Wine lovers of the world, rejoice! Now there are ways to preserve what’s left in the bottle before oxygen has a chance to ruin it.
As a resident of the top wine-producing state, I’m always on the lookout for innovations in the industry. Recently I discovered three — all being used in California. One is a wine dispenser that works much like a beer tap, eliminating the need for all those glass bottles. The second is a table-top or wall-mounted cooler that dispenses wine from original bottles yet preserves the wine’s quality for up to — get this — 60 days, according to one happy user. The third is a hand-held tool that taps into a fresh bottle for a pour while leaving the cork intact. You have to see it to believe it, so here’s a short video.
This is sustainable innovation at its best: improved packaging and delivery systems that reduce waste while satisfying the needs of both customers and retailers.
Wines on tap are “less to manufacture, less to ship, less to store, and no waste,” reads the menu at C Restaurant + Bar at the Clement hotel in Monterey. The taps are connected to stainless steel barrels serviced by Free Flow Wines, based in Napa Valley. Each reusable barrel holds 5.16 gallons, or 26 bottles, which in this restaurant are all California wines. The system uses inert gas to keep oxygen from spoiling the wine in the barrels. Free Flow’s business model reduces the need for bottles, corks, labels and shipping cases. The company even built a water treatment plant and recycles the water it uses to clean the containers.
Another popular wine dispenser is Enomatic, which claims on its website to be the “world’s leading brand in wine serving and preservation systems.” The company was founded in 2002 by two Italian entrepreneurs, and the products are now available in 73 countries. Enomatic’s products range from a 2-bottle unit to large customized tasting systems such as the one featured at World Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy. For 10 Euro, visitors could get three tastes from 1,400 Italian wines that lined the walls of the Vinitaly-designed pavilion. The experience was unique, and I even got to keep the glass.
A competitor of Enomatic is Napa Technology, which actually is based in Silicon Valley. Its website says Napa Technology is North America’s (not the world’s) “No. 1 brand of intelligent wine dispenser and preservation systems made in the U.S.A.” Napa’s WineStation, designed to preserve wine up to 60 days, can help restaurateurs eliminate over-pouring, theft and spoilage.
I had a chance to try it out at San Clemente Wine Company in Southern California. Owners Jeffrey and Stacey Lloyd purchased a four-bottle Napa WineStation to satisfy customers who wanted just a glass of high-end wine or a taste before making the commitment to buy a whole bottle. Jeffrey said he’s amazed at how well the system preserves the quality of wines. To prove his point, he pushed a button on the WineStation to dispense a precisely measured sample of 2012 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, generally $200 a bottle. I have to admit it was extraordinarily smooth for a wine that had been opened weeks before.
Napa Technology’s blog is quite entertaining. One post gave 10 tips on how to look smart while drinking wine. My favorite was tip No. 4: “Learn the animal scents that indicate trouble. If it smells like a dog, your wine is corked (contaminated with a chemical known as TCA). If it smells like a horse, it probably has Brett (the nickname for a problematic yeast called Brettanomyces). If it smells like a bear, this is a clear indication that there is a bear nearby. Don’t panic, maintain eye contact and back away slowly in the direction from which you came. Then return the wine.”
Although the WineStation line includes residential models, a more affordable option is Coravin. This hand-held tool uses a long ultra-thin needle to pierce the cork. As the wine is poured through a spout, argon gas is pumped into the bottle to keep oxygen out. When the needle is extracted, the cork reseals, preserving the wine “for months or even years to come,” the website says. The device only works on natural cork, not plastic. I have a $10 vacuum pump that sucks out oxygen and serves as a bottle stopper, but it only extends the life of the wine for a few days. The Coravin models cost between $300 and $400, and argon gas cartridges are $7 to $10 apiece. Still, I’m putting it on my wish list.
So what to do if your wine does go bad? Start cooking! Use wine to flavor sauces or as a marinade to tenderize meat. Cheers!