Title:
Cabinet for keeping bottles, in particular bottles of wine
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
This cabinet comprises an enclosure for horizontally storing unopened bottles, and electric means for refrigerating the internal volume of this enclosure. To make it easier to keep opened bottles in the cabinet, while increasing the keeping quality of these opened bottles, the cabinet comprises stoppers for aspirating opened bottles arranged vertically in the internal volume of the enclosure. These vacuum stoppers are incorporated so as to be freely movable inside the enclosure and each delimit an aspiration passageway which emerges in a sealed manner in the neck of the opened bottle and which is connected to an electric vacuum pump via a flexible circuit. In addition, this pump is controlled by a manual on/off switch, supported by the vacuum stopper, so as to be activated when the air pressure in the vacuum stopper is greater than a predetermined value, for example equal to approximately 300 millibars below atmospheric pressure.



Inventors:
Rivier, Paul (Rumilly, FR)
Serre, Didier (Lyon, FR)
Gros, Gerard (Saint Bonnet De Mure, FR)
Application Number:
12/382283
Publication Date:
09/17/2009
Filing Date:
03/12/2009
Assignee:
EUROCAVE SA (Villeurbanne, FR)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
417/44.1, 417/44.2
International Classes:
F25D23/00; F04B49/06
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
ALI, MOHAMMAD M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DOWELL & DOWELL, P.C. (ALEXANDRIA, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A cabinet for keeping bottles, in particular bottles of wine, comprising: an enclosure for horizontally storing unopened bottles, electric means for refrigerating the internal volume of the enclosure, at least one vacuum stopper for an opened bottle arranged vertically in the internal volume of the enclosure, this vacuum stopper being incorporated so as to be freely movable inside the enclosure and delimiting an aspiration passageway that is suitable for emerging in a sealed manner in the neck of the opened bottle, and which is connected to an electric vacuum pump via a circuit that is at least partly flexible, and control means for controlling the vacuum pump, which are suitable for activating the vacuum pump when the air pressure in the aspiration passageway is greater than a predetermined value and which comprise a manual on/off switch supported by the vacuum stopper.

2. The cabinet as claimed in claim 1, wherein the control means comprise a vacuostat which is sensitive to the air pressure in the aspiration passageway and which is suitable in service for switching off and reestablishing the electric supply of the vacuum pump depending on whether this air pressure is respectively below or above the predetermined value.

3. The cabinet as claimed in claim 1, wherein the circuit, which connects the aspiration passageway and the vacuum pump, and electric wires, which connect the switch and the vacuum pump, run inside the same flexible sheath arranged in a freely movable manner in the internal volume of the enclosure.

4. The cabinet as claimed in claim 1, wherein the vacuum stopper is provided with a lighting means activated by the control means so that, when the aspiration passageway emerges into the neck of the opened bottle and the switch is on, this lighting means is on and lights this opened bottle.

5. The cabinet as claimed in claim 4, wherein the lighting means is a diode.

6. The cabinet as claimed in claim 1, wherein the vacuum stopper is provided with a magnet and wherein the internal volume of the enclosure is at least partially delimited by a ferromagnetic wall.

7. The cabinet as claimed in claim 6, wherein the cabinet is internally provided with a specific support for placing vertically and in a stable manner an opened bottle to be aspirated by the vacuum stopper, this support being situated vertically beneath the ferromagnetic wall.

8. The cabinet as claimed in claim 1, wherein the vacuum stopper is provided with a magnet and wherein the internal volume of the enclosure contains a ferromagnetic element.

9. The cabinet as claimed in claim 8, wherein the cabinet is provided internally with a specific support for placing vertically and in a stable manner an opened bottle to be aspirated by the vacuum stopper, this support being situated vertically beneath the ferromagnetic element.

10. The cabinet as claimed in claim 1, wherein the enclosure comprises, in its internal volume, an accommodating housing for accommodating the vacuum stopper, suitable for fixedly holding the stopper in the absence of a bottle to be aspirated.

