perspective, it could have positive impact in detecting fraud.

    Thanks again for the perspective. Its a good one.

  9. I recently had a call from a lady whose boss had a bottle of 1987 Echezeaux from Faiveley that had suddenly started to leak - it had not been well preserved to put it mildly...but this device sounds perfect for this and many other bottles.

    1. That would seem like a good use.

      In my job I'll bring a wine from my own cellar to share at a business dinner. One evening I brought a 1982 Chateau Lynch Bages to dinner. When opened it smelled like a sewer. Horrible would be too kind. How I wish I had this tool back then so I knew the bottle was good before bringing it as a feature wine for the evening.

  10. I'm not sure anyone "likes" to drink day-old wine, but I'm sure it happens often. As for me, I do enjoy seeing what my wine tastes like on the 2nd day.

    1. Thanks Cono_sur. Actually second day wine can at times be better, and sometimes not so much. I was taking some editorial liberties with the term "day-old."

  11. From Dana Estep - sorry I'm unable to use any of your sign on options.
    Rob - I have to ask - how are you saving your wines to be consumed the next day or later? As I type this, I'm drinking a cab franc I opened 4 days ago and have had a glass or more each day since opened. If not as good as the first night, it's a long way from needing to be poured down the drain. I use a Vacuvin to remove whatever air it can and then put the wine (red or wine) in the refrigerator. I've found the majority of wines are readily drinkable for 3 - 4 days doing this. Not all are and I wouldn't expect a fine, older wine to last long, if at all,using this method. There are other options that I haven't tried. Some people keep a few empty split bottles around to transfer leftover wine into. I've heard of people transferring the leftover wine into a cleaned plastic soda bottle. The flexible bottle can be squeezed to force out most air and then recapped. The key with all methods is to minimize the air remaining in the container and then, most important, put the container in the fridge to store it. Admittedly, there is some inconvenience with needing to allow the reds to warm up.
    This topic aside, I want to say I'm a first time commenter, but a fairly long term reader. Although I have nothing to do with the wine industry beyond consuming its product, I find your posts and the resulting comments very interesting to read.

    1. Hi Dana
      Thanks for commenting! I appreciate you jumping in.

      When my wallet started getting middle-class and my pallate moved from wine with 7up, I discovered what oxidation was. My first approach to preserving was putting it in the refer. That worked for whites but not reds. They were too cold to drink.

      My evolved iteration was using those red gas cannisters and leaving the red wine on the counter. That seemed to work pretty well and a wine would keep for maybe 3 days.

      What's different about this product is additional freedoms it presents. I probably won't change anything with a wine I'll drink within a day or two. This though gives me the ability to have a white wine to start if I'm in the mood, and follow with a red or two different reds and not degrade the wine that I accessed. While nobody yet knows how long this product will preserve a wine, its at least past 7 months because that test has been done. In theory the wine could be preserved for years. We don't know because the product's too new.

      Other uses for me would be the ability to have some fun with friends and blind taste samples or try and identify wines. I can use it to help me define a newer wine-drinkers pallate by serving several different wines to see what they like. I can feel OK about tapping a collectable wine for a glass by myself. I could go on but you get the point.

      Don't be a stranger to the forum. Keep offering your thoughts!

  12. Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine professional)August 11, 2013 at 4:44 AM


    To your comment . . .

    "Personally, I hate oxidized wine but there's a dilemma. Do I drink a really nice bottle with dinner and have some left that might not be consumed? Or, do I drink a lesser bottle and not be as concerned if I have to dump it? Of course I can just drink the whole bottle, but the calorie thing is becoming a real problem these days .... "

    . . . some observations.

    Back in the days of the ancient Greeks, who stored their wines in clay urns, oxidation was a problem. They purportedly addressed that issue two ways: by covering the urns with clay "caps"; and adding rocks to the urn to raise the fluid level to meet the clay cap.

    In the mid-to-late 1980s, Los Angeles Times wine columnist Dan Berger (or perhaps it was the late Nathan Chroman or the late Robert Balzer) introduced the newspaper's readers to a British practice: sterilizing glass marbles and dropping them into opened wine bottles to similarly raise the fluid level to the re-inserted cork.

    The 1990s introduced wine enthusiasts to nitrogen or carbon dioxide gas canisters to "top off" opened bottles of wine.

    The 2000s introduced wine enthusiasts to argon gas as an opened wine bottle preservative.

    But I have a simple, near-zero cost solution to dealing with an open bottle of wine.

    I suspect that most readers of your wine blog have joined the bandwagon for domestic or European spring or mineral water -- offered in single serving size six-packs.

    Those glass or food grade plastic bottles have screw tops not dissimilar to wine bottles.

    Take the remnants of your opened bottle of wine and transfer it to empty single serving size water bottles. Pour the fluid line up to the screw top closure. (For peace of mind, spray in argon or nitrogen or carbon dioxide for good measure.)

    Viola! A re-sealed petite bottle of wine with no air gap leading to oxidation. Store it in your kitchen refrigerator or temperature-controlled wine cellar as an added protection.

