By Ryan Sutton
Food Critic, Bloomberg News
This week in my Bloomberg News review I award two stars to Costata, the new steakhouse by chef Michael White & Ahmass Fakahany. The steaks are decent but the wine list is superb, with a particularly deep by-the-glass selection; there are over fifty pours ranging from $11 to $145.
That list is made possible by a neat little piece of science equipment called the Coravin. It costs $300 and it lets restaurants pour glasses of wine from bottles without actually opening them.
Costata, along with Del Posto, was one of the few restaurants that got a chance to test drive the Coravin before it debuted to the public this summer, and Del Posto’s Jeff Porter gave a thoughtful interview to Eater’s Levi Dalton explaining why the device is so revolutionary. Briefly: The Coravin uses a surgical needle of sorts to allow the diner to access a glass of wine from a given bottle without buying the full bottle. In turn, the restaurant doesn’t have to sell the rest of the bottle by the glass that night because the bottle technically hasn’t been opened or exposed to oxidation.
Here’s how a spokesperson for AltaMarea Group described the importance of the device: “Coravin is growing and off the charts, allowing clients to have a memorable glass with crudo without ordering a whole bottle of white and be able to get that elusive final glass of wine with your steak when you have drops left in the bottle. It is a customer win win.”
I asked AltaMarea Beverage Director Hristo Zisovski about whether it also might allow big-spenders to access not just the official “wines by the coravin” but any high-end bottle of wine, an important question in our somewhat modest post-Bear, post-Lehman, and post-Cru era. Here’s what he had to say about that, about how Coravin helps him manage his inventory, and about how it aids customers who want to take their wine home “in a doggy bag.”
Hristo Zisovski: The Coravin has been more popular than we expected. We’re seeing many glasses sold every night as of the first week we’ve been open. We were lucky to be 1 of 5 restaurants to test the product before it was launched in July. Marea & Ai Fiori started with it this month and our upcoming Ristorante Morini will also offer it later this year.
The device is great because if offers a fantastic bottle of wine to a guest in portion sizes instead of having to commit to the entire bottle. It’s like adding one more layer of depth to someone looking at half bottles on a wine list to find a more premium option over standard wines by the glass.
Here’s why our guests like using Coravin:
When ordering a premium bottle, they have an option of finding another glass to start or finish their meal with of equal caliber.
They can choose to take a partial bottle home. From my experience, a pierced bottle of wine under Coravin can stay fresh for almost a year. If a guest wants to continue with another bottle of the same wine but doesn’t need an entire bottle, she can still purchase the bottle off our list and use the Coravin to control how much they want to drink. Then she can take the rest of the ‘unopened bottle’ home and pop the cork of this fresh bottle at their convenience. There are many combinations in which you can offer this service as well; say, one person wants “this” bottle of white & the other person want “that” bottle of red. We can offer to use Coravin for them to take what they don’t drink back home with them.
It also helps move through cellar inventory faster so we can keep the inventory moving and fresh on the list. As far as opening up wines we wouldn’t normally open, absolutely. With such a premium option, it’s important for the guest to recognize the wines priced on the higher end (Sassicaia, Marcassin, Lynch Bages) but then we can have fun on the more entry-level Coravin pours to introduce guests to things we feel would round off our half bottle selections as an option. It’s wonderful to have the ability to get something new in a guest’s glass that they wouldn’t normally think of as a glass wine. When I put this list together, I basically put together a list of greatest hits that I & my sommeliers want to drink.