11. The cabinet as claimed in claim 10, wherein the cabinet is internally provided with a specific support for placing vertically and in a stable manner an opened bottle to be aspirated by the vacuum stopper, this support being situated vertically beneath the accommodating housing.

12. The cabinet as claimed in claim 1, wherein at least two vacuum stoppers are provided, situated at different respective levels in the vertical direction so that one of these two stoppers can be used to aspirate a vertical bottle, notably of white wine, situated in a bottom portion of the internal volume of the enclosure, while the other stopper can be used to aspirate another vertical bottle, notably of red wine, situated in a top portion of this internal volume, and wherein the refrigeration means are suitable for supplying a flow of cooled air which is admitted into the internal volume of the enclosure essentially, or even exclusively, in the bottom portion of this internal volume.

13. The cabinet as claimed in claim 1, wherein the refrigeration means and the vacuum pump are electrically mounted in parallel from one and the same source of electricity supply.

14. The cabinet as claimed in claim 1, wherein the refrigeration means and the pump are arranged jointly in one and the same region of the cabinet.

Description:

The present invention relates to a cabinet for keeping bottles, in particular bottles of wine.

For the purpose of keeping beverages, such as wine, it is often desirable to place these liquids at a temperature that is both positive and below the ambient temperature. Wine, whether it be white or red, is therefore tasted fully when it is kept at a temperature of between 8° and 17° C. To do this, there are refrigerated cabinets in the internally cooled enclosure of which the consumer stores bottles that are not yet opened, typically horizontally in order to optimize the quality of keeping of the wine contained in these bottles.

This solution is satisfactory so long as the bottles of wine are not opened. On the other hand, as soon as the consumer takes a bottle out of the cabinet and opens it to consume only a portion of its content, he can no longer put the opened bottle back into the cabinet, unless he takes the precaution of stoppering that bottle in an extremely secure manner in order to prevent leaks of wine once the bottle is repositioned and stored horizontally, it being furthermore noted that it is not advisable to keep an opened bottle of wine horizontally for reasons of rapid spoiling of the wine. In addition, in this case, the consumer must be careful to mark in the cabinet the bottle or bottles thus opened in order to prevent opening others without having finished the bottles opened first.

In this context, US-A-2006/090427 has proposed a refrigerated cabinet fitted with an electric vacuum pump which, in service, may be connected, via a special vacuum hose, to the opening of an opened bottle in order to aspirate it. In practice, the aforementioned vacuum pump is activated by a manual switch incorporated into a front wall of the refrigerated cabinet. The result of this is that the operation to aspirate this special hose, notably its sealed connection to the bottle, is totally separate from the operation of actuating the vacuum pump, by operating the front switch. In these conditions, the user of this refrigerated cabinet can carry out these two operations only in a successive manner, which is awkward and not very reliable.

The object of the present invention is to make the use of a refrigerated cabinet extremely easy making it possible to effectively keep opened bottles.

Accordingly, the subject of the invention is a cabinet for keeping bottles, in particular bottles of wine, comprising:

an enclosure for horizontally storing unopened bottles,

electric means for refrigerating the internal volume of the enclosure,

at least one vacuum stopper for an opened bottle arranged vertically in the internal volume of the enclosure, this vacuum stopper being incorporated so as to be freely movable inside the enclosure and delimiting an aspiration passageway that is suitable for emerging in a sealed manner in the neck of the opened bottle, and which is connected to an electric vacuum pump via a circuit that is at least partly flexible, and

control means for controlling the vacuum pump, which are suitable for activating the vacuum pump when the air pressure in the aspiration passageway is greater than a predetermined value and which comprise a manual on/off switch supported by the vacuum stopper.

The basic idea of the invention is both to provide, within the refrigerated enclosure of the cabinet, one or more vertical storage places for one or more opened bottles and, above all, to incorporate into this cabinet a function for aspirating this or these opened bottles. Specifically, by aspirating a bottle of wine that has previously been opened, that is to say deprived of its original stopper typically made of cork, the user limits contact between the wine contained in the bottle and the oxygen of the air, this contact in time spoiling the gustatory and organoleptic qualities of the wine. At the same time, according to the invention, the bottle thus aspirated is kept at a given cooled temperature, below the ambient temperature of the everyday living room in which the cabinet is installed, which makes it possible to have a bottle ready for service while the wine that it contains is at a temperature appropriate for being tasted.

