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Coravin makes a play for Asian markets

Coravin co-founder Greg Lambrecht tells Nimmi Malhotra his plans to woo the Eastern shores with the preservation system’s latest products.

Coravin makes a play for Asia markets

Coravin’s founder, Greg Lambrecht, is on an Asia-wide tour. It will be his first regional visit since the pandemic stalled all travel, and he is positively enthused by the prospect of reconnecting with his key Asian markets.

“We launched Coravin in Asia last, which meant we had very few years on the ground before the pandemic hit. It was important to come back to relaunch and reintroduce our products to Asia,” he said at the start of our conversation at Coravin’s stand at Vinexpo Hong Kong.

But as the conversation progressed, interrupted by warm hellos and handshakes from industry friends and fans, it became evident that Asia held a special significance for him. He spoke intimately of the wine culture of Shanghai, the emerging wines from Ningxia China, the early-adopter market of Hong Kong, and then Japan, a country he called home in 1991.

Fluent in Japanese, Lambrecht lived in Kobe, Japan, straight after graduating from MIT. His fluency likely influenced Japan’s powerful sommelier society to endorse Coravin early on. After that, he said, the product “took off on its own”.

In fact, Japanese sake was the inspiration behind his new product, Coravin Pivot. As Lambrecht recalls, some sake producers found him at Vinexpo Bordeaux in 2014 and took him to their stand. They told him: “This thing you made doesn’t work with our closures. Fix it.” And so he did, and invented Coravin Pivot, a product which requires the user to open the bottle and replace the original closure with the specially designed Pivot Stopper.

“Pivot is universal,” he explained. “It works with sake but also Sherries, Ports, whiskies, Tequila. I did a blind tasting across Tokyo and Osaka with sake (under Coravin), and the results were great. I’ve tested Pivot on Junmai daiginjo (the highest quality level of sake) for six months and not even the winemaker could tell the difference.”

Coravin makes a play for Asia markets

Back in Hong Kong, Lambrecht hosted the wine trade at a special launch at the Soho Club ahead of Vinexpo, serving Rathfinny Estate’s Classic Cuvee 2018 from Sussex, England under Coravin Sparkling. Relaunching the Pivot, Lambrecht regaled his audience with the stories of needle evolution from the standard black needle to the silver vintage needle and finally the Fast Pour needle which pours much faster than the rest.

As Lambretch traverses Korea and Japan, engaging with trade partners and enthusiasts, he acknowledges the regulatory complexities surrounding compressed gas are a persistent challenge across diverse Asian markets.

“Compressed gas is considered hazardous goods in every country,” he said, explaining that while in Europe, the laws are consistent across all countries, the rules differ across Asian nations. For instance, Japan allows argon gas, but Korea doesn’t (Coravin cylinders in Korea contain nitrogen).

China, which was its 5th largest market pre-pandemic, collapsed during Covid. Finding the way back isn’t easy, as the government has changed some key rules around compressed gas. Coravin is working on reintroducing its product to the market soon.

In the current economic climate, Coravin can help the embattled F&B sector reduce wastage and offer consumers greater wine-by-glass choices. Who knows which conversation in Asia might lead to the next Coravin innovation. For now, the eternal inventor remains hopeful of Asia’s prospects. His mission is simple: “We want to be wherever wine is made and consumed.”

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