A journal, inspired by my love for my daughter, that embraces quality food, service and experiences which make life worth living. In the words of Tennyson's Ulysses, " I cannot rest from travel. I will drink life to the lees." Seeking that incredible dining or hotel experience and writing about it. Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Coravin Wine Technology debuts in Abu Dhabi - Amici, Yas Viceroy Hotel, Abu Dhabi
The last few years have seen some watershed moments in F&B in Abu Dhabi - the opening of Zuma and Asia de Cuba, the opening too of Bentley, the first licensed mall restaurant, the food trucks coming to the capital and the continued success of Gourmet Abu Dhabi. You can just add another to that list - Yas Viceroy Hotel's use of the Coravin Wine System. The setting to experience this fabulous piece of technology could not be more appropriate than the hotel's Italian restaurant, Amici.
What is this system?
Without getting into the science of it and bombarding you with technical jargon, this technology allows you to open a bottle of wine and enjoy it over time as if you had never ever opened it. A needle penetrates the cork, while argon gas is released into the bottle of wine, ensuring that no oxidation takes place. It is the oxidation which usually ruins the wine for storage. The pressure created by the gas allows the wine to be poured out through that tiny medical-like needle. Magically, as you remove the needle, the cork naturally closes. That cork is good for another 100 insertions, something that will never happen. It is full proof. A visit to Coravin's website takes you through the process.
This is going to change the dining experience for guests on two levels. Imagine that 1998 Château Margaux, 1er. Cru Classé that you received as a gift. You really would like a taste of it, but you are not ready to finish it. Go along to Amici, have dinner and have them use the Coravin on your wine. Beautiful food and a glass of that wine that you have romanticised. At the end of the evening, you have had the experience, you have the memory and still 3/4 of your bottle left. In tact. Unspoiled.
Then there is another guest, like me, who has had his eye eye on a 600AED Meerlust Rubicon. He has heard so much about this wine, but really does not fancy spending that on one bottle of wine and enjoying it alone. The Coravin system means he can have a glass of this amazing wine for 96AED! The possibilities are almost endless.
You might argue that there are already restaurants serving a generous number of by the glass wines. I will agree with you. The most I have seen on a winelist in Abu Dhabi is about 28. Impressive. But these are usually low risk, quick moving wines with popular appeal. They are not what you would describe as Spectator 90+ point wines.
To enjoy the Coravin experience, Speciallty Chef at Amici, Chef Angelo, has prepared a special menu. His Tuna carpaccio is classic. The simplicity of this dish immediately shows me the beauty of keeping things elementary. Readers by now know how I feel about privileging taste where flavours are subtle. Tuna is one of those ingredients where you do not want it overwhelmed.
Generous lemon flavoured olive oil in true Italian style, celeriac and semi dried tomatoes bring light contrasts of flavour to the dish. I particularly like the mild sweetness in the tomatoes to offset the black pepper. I have it with a glass of 2012 Pouilly-Fume, Ladoucette.I love the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, and that would usually be my default wine because they are very well priced. But with Coravin, I can have a glass of this gorgeous French Sauvignon Blanc. A new world opens up. Irony intended.
As I get ready for the Prawn and zucchini tortellone, I discuss a fundamental question with Marco, who has made the use of the Coravin system so simple. Would you rather have one fine glass of wine or a bottle of drinkable but ultimately forgettable wine? Something to think about, but not for him. We are in agreement.
The tortellone, like the tuna carpaccio, is very simple. The winning element on the dish is the tomato fondue. It is so good that I request a piece of focaccia bread to clean my plate. I like the balance between the puréed tomatoes and the live, chunky pieces. My wine meantime, a 2011 Capanelle Chardonnay Toscana shows again the value of Coravin. This is a wine that would other wise seldom be enjoyed by guests because the price of a bottle might be too rich for a simple night out.
My waiter for the night continues to show me just how simple the technology really is. I watch him as he almost effortlessly pours the magnificent 50&50 Capanelle/Avignonesi Toscana, 2010. The key is with the first opening to get the gas in as slowly possible as the bottle is still full. Clearly well trained to do this, Marco an Italian native seems to be in his element.
While the Capanelle showed possibilities of having that fine medium priced wine by the glass, the 50&50 makes those special occasions more special. The wine, perfect for long ageing, can be enjoyed at various stages of its ageing. It is now possible to have a glass now and another three years later. On the night, I have the pleasure of having it with Chef Angelo's Angus beef medallion. The latter is beautifully cooked, with just the right level of pink inside. The bed of celeriac purée it lies on is delicately flavoursome and with a smooth consistency.
Finally, a fitting end to a glorious evening of fine wines is brought about by having one of South Africa's great exports, the 2005 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance. The accompanying dessert, Traditional Sicilian cannoli with the puffiest pastry I have had in a cannoli. As for the wine, well, it has always been my favourite dessert wine, and with Coravin being used, I can see more dessert wines being offered to guests. Gone are the days when coffee is the default drink to accompany dessert. Exciting.
I wonder if I would be accused of overstating and hyperbole in asserting that the Coravin System will really change the dining experience for guests who enjoy their wine. I can see guests more inclined in the future to have a glass of wine with their meal and will no longer be deterred by the hefty prices that are often charged for full bottles. They can now have a glass. The truth is wine in Abu Dhabi is very expensive compared to other cities, but Coravin will go a long way to cushioning that through giving the guest a chance to have a good wine by the glass. No, I am not overstating. The revolution has started at the Yas Viceroy Hotel.