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This week we had the privilege of having a Q&A and casual lunch with Greg Lambrecht, the inventor of the wine preservation gadget called Coravin that I blogged about last December. Since I have been using this device in the NYC market almost daily, I thought what else is there to know? Turns out quite a bit.  IMG_2221

The story of its development is fascinating. Before inventing the Coravin, he invented lots of medical devices, such as better, more comfortable ways to administer chemotherapy to patients (and not surprisingly, many of these medical devices had needles). When his wife became pregnant with their second child, he needed a way to tap into his wine without committing to the consumption of an entire bottle. The approach in developing this wine saving device was truly scientific as well, with lots of trial and error. Nitrogen was apparently a runner up to argon, but at the five year mark of tasting control samples, the wines under nitrogen didn’t hold up. Under argon? No detectable difference between a new and ‘accessed’ bottle.

Our office wine room is littered with Coravin’d bottles that did not, in fact, stand the test of time. It was necessary to sample any bottle before taking it out (the latest turned bottle was a Dupont Tissanderot Mazis-Chambertin 1996, sigh). So here are some tips for how to have this NOT happen:IMG_2224

  • First, it is essential to clear the needle of air and/or wine before EVERY use, otherwise you are introducing oxygen to that bottle. You can watch a demonstration here.
  • Second, throw away the yellow needle and spout protectors. Keeping them on creates the perfect environment for microbial spoilage, which can also be transferred to the wine resulting in a slow death.

Lastly, besides Greg being so absolutely likable, there is still a lot of excitement about the Coravin and the product is about to go international. I even had a few of my buyers attend this seminar and they got to play with it first hand. Greg does admit that in his years of developing the product, he never even considered that his biggest supporters would be in wine distribution.

Sarah Ford, Beverage Director at Aquavit, tests out the Coravin.

Sarah Ford, Beverage Director at Aquavit, tests out the Coravin.

We all know the basic four when it comes to tasting: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. In fact, these four have been the unchallenged quartet since the days of Aristotle and Plato.

To this pantheon has now been added Umami (introduced in the 19th century), which is now generally accepted as the ‘fifth’ taste. Umami can most simply be described as savory, and is often encountered in the world of tasting saké. (Check out the Umami Information Center to learn more).

It is apparently MUCH more complicated than this, however. An article in today’s New York Times now suggests there may be way more than five, for example: “fattiness, soapiness and metallic”. Scientists now not only recognize additional receptors on the palate previously unknown, but also that there may be additional receptors in the intestine. Moreover, the majority of these taste receptors are operating on an unconscious level. This has helped us steer clear of poisonous foods as well as to recognize what is nutritious. Based on these tastes, we are either “thrilled or repulsed”.

It’s a fascinating topic, and humbling to know how little we understand about taste. And now off to breakfast!