Coravin, the mould-breaking new wine access system, has just stopped sales and announced new safety measures because the kit has broken more than moulds.
It seems that the system, which involves injecting bottles through the cork with the neutral gas argon, has, in a small number of cases thought to relate to damaged or imperfect bottles, broken the bottle. The company has stopped selling the equipment temporarily in response to seven reports of bottles that have burst, including one flawed magnum opened close to an American private collector's face. Although he is fully recovered now, apparently, he suffered a cut lip and a chipped tooth - any inventor's nightmare.
Coravin's inventor Greg Lambrecht (pictured) comments, 'We think that the rate of bottle rupture is about 1:78,000, and the rate of injury less than 1:500,000. That said, we wanted to take the most aggressive approach to make sure there was only the one injury.
'In February, we updated our warnings to notify people of this risk and require that they inspect their bottles for visible damage or flaws prior to using Coravin. We also said for added safety consider using a neoprene wine-bottle sleeve. Out of an abundance of caution, we've decided to advise use of the sleeve. It provides complete protection even in worst-case scenarios and reduces the risk that someone misses a big crack or chip in the bottle during inspection.
'As a result, we have stopped shipping Coravin systems until we have adequate supplies of sleeves. We will then become one of the world's largest suppliers of neoprene sleeves, as we intend to give one away to anyone who has purchased a Coravin, or received one from us for evaluation. We will also be updating our website, warnings, etc. This will likely keep us off the market in the US until 4 July, we think. It probably delays our launch in the EU from September to October.
'A small bit of good news is that we will continue selling and shipping capsules and needles even during this downtime.'
Neoprene sleeves are not exactly the most glamorous wine accessory, and I should imagine that many of those, particularly in restaurants and wine bars, who have become accustomed to using Coravins to extract small pours of fine wines without exposing the rest of the bottle to harmful oxygen, will blithely ignore the manufacturer's advice.
But it does seem wise carefully to inspect any bottle before applying this new bit of kit. Here is their current online warning.