Is the Coravin the key to the virtual tasting paradigm? An interview with Coravin inventor Greg Lambrecht.

One of the most interesting anecdotes that Coravin inventor Greg Lambrecht (above) shared when we spoke early this month was about a group of six sommeliers preparing for their exams.

Each of them had purchased a mixed case of wines from a region or appellation they needed to cover in their studies. Using a Coravin, each member of the group “accessed,” as Greg put it, one glass of wine from each bottle. They then traded the mixed case with one of their colleagues who, in turn, traded their case with the next member.

Once the process was complete, they had each tasted through all the wines. But along the way, each of them had only absorbed the cost of a single mixed case. Their creative resource sharing had saved these up-and-coming wine professionals the cost of five mixed cases while still allowing them to taste and make notes on wines from six different appellations/regions.

Brilliant, right?

That story didn’t make it into the interview with Greg that we published today on the Boulder Burgundy Festival blog (Coravin is the 2020 festival’s title sponsor; I’m the gathering’s in-house blogger).

But it led to my own εὕρηκα moment: the Coravin is going to be key to the new virtual tasting paradigm.

Currently, I lead between 1-3 virtual tastings for consumers every week. And I was also a co-organizer of a virtual trade tasting last month that included more than 40 professional tasters (wine buyers and restaurant and wine shop workers) across the state of Texas.

One of the biggest problems that virtual tasting organizers face is how to get the wines to the tasters. Some restaurants, for example, are repackaging wines by unsealing them and pouring them into smaller containers. But this is a wholly unacceptable solution for winemakers who rightly hold that this compromises the integrity of the wine. That’s one of the reasons that in-person trade tastings have been the paradigm for a generation of wine professionals (the other is the schmooze factor).

Even though the cost of an individual bottle of wine is relatively low (all things considered), it’s extremely challenging to get sealed bottles of wines to everyone who needs them for a virtual event. We were faced with this fulfillment issue when we needed to get wines to tasters in Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio for a two-day tasting event. It was a Herculean task, riddled with problems, to say the least.

But chatting with Greg, it occurred to me: what if a mixed case and a Coravin were delivered to each taster? If that were the case (no pun intended), they could access one glass from each bottle as they connected with wine growers via Zoom et alia and then organizer could then pick up the wines and deliver them to the next taster.

And what if a tasting event were dilated to span multiple days (instead of just two) or even weeks? As proud as I am of the work we did on the massive trade tasting we did here in Texas, time worked against us. I realize now that we were too focused on emulating the classic in-person event model. By extending the virtual event time, we also would have had fewer scheduling problems. And the winemakers and tasters could have coordinated their virtual meetings not following a rigid schedule but rather using a timetable more convenient and expedient for all.

Invention is the parent of necessity, n’est-ce pas? Or is it the other way around? I believe that the Coravin holds the key to the future of virtual and even consumer tastings.

Check out the interview with Greg here. It was a genuine thrill for me to get to speak with him. “It’s the variety that makes Coravin,” he told me, “the opening of the potential variety, that makes Coravin what it is.”

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