The makers of the Coravin — the game-changing device that allows wine to be poured by the glass without removing the cork — have voluntarily stopped sales of the product due to safety concerns. The product has been widely adopted, with restaurants like Manresa, Del Posto, Coi, and many others using it to expand their by the glass offerings. In an official announcement the company explains that "in certain circumstances, wine bottles can burst when used with the Coravin System, presenting a risk of lacerations." Apparently seven bottles have burst so far, with one resulting in a laceration.
In response, Coravin is sending out "neoprene wine bottle sleeves" which, according to freshly revised safety instructions is meant to always be used when using the Coravin. The company tweets that the sleeve can be removed once the bottle has been poured. The company suggests holding off on using the device until it can be used along with a sleeve.
The Coravin works by inserting a needle into the bottle through the cork and adds a low pressure dose of gas to the bottle. This pressure change pushes the wine into the needle and up and out of the device's spout. The company has tweeted that the breaking issue seems to be with previously damaged bottles rather than the device, and writes in the safety announcement that "wine bottles are designed to withstand significantly greater pressure than the low pressure the Coravin System places into the bottle." Safety instructions emphasize that the Coravin should not be used with "damaged, flawed, or non-standard bottles."
Coravin founder Greg Lambrecht tells Eater that the bottles weren't so much exploding as fracturing: "The bottles stayed largely in tact, but one piece come off in six of the seven instances. In one of them it broke into four pieces." Coravin had some of the broken bottles analyzed. He adds: "What was so surprising is that bottles can take more a lot more pressure than the low pressure the Coravin puts it ... It has to have a chip, a crack, or a crush mark." According to their calculations, less than 1 in 78,000 has broken. "[That's] probably why I didn't run into it when I was developing the product. I've never had this happen to me personally"
Greg Lambrecht uses a sleeve. [Photo: Coravin/Facebook]
Coravin began suggesting customers use neoprene sleeves back in February when the issue of fracturing bottles first came to their attention. Knowing that a visual inspection of a bottle might not be enough to detect a flaw, they decided to make the suggestion an official instruction. "We just stepped up the warning ... We know that even if you miss something during inspection [the sleeve] will contain anything that happens ... We wanted to be proactive."
In a restaurant that depends on Coravin to tap extremely expensive, often rare, bottles of wine, this adds a wrinkle to service: Guests generally want to see the bottle. Lambrecht says the sommeliers he's been in touch with on this issue have been supportive. "The most important thing is seeing the bottle when it's tableside," he says. "Then you can put the bottle in the sleeve, and then do the sleeve for pouring."
Lambrecht imagines the interruption will take a few months, during which time he'll send sleeves to current users and set up his production to include sleeves with all new purchases. Going forward, Lambrecht says these incidents will likely inform revisions made to future generations of the product. He would also love to create a sleeve that allows the label to remain visible, versus now where the label is visible until the sleeve is zipped. But for now, he just wants to "be ahead of it and get a solution out as fast we can."