The cabinet according to the invention is extremely easy to use. On the one hand, when the user wishes to store an opened bottle in this cabinet, he naturally places it vertically in the enclosure of the cabinet and then takes the or one of the vacuum stoppers and places it on the top of the neck of the bottle very easily because of the great mobility of this stopper inside the enclosure. With the same hand as was used to thus place the vacuum stopper on the bottle, he operates the switch to control the actuation of the electric vacuum pump. In other words, the vacuum stopper according to the invention may be handled in one and the same movement for stopping the neck of the bottle and for controlling the aspiration of this bottle under the effect of the vacuum pump. The user may then use his other hand, if necessary, to stabilize the bottle, without lengthening the overall time necessary for the application of the invention. On the other hand, in service, the vacuum pump incorporated into the cabinet is activated in order to assure the user that, both during the initial aspiration and later, a satisfactory level of evacuation is maintained in the top portion of the opened bottle. This activation, which may be qualified as automatic, of the vacuum pump makes it possible to readjust this level of evacuation at all times, in particular when, eventually, the seal between the vacuum stopper and the neck of the bottle diminishes to allow a slight amount of outside air into the top portion of the bottle. Advantageously, the combination of this automatic activation of the pump and the freedom of movement of the vacuum stopper causes the head to reposition itself on the neck of the bottle in order to enhance the seal of their contact, for example when the user has not rigorously centered the stopper on this neck or else has not sufficiently pushed into this neck the outlet of the aspiration passageway delimited by the stopper.

Other advantageous features of the cabinet according to the invention, taken in isolation or in all the technically possible combinations, are specified in the appended claims.

The invention will be better understood on reading the following description, given only as an example and made with reference to the drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a view in elevation of a keeping cabinet according to the invention, in which both unopened and opened bottles are stored;

FIG. 2 is a view in perspective, partially exploded in schematic manner, of the cabinet of FIG. 1;

FIGS. 3 and 4 are views in perspective, from different angles of observation, of a vacuum stopper belonging to the cabinet of FIG. 1;

FIGS. 5 and 6 are views in perspective at respective angles of observation that are identical to those of FIGS. 3 and 4, in which a portion of the vacuum stopper is not shown in order to display the inside of this stopper; and

FIG. 7 is an electric schematic diagram relating to the function of aspiration by the stopper of FIGS. 3 and 4.

FIGS. 1 and 2 represent a cabinet 1 for keeping bottles of wine. This cabinet 1 is a furniture item, typically designed to be installed in a living room of a house, such as a kitchen or a lounge.

The cabinet 1 comprises a closed outer enclosure 6, which in this instance has a generally parallelepipedal outer shape and which defines a main internal volume V6 in which the bottles of wine to be kept are stored. This volume V6 is delimited by a ceiling wall 6A and floor wall 6B of the enclosure 6, and by side walls of the enclosure including an opening door 6C which, in the open position as in-figures 1 and 2, allows the user to access the volume V6 via the front side of the cabinet 1.

Amongst the bottles of wine kept in the cabinet 1, there are bottles 2, ten in number in the exemplary embodiment considered in the figures, which are stored horizontally in the volume V6, lying on horizontal racks 8 arranged in a tiered manner in the enclosure V6, and two bottles 3 and 4, which are stored vertically and which are placed one above the other, in this instance generally in the vertical extension of one another. In the present document, it is considered that a bottle is vertical when its longitudinal direction is vertical, with its neck directed upward, while a bottle is considered horizontal when its longitudinal direction is parallel to a flat surface, typically the floor or a storage shelf, on which the enclosure 6 rests in service in a fixed manner.

