Coravin halts sales because of exploding wine bottles

Screen Shot 2014 06 02 at 11.15.55 PM Coravin, the maker of a wine preservation device that costs $300, has stopped selling new units and urges owners of existing units to stop using the device because of a hazard of exploding bottles. In a release, the company says it knows of seven bottles that have exploded with one causing lacerations to the user. The company is working on a solution.

The Massachusetts-based start-up has raised over $11 million in stock and bond offerings. The product, formerly known as the Wine Mosquito since a needle pierces the cork to extract wine one glass at a time and inject inert gas to preserve the rest, has garnered praise as well as provoked some trepidation among collectors.

The full notice follows after the jump. Read more…

A $1.6 million oops in Napa

pity the fool A Napa vintner hired a consulting enologist to cook him up a “cult” wine. It didn’t work out, the wine got flushed and the vintner is now suing the wine consultant to the tune of $1.6 million. See the Napa Valley Register for more details.

Who was that who said “I pity the fool who chases points”? Confucius? Mr. T?

World wine consumption: USA up, France down

world wine consumption The OIV, an international wine organization based in Paris, released their annual report of the state of the wine world last week.

In it, they showed the US market becoming the largest in the world for the first time. Even though this got some play last week, we already broke out the foam fingers a couple of years ago when another organization declared the US the world’s biggest wine market. Of course, in per capita terms, we’re still a relative weakling.

Still, the trend in world wine consumption is clear: the US is one of the few big, growing markets in the world. France sagged a tremendous amount year-over-year (see chart), making one wonder if there was a methodological problem. Also of note in their report, China actually showed a decline.

Anyway, we’ll raise a glass to these statistics–all in the name of keeping the USA at the top of the list!

See the OIV report

Fake wine first-hand

drc wine label Last week, a story broke about The White Club, a group with $25k annual dues that staged lavish, wine-centric dinners around the world. We mentioned the fill-and-refill scam in Friday’s post about fake wine.

Since then, some details have emerged about the attendees. Jancis Robinson published a post detailing how she had attended three of the White Club dinners and was “taken in” by the organizers (adding, “My colleagues John Stimpfig and Neal Martin were too.”). She suspects that the wines at the first dinner, outside of Copenhagen, were mostly real. By the second dinner, in Bern, the pouring was taking place in another room. And by the third dinner, in November 2011 in Hong Kong, she writes that the organizer “by this point must have thought I was a real mug because it was quite clear that many of these wines were not at all as they should be. It was all decidedly embarrassing.” She has removed any comments about the wines from her site.

Neal Martin, author of Pomerol and Wine Advocate contributor, has yet to comment on The White Club. Over on WineBerserkers, a commenter posted one of Martin’s tasting notes for a Petrus 1970 from one of the dinners: “This is probably one of the finest bottles of Petrus I have encountered. Drink now-2030. Tasted September 2012.”

Old bottles are famously variable. In fact, there’s a saying that there aren’t good wines, there are only good bottles. Apparently there are also fake bottles. So, remind me, what’s the point of tasting old wines (especially not ex-cellar) and publishing notes on them? At the very least, participants should be obliged to take a big shot of skepticism before proceeding.

Blind taste test: Stradivarius

stradivarius We all know about the record of wine experts at blind tastings: decidedly mixed.

What if professional violin players played a 300-year-old Stradivarius worth millions of dollars and a newer violin (worth tens of thousands) under double blind conditions? Would they fare better than professional wine tasters? SPOILER ALERT: It turns out, no, the professional players picked the older violins as superior only on par with the odds in chance.

Check out the story on the most recent Planet Money podcast from NPR. And here’s a link to the one of the studies in PNAS.

This week in wine fraud

wine fraud denmark
What, just because Rudy Kurniawan is behind bars you think wine fraud is kaput? Think again! Here is the latest in wine fraud this week:

1. Rudy Kurniawan, found guilty by a jury of wine counterfeiting late last year, had his lawyers lodge a letter with the judge prior to his May 29 sentencing. In it, they claim, essentially, that fakes are pervasive in the world of high-end wine, Kurniawan was a big buyer, and, even though he did sell some wines that ended up being fake, it’s not the worst thing in the world since the victims were rich. Oh, and he loved the adulation from collectors and hanging out with the Burghound Allen Meadows and Jackie Chan.

2. The Danish magazine “gastro” has published a piece on a Danish couple they say scammed the wine world with–wait for it–cheaper wine in expensive bottles. According to this account on (using the estimable Google Translate), they had a wine club dubbed The White Club that carried about $25,000 a year in dues for lavish dinners staged around the world. Attendees thought were tasting the finest wines including one DRC blowout in December 2012.

3. “Fake Bordeaux in China being made on offshore boats,” says a headline in Decanter. Not too many details on this nautical-vinous scheme, however, as the story veers into the machinations of building a third-party certification against fraud. Bonne chance, mes amis!

Eataly Vino turns into a Nutella bar

eataly nutella

Remember Eataly Vino NYC? Yes, the wine shop that is serving six months in the penalty box for liquor law infractions. Well, the at-grade storefront on the 23rd St. side of Eataly New York has been transformed at least temporarily into…wait for it…a Nutella bar!

Eater reports that, building on the success of a Nutella bar in Eataly Chicago (pictured above; Eater credit), the Italian gastroplex will roll one out in NYC on Monday. The Chicago spot offers Nutella on rustic bread, square pastries and crepes for prices ranging from $2.80 – $5.80 (see menu). Eater says that the line on weekends is 45 minutes long. Nuts!

State dinner w Filipino food: Somm U

obama jiro
President Obama just wrapped up a four-country swing through Asia. There was lots of diplomatic talk, to be sure, but inquiring food minds want to know what of the local cuisines Obama got to sample. Thanks to the official food feed (?) of the White House on Twitter, Obamafoodorama (aka Eddie Gehman Kohan), we have some of the foodie details of his trip. The real culinary highlight must have been dining at Sukiybashi Jiro where owner and sushi master Jiro Ono served Obama and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. Must have been tough to score that rez!

We always enjoy taking a look at the wines poured at state dinners at the White House. But at the state dinner in Manilla, we have the official menu but no wines listed. You know what that means: “impossible food-wine pairings” meets “leaders and liters”! Readers new and old are no doubt salivating as if it were grower champagne and kumamoto oysters! In the absence of word on the actual wines served, here is a combination of two of our favorite themes and the chance for you to play sommelier! Un, deux, trois: voila! The menu from the Philippines: Read more…


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