Story by Manos Angelakis
Bottle and label photos courtesy of the producers

Coravin model 2

Coravin Model 2

I recently acquired an item that will become an indispensable tool.

The Coravin Model 2 is a device that will allow me to sample wines,  especially red wines, without having to open a bottle. That means that I can check a wine repeatedly, as it is aging.

I happen to like well aged red wines. There are a few red wines that are  better when young; but in general, if a wine is allowed to age in a  cool, dark cellar it becomes better overall, as the flavors gets better  integrated and the tannins subside.

Up to now, I would have to acquire a number of bottles; sometimes an  entire case of a wine I want to age. When you don’t have large cellar  space -- I live in a condo apartment -- you end up with too many boxes  and bottles and too little space to store them.

The way the Coravin works is that you insert a long needle through the  cork, you inject a neutral gas in the bottle, and you get a small amount of wine, about 1/3 to 1/2 glass. When the needle is withdrawn the cork  closes behind it; the inert gas prevents oxidation as no air is allowed  to enter the bottle, and you can re-taste the wine if you wish at a  later date. You can taste what’s in a bottle numerous times without  having to finish the bottle once you open it. This way, good wine does  not go to waste (but my wife will probably be upset because we use a lot of the wines I taste in our kitchen).

I used the Coravin to sample a number of wines that were sent to me from  both famous producers, like Chateau Montelena Estate in California and  Donnafugata in Sicily, and not-as-well-known producers like Ravage also  from California and Bodegas Emilio Moro from Sanchomartin and  Valderramiro in Spain.

The Coravin  can also be used in screw-capped wines as you can get plastic screw-caps with a membrane that can be punctured by the needle. The original metal screw-cap gets removed and the plastic, membrane-topped-cap gets  installed. It will only keep wines from oxidizing for 3 months and that  is enough time to allow a screw-capped bottle to be drunk slowly.  Anyway, screw-capped bottles are supposed to be consumed within a year  or less from bottling, because the modern screw-cap is only used for  wines that have short lives. That’s why mostly whites and rosés are screw-capped. Red wines that need aging are still capped with cork because cork allows for micro-oxidation that smooths the wine and tames the tannins. 

Chateau Montelena Label

The 2013 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a remarkable Napa Valley wine. Of course, Chateau Montelena is well  known to the public for their Chardonnay, one of the two California  wines that surpassed French grand cru bottles in the 1976 Judgment of  Paris -- a blind tasting by numerous French wine writers and critics,  where an English wine importer pitted Grand Cru wines from Bordeaux  chateaus against wines from American wineries, and 2 American wines -- a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap and a Chardonnay from Chateau  Montelena -- were deemed better and garnered more overall points than the  equivalent  Grand Crus!

The Montelena “Cabernet Sauvignon”€ is actually a blend of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon,  1.5% Cabernet Franc and 1.5% Petit Verdot; clean and fresh with a long  finish featuring rounded tannins and dominant fruit. I would rate it at  95/100 points. The mid-palate offers a considerable predominance of  black fruit, strawberries, cedar and espresso coffee. Very drinkable  indeed and will only improve with time. 

Ravage Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

2015 Ravage, is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Zinfandel, 3%  Syrah and 1% other reds. It is a pleasant wine, though not as clean or as long as the Montelena Cabernet. Dark berries predominate on the palate  with hints of vanilla, cigar-box and mocha. It is well structured, with  rather soft tannins. Has a little less alcohol (13.5%) than the  Montelena (14.1%).

Donnafugata Sherazade Label

Donnafugata is one of the best Sicilian wine producers. In the US it is better known for whites, but some of the reds they produce are also very well received. Sherazade, is made from the Sicilian varietal Nero d’Avola. It is vinified in  stainless steel and sees no oak, therefore is a bit lighter and fresher, more aromatic and fruity compared to the other reds. Dazzling clean  acidity elevates this wine to levels usually only reserved for French or Chilean Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blends. Fresh black cherry fruit  and fragrant spice aromas guide the palate into hints of dark chocolate, with lush cherry and blackberry flavors. It is also considerably  inexpensive, selling in the US for under $20, depending on the region.

To your health!




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