The top bottle 3 rests upright on a specific horizontal support 10, in this instance generally disk-shaped, and connected rigidly to the enclosure 6, while the bottom bottle 4 rests upright on a specific horizontal support 11, situated vertically beneath the support 10 and in this instance incorporated into the floor wall 6B of the enclosure 6. The supports 10 and 11 have respective top faces shaped to stabilize the bottles 3 and 4 in the vertical position.

In order to keep the bottles 2, 3 and 4 at a substantially constant temperature, below the ambient temperature, the cabinet 1 is refrigerated, that is to say that it is fitted with electric means 12 for refrigerating the volume V6, only visible schematically in FIG. 2. These refrigeration means 12 convert electric energy, originating from a source not shown, typically the mains, via an electric cable 14, into refrigeration carried by cooled air flows admitted into the volume V6 and indicated by arrows 16 in FIG. 2.

As shown in FIG. 2, these refrigeration means 12 are arranged, at least for the main part, in a region 18 of the cabinet 1 that is situated in the bottom and on the rear side of this cabinet. The air flows 16 travel from this region 18 to the volume V6 through a slotted wall 20 partially delimiting the volume V6, so that, for reasons given below, these air flows are preferably exclusively admitted into the bottom portion of the volume V6, for example in this instance into the bottom quarter of this volume.

Advantageously, notably in order to prevent adversely affecting the relative humidity of the air in the volume V6, the refrigeration means 12 are designed so that the minimum temperature of the cooled air flows 16 that they produce is strictly above 0° C., the refrigeration means 12 therefore being cooled at positive cold refrigeration. In practice, these refrigeration means 12 are made in the form of one or more Peltier elements or else comply with the technical teachings of the French patent applications filed by the present Applicant and registered under the numbers 06 05775 and 07 59432. Naturally, other embodiments of these electric refrigeration means can be envisaged in the context of the present invention.

The cabinet 1 also comprises two stoppers 24 and 26 for aspirating respectively the bottle 3 and the bottle 4. These two stoppers 24 and 26 being identical, only the stopper 24, shown on a large scale in FIGS. 3 to 6, is described below in greater detail.

The stopper 24 comprises a hollow rigid outer shell 28, made in this instance in two portions, respectively a bottom portion 28A, shown alone in FIG. 5, and a top portion 28B shown alone in FIG. 6, these two portions 28A and 28B being assembled fixedly together, as in FIGS. 3 and 4, when the stopper 24 is in service.

The stopper 24 is furnished with a flexible skirt 30 capable of being inserted in a substantially coaxial manner into the neck of the bottle 3 in order to form a sealed contact with this neck, advantageously enhanced by sealing lips 31 which extend on the outer periphery of the skirt 30. The skirt 30 delimits internally an aspiration passageway 32, which, when this skirt is housed in the neck of the bottle 3, opens at its bottom end into this bottle neck, while its top end opens inside the shell 28, more precisely into a sealed manifold 34 (FIG. 5) in fluidic communication with the end 36A of a long flexible duct 36. In the exemplary embodiment considered here, the skirt 30 is secured to the bottom shell portion 28A, passing right through it, and this shell portion 28A supports, on its side directed toward the top shell portion 28B, the manifold 34 and the duct end 36A.

The duct 36 runs from the stopper 24 inside a flexible sheath 38 arranged so as to be able to move freely in the volume V6, up to an electric vacuum pump 40, shown in FIG. 2 partially and schematically, and in FIG. 7 symbolically.

Advantageously, notably for reasons of electrical integration and space limitation, the vacuum pump 40 is situated in the same region of arrangement 18 as the refrigeration means 12 and it is electrically supplied by the same cable 14 as these means 12. In practice, the vacuum pump 40 is for example mounted electrically in parallel with the refrigeration means 12, with possible interposition of electric transformers if necessary. Therefore, in FIG. 7, the electric connection of the pump -40 is considered between a ground line 42 and a nonzero potential line 44.

When the pump 40 is electrically supplied, it aspirates the air at the end 36B of the flexible duct 36, which progressively lowers the air pressure in the duct 36 and the aspiration passageway 32 if the skirt 30 is engaged in a sealed manner in the neck of the bottle 3.

