Coravin wine access technology enables operators to offer patrons by-the-glass options of rare and high-end wines that previously could only be enjoyed by the bottle. Minibar in Washington, D.C., has taken the concept one step further: Guests at the 12-seat molecular gastronomy restaurant run by José Andrés (as well as at the adjacent cocktail den Barmini) can order any amount of a wine available via Coravin, from 30 ml. to 750 ml.
“We don’t limit our guests to the standard half or full glass offering,” explains Lucas Paya, wine director for the 16 worldwide concepts of Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup. Akin to a caviar menu, the 35 wines on the Coravin menu are priced by the milliliter, from 12 cents a ml. for the 2008 Rudi Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd from Austria, all the way up to $4/ml. for the 1947 Château d’Yquem Sauternes. Minibar offers helpful conversion chart to remind guests that 30 ml. is the common size for a taste of wine, while a glass is equivalent to 150 ml.
Launched about a year ago, Coravin technology allows users to pour and enjoy wine without pulling the cork. The system accesses the wine with a thin, hollow needle that passes through the foil and cork. Then the bottle is pressurized with argon, which pushes the wine through the needle so that it flows into the glass without letting any oxygen in the bottle. Once the needle is removed, the company says, the cork naturally reseals itself, and the rest of the wine continues to evolve naturally.
Minibar pours the Coravin-accessed wines tableside, and a digital scale assures guests are getting every last drop they ordered. Guests are accustomed to tiny tastes, as the restaurant’s $250 per person prix-fixe dinner includes at least 25 courses. With the Coravin program, they can now sample small sips as well. “With wines that may be so exclusive, we wanted our guests to be able to further adjust their demands, and we encourage them to order as much as they feel like,” says Paya.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Coravin on June 2 issued a safety notice because the company has received seven reports of bottles bursting when wine is extracted via the Coravin system, including one incident involving a laceration. Coravin has stopped selling and shipping its wine systems until it can implement an approved corrective action plan; it hopes the issues will be resolved within the next month.