    ~~ Bob

    1. Bob -
      Thanks for the thoughful insights. I didn't know about some of the "back in the day" solutions. That makes sense and one would think marbles for instance ought to have the same preserative ability as many of the current devices out there. This one has a distinctly different advantage in leaving wine in pristine shape for months or years, but the other suggestions and the history lesson is appreciated.

  13. Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine professional)August 12, 2013 at 10:40 PM



    From The Wall Street Journal
    (April 27, 1998, Section and Page Unknown):

    “Breakthrough! Pulmonary Doctor Discovers Key to Wine Breathing”

    [Link: not available]

    By Ron Winslow
    Staff Reporter

    At his day job, Nirmal B. Charan is a pulmonologist in Boise, Idaho, who treats patients with such chronic lung ailments as emphysema. But a recent dinner with a cardiologist colleague from Milan led to an international experiment to investigate breathing problems of a different sort.

    When Dr. Charan suggested a bottle of Idaho wine, his guest, Pier Giuseppe Agostoni, who has wine makers in his family, advised him to uncork the wine well before serving it to let it breathe and enhance its flavor. Dr. Charan replied that wine sitting in a bottle can't breathe.

    To settle the argument, the two physicians purchased five bottles of inexpensive cabernet sauvignon the next day and took them to Dr. Charan's lab at the VA Medical Center in Boise, where he's chief of pulmonary and critical-care medicine. Piercing the corks of each bottle with a needle, the doctors withdrew small samples of each and measured the oxygen pressure in an instrument known as an arterial blood gas analyzer. The pressure in the corked bottle measured 30 millimeters of mercury, Dr. Charan says. That compares with 90 millimeters in well-oxygenated blood.

    The men then opened the bottles and repeated the tests at two-, four-, six- and 24-hour intervals. "It doubled to 61, but it took 24 hours, as opposed to when we just swirled the wine in a glass," Dr. Charan says. For that part of the experiment, the pressure leaped to 150 as the doctors swirled the wine for just two minutes. "We became pretty good at swirling," says Dr. Charan, who is presenting the findings Monday at a meeting of the American Lung Association/American Thoracic Society in Chicago.

    Meantime, Dr. Agostoni, with proof that the bottleneck hindered good breathing, carried the experiment one step further. After returning to Milan, he invited 35 wine drinkers to a party to determine whether they could tell the difference between wine that breathed and wine that didn't. Dr. Agostoni first asked his guests to taste wines fully aware of which had been swirled and which hadn't. Only two were so palate-challenged that they couldn't tell the difference.

    When the remaining 33 guests were then blinded as to whether their samples had breathed or not, 32 correctly identified the samples that had higher oxygen levels and found swirled wine tasted much better than wine drunk immediately after it was corked and poured. Says Dr. Charan: "Just like blood, oxygenated wine is better than nonoxygenated wine."

    ~~ BOB

  14. Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine professional)August 12, 2013 at 10:43 PM



    Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times “Food” Section
    (May 6, 2009, Page E1ff):

    “Call It Aroma Therapy for Wine”



    By W. Blake Gray
    Special to The Times

    Air is one of the most talked about but most misunderstood elements in wine.

    We say a wine needs to “breathe” as if it just needs a few minutes to freshen itself up, releasing its seductive perfume. In fact, most wines have been waiting years just to cast off a little gas.

    In the end, the result is the same: To be appreciated, a wine needs to smell its best. To do that, it needs more air, faster, than you might think -- but not for the reasons you might have heard.

    . . .

    "The word 'closed' does not have a physical meaning for sensory testing," says Andrew Waterhouse, chairman of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis.

    Further, Waterhouse says the implication that a "closed" wine is missing something is a misdiagnosis. In fact, rather than withholding scents, the wine is actually giving you something extra: sulfur compounds that are potent enough even in tiny amounts to cover up the fresh fruit aromas you want to smell.

    Sulfur occurs naturally in both grapes and the yeasts that turn grapes into wine. Sulfur forms more than 100 compounds called mercaptans. These sulfuric compounds form differently and unpredictably in every bottle of wine.

    When exposed to air, they eventually re-form into something less annoying, but they need a few minutes to do so. We call it "breathing," but it's really a seething sea of recombining elements.

    "I think of wine as a tier of about 100 different compounds that are either taking on oxygen or passing it on to something else," says Kenneth Fugelsang, associate professor of enology at Cal State Fresno. "When that process is finished, the wine is ready to drink."

    Even if you don't smell rotting cabbage, asparagus or burnt rubber -- some of mercaptan's more noxious calling cards -- sulfur compounds are still what keep you from fully enjoying wine right away.

    "These reductive compounds are excellent masking agents," Fugelsang says. "They can hide the positive characteristics of any wine."

    . . .

    ~~ BOB

  15. Nice blog and all information about the Coravin wine product it's really good.
    Coravin wine product


Please sign into the community to post. Common-sense guidelines apply: Disagree with author but offer your own thoughts. Disagree with other posters but please attack the post versus the person.

Flaming, spamming, off-topic posts, advertising and offensive posts that would not be suitable for work will probably be deleted. Drunken posts will be forwarded to your mother.