In order to control the activation of the vacuum pump 40, that is to say to establish or interrupt its electrical supply, the supply circuit of the pump is fitted with a manual switch 46 and a vacuostat 48. As shown in FIG. 7, the pump 40, the vacuostat 48 and the switch 46 are mounted in series between the ground line 42 and the potential line 44. Physically, the vacuostat 48 is installed in the same arrangement region 18 as the pump 40 while the switch 46 is supported by the shell 28 of the stopper 24, more precisely is mounted on the top shell portion 28A, as can be clearly seen in FIGS. 3 and 6. Accordingly, electric wires, not shown, connect on the one hand the vacuum pump 40 and the vacuostat 48, arranged in the region 18, and, on the other hand, the terminals of the switch 46, that can be accessed inside the shell 28, these electric wires running inside the sheath 38.

The vacuostat 48 is sensitive to the pressure at the outlet of the vacuum pump 40, that is to say to the pressure prevailing in the duct 36 and the aspiration passageway 32, as shown schematically in FIG. 7 by a vacuum line 50 connecting the end of the duct 36B and the vacuostat 48. The circulation of the electric current through the vacuostat depends on the value of the pressure in the line 50: when the pressure in this line 50 is above a predetermined value strictly below the atmospheric pressure, in other words when the line 50 is in over-pressure relative to the aforementioned predetermined value, the vacuostat 48 is closed, that is to say that the electric current passes through it, while, when the pressure in the line 50 is below the aforementioned predetermined value, in other words when the line 50 is in under-pressure relative to this predetermined value, the vacuostat 48 is open, that is to say that it stops electricity circulating through it. In practice, the aforementioned predetermined value is chosen to be substantially equal to 300 millibars below atmospheric pressure. Other vacuum pressure values can be envisaged, when they significantly slow the deterioration of the gustatory and organoleptic qualities of the wine to be kept.

The electric supply circuit of the pump 40 is also furnished with a light-emitting diode 52, mounted in parallel with the pump 40 and with the vacuostat 48, between the switch 46 and the ground line 42. The diode 52 is supported by the stopper 24, while being housed in a through-hole of the bottom shell portion 28B so as-to illuminate the zone situated directly below the shell portion 28A.

The stopper 24 is also provided internally with a permanent magnet 54, situated against the inner face of the upper shell portion 28B, as can be seen in FIG. 6. This magnet is powerful enough to keep the stopper 24 by magnetic effect against the lower face 6A1 of the ceiling wall 6A of the enclosure 6, this wall 6A including an appropriate ferromagnetic layer, at least partially situated vertically above the support 10.

Similarly, the support 10 comprises a ferromagnetic layer with which the magnet incorporated into the vacuum stopper 26 interacts by magnetic effect in order to keep this stopper in contact with the support 10 when the shell of this stopper is pressed against the lower face 101 of the support.

The operation of the cabinet 1 is as follows.

Initially, it is considered that the cabinet 1 contains only horizontal bottles of wine 2. There is no bottle on the supports 10 and 11.

In order to keep, notably for several days, the opened bottle of wine 3, the user opens the door 6C and places the bottle 3 on the support 10. With one hand, he then picks up the vacuum stopper 24 which, until then, was kept pressed against the lower face 6A1 of the ceiling wall 6A, under the magnetic action of the magnet 54. The user easily separates the stopper 24 from the ceiling wall 6A having to overcome the magnetic attraction associated with the magnet 54. The user then freely moves the stopper 24 to the neck of the bottle 3, the sheath 38 and the duct 36 deforming flexibly inside the volume V6. The user inserts the skirt 30 into the neck of the bottle, then actuates the switch 46 so as to allow the circulation of electricity through this switch. In practice, the user manually flips an actuation button of the switch, of the on/off type.

