Magical Bottle Opener Can Pour Wine Without Popping the Cork

There are plenty of ways to open a nice bottle of wine, but they all involve the avoidable decision to finish the bottle (or risk the weird-tasting leftovers). We can do better than this, people. A new opener from Coravin aimed at connoisseurs lets you drink one glass at a time, by performing what amounts to a surgical procedure on your bottle.

Coravin’s Wine Access System 1000, which launched today, sounds a little like magic at first glance. The device is a lot like a standard opener, except that the traditional corkscrew has been replaced with a thin, hollow needle. When you push it into the cork, it releases a dose of argon inside the bottle’s chamber. That pressurizes the contents to the point where the wine is forced up into the needle and out of the spout—meaning that there’s no chance air will weasel its way inside. (It's the same method, essentially, that scientists use when drilling into a body of water they don't want to contaminate.) When you’re done, the cork springs back into place.

The science behind the system is a simple matter of preventing the inevitable chemical reaction between wine and oxygen. When you pop the cork on a bottle, the wine tannins inside the bottle begin to interact with the oxygen in a process called oxidation, or “flattening.” The process produces hydrogen peroxide, which ends up turning the wine’s ethanol into acetaldehyde—the chemical that ages the wine (and causes hangovers). A little oxidation is good—which is why some wines need to “breathe” for a few minutes—but wait too long, for some bottles, and the acetaldehyde will mask the subtleties of the stuff.

It seems like a lot of effort for some fermented grapes, but Coravin's opener is solving a problem that’s partially responsible for making wine culture a rarefied hobby of the wealthy: That most of us can’t afford to open an interesting bottle unless there’s cause for celebration. And for bars and restaurants that can’t afford to offer nicer bottles when they can’t rely on demand, this device could free them up to push the envelope a bit.

The Coravin opener goes for $300, but if you’re among the minority of folks who are spending cash on wine that’s this sensitive to air, you can afford it. Plus, think of all the hangovers you’re going to avoid. [Coravin via CNET]