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A drink with… Greg Lambrecht

Greg Lambrecht is the inventor of the Coravin wine preservation system, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Its latest model, Coravin Vinitas, launched in May. He talks to Julie Sheppard about California Cab, the principle of science and why he loves inventing things.

With degrees in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering from MIT, Lambrecht began his career in the medical technologies sector, designing medical devices that help thousands of people worldwide. He is also executive director of Intrinsic Therapeutics, focused on helping patients with spinal disorders. 

‘I was 16 years old. I had a beard. My friend said, we’re gonna bring you up to Napa Valley, and you’re gonna walk in, you’re gonna convince them we’re all 21… So we went to Peju Winery, which makes beautiful California Cab; classic. It was his first vintage. He was psyched to see me and he pours me my first glass of wine. And I fell in love with it completely. I still remember how it tastes.’

‘I developed Coravin for myself. For the first 10 years, I had no idea that it was a thing that other people wanted. I just used it in my own home… Coravin has been a process of uncovering how passionate people are about wine. It’s not just me!’

‘I did nuclear physics first and then biomedical engineering as a graduate. My grandfather was a designer of one of the first jet engines… the skin of aeroplanes… and then the very first radar guided missile. So he was a weapons designer. I was in his home in Southern California and he said: “You should work in energy or medicine. We’ll never have enough of either. We have enough weapons.” It was an excellent piece of advice.’

‘As a doctor, you affect every person you treat. As a medical device designer, you affect everyone that it’s used on, so I could affect 100,000 people, or half a million people, and so I went into medicine when I was 23. I developed a catheter for Johnson & Johnson and then a chemotherapy delivery system for Pfizer. Which is where Coravin came from.’

‘What I really wanted to do was change the behaviour and basically say Champagne is for every day. Iconic wine is for everyday. It’s maybe not worth the entire bottle but it’s certainly worth a glass or a half glass. Why not on a Wednesday? Break this inhibition.’

‘A lot of people receive Coravin as a gift. They have no idea what it’s for and they’re thinking that it’s a wine preservation device. I would use it to preserve a bottle of wine that I will finish over the next day or two and extend it to maybe a week. They don’t understand the true value of what Coravin does; which is four different wines on a Tuesday. Then a different four different wines for your spouse. And a different four wines the next day. ’

‘One of the greatnesses of wine – and one of the reasons it has been with us for 8,000 years is its variety. I just had my first Ukrainian wine – an orange qvevri wine – and it was spectacular.’

‘I have 800 different wines in my home by the glass. I have the largest wine by the glass programme in the United States. In my house!’

‘I love Northern Rhône wines. They never ever, ever taste like a grape was involved. They taste like pepper for the first five years. Then they turn into this foresty, wonderful thing and then they turn into blood, meat and bacon.’

‘I’m a Latin geek; I studied five years of Latin. Cor is the Latin word for heart. So getting at the heart of wine is what “Coravin” means.’

‘I have six to 12 different sparkling wines open at any given time. The first glass I have when I come home is a glass of sparkling wine. And so I have English sparkling, Tasmanian sparkling and I have Champagne and the odd Cava, Franciacorta, Prosecco… So there’s all this exploration, I’m always learning.’

‘I love running and cycling. I’m a solo sports guy. Running calms my mind… my mind moves too much and so I find when I’m exercising, I can only think about one thing. So all of my inventions have happened while running or biking – or in a middle seat in economy on the way back from Australia… 23 hours of solitary confinement is where I invent things!’

‘I always have Riesling and Grüner in my house… And then white Burgundy is just transcendent. Chardonnay is grown everywhere by everybody. But there’s something about white Burgundy that is otherworldly. And unfortunately everybody else knows, so it’s super expensive, hard to get hold of…’

‘I fix everything. Nothing is truly broken until I’m done with it. I’ve invented medical therapies in cardiac surgery, cardiology, OB-GYN, urology, orthopaedic trauma, hip and knee replacements, fracture fixation, spine, cancer. Don’t tell anybody but I would do it for free. Because it’s what I love.’

‘I love the principle of science; that it is a path to the truth. And I think it’s the most efficient path to the truth. Otherwise, you’re stuck with hearsay, and folklore, and tradition. Those are all wonderful. But they’re not necessarily the way to solve a problem.’

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