To the extent that the pressure in the aspiration passageway 32 is, at this time, substantially equal to atmospheric pressure, the vacuostat 48 is in the closed position. The vacuum pump 40 is then supplied with electricity and progressively aspirates the bottle 3. When the pressure in the upper portion of this bottle reduces and reaches the aforementioned predetermined value, this pressure value is communicated to the vacuostat 48 via, in succession, the passageway 32, the duct 36 and the line 50, which opens the vacuostat and switches off the supply of electricity to the pump. If the level of evacuation subsequently passes over the predetermined value, the vacuostat closes again and the pump 40 is reactuated in order to lower the pressure in the bottle 3. The level of evacuation in the bottle 3 is thus controlled automatically and, as necessary, is readjusted without additional intervention on the part of the user.

Furthermore, while the switch 46 is closed, the diode 52 is on, which makes it an indicator that the stopper 24 is operating, and it illuminates the bottle 3 which is thus clearly brought to the attention of the user, including after the closure of the door 6C if the latter allows the light to pass through.

When the user desires to drink the wine contained in the bottle 3, he opens the switch 46, by manually actuating its button, and then removes the skirt 30 from the neck of the bottle 3, notably by successively tilting the stopper 24 from side to side so as to deform the skirt and allow the outside air into the top portion of the bottle. To prevent the stopper 24 hanging limply in the volume V6, the user presses it against the lower face 6A1 of the ceiling wall 6A so that the magnet 54 keeps it in place against this wall.

By using the stopper 26 in the same manner, the user is capable of keeping the second opened bottle of wine 4 after having placed it in the enclosure 6 on the support 11.

In addition to being able to simultaneously keep the two opened bottles 3 and 4 in the cabinet 1, the main value relating to the presence of the two vacuum stoppers 24 and 26 is associated with the fact that they are situated at different respective heights and that, by cooling exclusively, or more generally essentially, the bottom portion of the volume V6, the refrigeration means 12 produce a temperature gradient that increases between the floor wall 6B and the ceiling wall 6A of the enclosure 6. The temperature difference between these two walls may therefore reach approximately ten degrees. In these circumstances, for better tasting, the bottle 4 is preferably a bottle of white wine, while the bottle 3 is preferably a bottle of red wine, which are for example kept at respective temperatures of approximately 8° and 15° C.

As a variant, the cabinet 1 may be arranged to make it possible to change the direction of the cooled air flows 16 produced by its refrigeration means 12. Therefore, by means of an appropriate control, these air flows may instead be directed from the wall 20 into the whole volume V6, which results in evening out the temperature in this volume. It is understood that, depending on whether the bottles 2, 3 and 4 contain white wine and/or red wine, the user is then capable of checking the temperature values in the enclosure 6 in the vertical direction, by attenuating or by amplifying the temperature difference between the floor wall 6B and the ceiling wall 6A of the enclosure as a function of the direction of the air flows 16 admitted into the volume V6.

To the extent that the stoppers 24 and 26 are freely movable in the enclosure 6, they may be positioned so as not to interfere with the unopened necks of bottles placed vertically on the supports 10 and 11. In this case, the ferromagnetic layers respectively associated with the magnets of the stoppers are advantageously designed to be sufficiently extensive to immobilize far enough away from the necks of unopened bottles the stoppers thus not being used to aspirate the bottles.

Various arrangements and variants of the cabinet 1 described hitherto may also be envisaged. For example:

in order to fix the position of each vacuum stopper 24, 26 when it is not installed on the neck of a vertical bottle to be kept, this stopper may, instead of being held by the magnetic effect of its magnet, be accommodated in a housing that is substantially complementary of its outer shell, these housings for accommodating the stoppers 24 and 26 preferably being situated vertically above the support 10, respectively the support 11;

the cabinet 1 incorporates normal arrangements for refrigerated cabinets for keeping bottles; the cabinet 1 is for example fitted with a temperature indicator; and/or

optionally, the refrigeration means 12 include a “boost” function, that is to say that they include arrangements designed to temporarily increase their production of cold, for example when the user desires to accelerate the cooling of one or more bottles that he has just stored in the enclosure 6.