The SOMM Journal

May 2014

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Page 100 of 107

{ }  101 The solution to minibar's Coravin conundrum is precise and scientific, and also provides a bit of a show for guests. The bottle is brought tableside, along with the Coravin, and a small digital scale (Paya points out that water and wine weigh approximately the same per unit measure). After determining the tare weight of the empty glass, the Coravin is inserted into the cork, and the ordered amount of wine is poured. "It's eye-catching, and guests can see they are getting exactly what they ordered." Because the tool dispenses wine slowly through a needle-like tube, there are inevitable splashes on the inside of the glass; but after a quick swirl by a deft server or sommelier, the glass is clean and ready to be sipped. The stemware used for Coravin wines was specifically chosen to reinforce its lightness when glasses are empty and placed on the scale. Minibar uses Bordeaux and Burgundy glasses from Zalto, which cost $45 a stem but have incredibly thin stems and rims. Paya points out all the various styles and sizes of glassware used in restaurants and bars makes it difficult for guests to ascertain whether they are getting the portion size for which they paying, but using a scale in tandem with the Coravin has proven to be incredibly accurate. He challenges wine professionals to find a better way. (On his wish list, though, is a scale that calculates the price per pour, similar to a digital produce scale, which would make bill calculations a tad faster.) Minibar guests who select the José Experience, a $200 selection of beverages to accompany the $250 prix fixe dinner, may sip several Coravin-delivered wines during the 25+ courses. The last wine served at the end of the evening is always one from the Coravin menu, and for this one, staff eschews the scale. "It's important that guests feel special, and weighing the wine on the scale would take away from their experience." Paya and staff have been known to create Coravin pairings on-the-fly for diners, who cherry-pick the wines they wish to drink with their minibar experience. For those next door at barmini, as well as minibar patrons who wish to add on to their beverage experience, the Coravin system allows guests to order a taste, a half glass, a glass or whatever increment they desire. Before Coravin, minibar's and barmini's by-the-glass wines used to top out around $20. Now, guests can opt for a $120 glass of 2002 Vega Sicilia, or a $120 half-glass of 1996 Harlan Estate. Beyond its obvious appeal for enophiles, Paya is quick to point out the Coravin's other benefits. Restaurants can move wines that had been previously stuck in their cellars, and distributors and importers can offer samples of high-end wines to wine directors for consider- ation on their lists. Before the Coravin, he would have to either wait for twice-yearly distributor tastings, or buy wines based on reputation alone—a big gamble for pricy bottles. He does admit, however, that the technology has a few minor draw- backs and challenges. It cannot be used with sparkling wine closures, with screw caps or with synthetic corks, and it only works with natural corks that are in good condition. And to lessen the possibility of sedi- ment clogging the tube, staff sets older bottles upright before opening and serving. Overall, Paya is overwhelming sold on the system, and its implica- tions for minibar's concept and the wine industry in general. "Coravin opened a very promising horizon for high-end wines," he says. "More guests are spending money on smaller portions of better wines." Using the Coravin allows Paya to pour 50 milliliters with precision — and without opening the bottle. At Washington D.C.'s minibar, 30 ml. pricing is offered alongside the traditional 750. Somm Journal June/July.indd 101 5/9/14 12:13 PM

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