Coppola Sues Vinocor In A Case of Screwed-Up Screwcaps

Vinted on December 10, 2009 binned in California wine, wine industry events, wine news

Here’s an interesting bit of wine news – it’s not everyday that you hear about a veritable Apocalypse Now of tens of thousands and thousands of bottles of wine, let alone have that wine related to movie icons, providing an opportunity to utilize puns related to kick-ass cinema in a wine context.

This week, and Courthouse News Service reported the news that Napa Valley producer Coppola (owned of course by famed producer and director Francis Ford Coppola) is suing cork and bottle manufacturer Vinocor USA, alleging that Vinocor is responsible for ruining 55,000 cases of the Coppola wines.

Yes, 55,000 cases (nearly 700K bottles of wine).  That’s a lot of vinegar!

Apparently Coppola’s company Francis Ford Coppola Presents paid Vinocor nearly $700K to produce some funky-looking bottles with over-sized screwcap enclosures to help promote their “Encyclopedia” line of wines.  But it looks likenot all went to plan, as Coppola is claiming the substandard quality of the Vinocor products resulted in the oxidation of all 55,000 cases bottled of Encyclopedia.

The Horror…

That’s certainly the largest amount of wine I’ve ever heard of being ruined by a screwcap enclosure.  The allegation is not against screwcaps in general, of course – it’s that the Vinocor screwcaps were allegedly flawed, having issues with their threading and didn’t create a proper seal to protect the wine.

Will this lawsuit cause a setback in the adoption of screwcaps?

I doubt it – certainly some top-notch wines are well bought into the stelvin enclosures, including New Zealand’s Kim Crawford and California’s Bonny Doon.  Properly-made screwcaps seem more than capable of properly aging a wine, at least when it comes to medium-term storage.  Whether they will help a wine last 20+ years is more debatable question, but theoretically there’s no reason why they couldn’t.

Got a stance on screwcaps, wine-related lawsuits, or Coppola movie quotes?  Shout `em out in the comments!






  • 1WineDude

    THE HORROR!!!! :)

    • Tripack

      China Glass ?

  • Tim

    I want to quote something from Last Tango in Paris, but I wont…lol!

    • 1WineDude


  • Ted

    These types of suits are probably not all that rare. I'm aware of a few lawsuits involving closures, including screwcaps. Usually these things are kept hush-hush so a settlement (payoff) can be made and the nobody finds out. (remember how bad the 1st gen synthetic corks were?)

    Looks like this story got picked up by the law geeks because of the celebrity angle…

    • 1WineDude

      Interesting – I'd no idea the suits were more common. Kind of scary actually…

  • Anthony

    I hate screwcap wine tops. Why not just cork it and be sure? Although it is a huge convenience, specially around the holidays. Speaking of which, what is everyone drinking this x-mas? I'm picking up a few things from my local St. James Winery (MO). Specially a few bottles of Velvet White. :)

    • 1WineDude

      I'll be scouring Seattle wine shops at the last minute :-P

  • Elmer Fudd

    The hoewha…the hoewha

  • vinogirl

    Great post. I think this debacle will be seen as a one off though and screw caps will continue to grow in popularity…although I am fond of cork myself.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks – an interesting thing: last night, I opened a sample bottle, a WA Riesling. It had a screwcap enclosure. After I opened it, I noticed some liquid on the sides of the screwcap thread on the glass of the bottle. It was a bit viscous and gritty. The wine inside had dulled aromas and muted flavors. Somehow, the screwcap had been compromised, and the wine had become flawed. That's the first issue I've EVER encountered with screwcaps.

  • David Honig

    Rumor has it Penfolds Grange '05 is coming out entirely under screwcaps,too.

    • 1WineDude

      Wonder what old Schubert would have thought of that?

  • Stewart Epstein

    Corks come with their own set of problems too so its not as simple as just using cork. Until the development of competitive closures, winemakers, this one included, saw failure rates in the vicinity of 3-5%. Now its more like 0.25-1% which though much improved, is nevertheless unacceptable in any other industry. I don't screwcap my wines but I have used synthetics on occasion and believe me, whenever I open a bag of corks (1000 corks) and I get a hint of TCA or some other off odor, alternatives start lookin' real appealing.

    • 1WineDude

      Fantastic point about that variance being unacceptable in many other industries. I can say from experience that in confectionery and pet food businesses that 1% would likely set off some serious alarm bells.

  • The Bewildered Brit

    55,000 cases of wine ruined????!!!! My god, that's heartbreaking!!!!

    • 1WineDude

      Well, I suppose it depends on the wine… :-)

  • Kimberly

    My stance on screwcaps is, I love 'em! I used to shy away from them, because hey, cork is a serious enclosure for serious wine and all that, plus, there is the ritual of opening wine enclosed with a cork, and I love the romance of that ritual. But, stelvin closures are just so darned convenient! Maybe it's my imagination, but I always feel like wine with a screwcap stays fresher longer. I notice that if I open a bottle of wine and — gasp! — don't drink it all in one or two nights, then 3 nights later, a screwcap wine is still drinkable, whereas cork enclosed wine seems like it's ever so slightly off. And, screwcaps are VERY convenient on a night like tonight, when, for example, the cork on the Chianti Superiore I just opened broke in half, with a few stray cork shards leftover to boot, so that cork ain't going back in that wine! And I'm on my own tonight and don't necessarily want to drink the entire bottle. So, screwcaps, mostly good.

    • 1WineDude

      The perils of drinking alone! :)

      • Kimberly

        No doubt! But it could be worse — there could be no wine at all! : )

        • 1WineDude

          Tru dat!

  • Swirl Smell Slurp

    We just tried a bottle of the "Bordeaux." Ugh…I could barely take a sip it was such swill. But He (my tasting partner) enjoyed it. The rest of the bottle was his for the drinking.
    Pouring the bottle was a disaster. The bottle opening is so big that it slopped all over the place. Not that I was upset by the spilling of such meh wine.

    • 1WineDude

      And our first review comes in!

      Wow – sounds like the world might be a better place for having 55K fewer cases of the stuff?

  • Denise

    When I read this news I, too, was amazed – a loss of 55,000 cases would put most of small producers out of business! But for me the irony of this mishap is in the shape of the packaging. The bottle looks like a vinegar bottle! The shape is more akin to what you might package a fancy vinegar. Maybe this was simply the 'shape of things to come'.

    • 1WineDude


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  • @WineoftheMonth

    55,000 cases? Wow, that's terrible. Otherwise I'm a huge fan of screw caps, and am glad to see the US slowly catching on to the trend, even if we years behind Australia and New Zealand. Still, though, I encounter people all the time who still associate screw caps with dollar-a-gallon wines of the 70s. I still say: Why risk a corked bottle when you can take the preemptive approach?

    If you have any interest in the topic, check out this video that I filmed back in 2007:

    Thanks again for the interesting read.

    Paul Kalemkiarian
    President, Wine of the Month Club

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