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Dept. of “What were they thinking?”


I know, I have curmudgeonly tendencies. Hell, not even I take all my complaints seriously. But when it comes to those hard, plastic closures that are meant to look like fancy wax — and baby, I’m namin’ names — I see red, hit the roof, spit bullets — name your metaphor for frustrated anger.

These monstrosities started showing up a couple years ago. I couldn’t tell you the name of the technology, or if all the examples in this post are from the same manufacturer; but I lump them all together as “marketing ideas from hell.” As Sarah Palin might have put it, “Hey, let’s put something fancy-pants on the bottle, so’s we can charge another fifteen bucks, you betcha!” What that person needed — and apparently didn’t get — was the reality check of somebody else asking, “But can they really be opened without risking losing a finger or gouging the center of your palm with the corkscrew.”

Here are the latest 3 culprits. (There was also a Caymus a while back that got me so angry, I told the winery not to send me any more. But we’ve since kissed and made up.)

Westbrook Wine Farm “Fait Accompli”

This is the Fait Accompli 2005 red wine from Westbrook. See that little piece sticking out from the middle of the capsule? That’s where I stuck the corkscrew in. After much twisting and pushing, it finally bit into the cork and went down, but it took a lot of tsouris, if you know what I mean. Then, there was no way to find the bottle’s lip, meaning no place to lever the hook to pull the cork. Eventually, I gave up.


Here’s Audelssa’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Note the gouges and tears. When I encountered the same hassle as with the Fait Accompli, I tried to cut through the side of the capsule with a knife. That lasted for about 5 seconds until I realized my fingers were at risk of getting cut. Nor is the capsule capable of being manually peeled off. It just splinters into nasty little pieces that get all over the counter.

V. Sattui

This was V. Sattui’s 2006 Reserve Stock Chardonnay. In some ways, it was the worst of all. See all those deformations on top? That wasn’t caused by me — it came that way. The capsule was as hard as rock. I couldn’t even penetrate it with a corkscrew. At one point I was knocking it against the side of the sink, hoping to loosen it, like the cap on a jar, but not even that worked. After a while, I thought, Wait a minute. Nobody should have to work this hard to open a bottle — not even a critic.

I complained to all the wineries in question. This response, from Westbrook, was typical: “A little warm water renders it as butter. Holding a short blade (side, not tip) horizontally and turning the bottle works best. If this still doesn’t work, let us know.”

Well, Westbrook and everybody else, I’m letting you know. What were you thinking? With all the challenges wine has in overcoming consumer fear and intimidation, now you’re telling people it’s easy as shucking clams? Give me a break.

  1. I encountered one of these enclosures on Thanksgiving on a Boudreaux Cellars bottle. What a pain in the neck! I used a foil cutter to break through but even after that it took a lot of hacking and slashing with a knife to finally get it open. My guests were like “what is Bob doing over there!?” I agree- topping a bottle off with this stuff is a very bad idea.


  2. Bob, maybe the wineries will read your comment and move away from those dumb capsules.

  3. JD in Napa says:

    One has to wonder if the wine in the bottle is worth the risk/effort. I’ve encountered these faux wax capsules before, and my general feeling was “I went through all that for this?”. So now, I just don’t buy ’em. Give me a screwcap anyday.

  4. You would think that annoying the customer (in a way that they’ll remember) would outweigh the “extra” sales generated by the “look” of these wax capsules. You would think.

  5. I ran into a Zinfandel with a bright red wax capsule last weekend. It took me so long to get the wax off (and yes, I nearly cut myself twice) that I didn’t even drink it after it was opened because I was so frustrated with the wax. I served it to friends and family, but went back to the wine closet for something different to serve myself. Wax is a beautiful way to finish off a package, but not user friendly.

  6. David Cole says:

    You hit on the head! Don’t like them, don’t buy them and am down to one in 300+ bottles cellar. I have even re-gifted them a time or two! Now that i am in the wine business, I will not be adding any to our line-up!

  7. Morton Leslie says:

    I once had the job of removing about three thousand bottles of century old wine from a basement cellar. All of the bottles were at one time sealed with wax. Where the wax had held, and not cracked, its seal had prevented cork borers that had infested the cellar from destroying the cork and excessive ullage from occurring. Problem was, most had cracked and the wine was either gone or spoiled. Maybe a hundred bottles had survived.

    Again and again I am struck by the degree to which wine marketing is influenced by the notion that things as they once were a century ago, were better than they are today. What gets me is that someone actually thinks that some hard. unyielding, plastic substance that is meant to resemble wax is going to impress anyone that it is “traditional” or “olde tymey”. Most don’t care, but those that do, unfortunately know the difference.

  8. So, do you usually leave the capsule on normal packaging on and shove the corkscrew through it? Run a sharp knife at the bottom of the lip like with any capsule and chop the stuff off. I do agree that the wax sucks though.

  9. opening a wax capsule is not very hard…at all. Hold it in your hand for a few minutes to soften it up, then run a knife along the top of the bottle. This will remove a disc from the top, and expose the cork.

    I am 99.9% sure that the Fait Accompli is indeed wax, albeit a hard set wax, and I have opened that very bottle of wine several times with no problems whatsoever.

  10. Steve- Thanks for your comments, just this week I have been trying to come up with a compromise between looks and function. Please check out my blog today re wax:

  11. Paul in Boca says:

    I decided Thanksgiving was the right time to open a 3.0 liter bottle of 2001 Justin Isosceles that had a red wax cover. Using a regular corkscrew, I started at the bottom of the enclosure, carefully cutting at the wax and breaking it away from the neck of the bottle, piece by piece. The process took about 3 minutes, and I had no problem at all. Sure, that enclosure sucks for restaurant service, but if you can’t figure out how to remove the wax, the simple solution is don’t buy the bottle.

  12. Paul, I just don’t want to work that hard to open a bottle.

  13. I think that they mainly copied the idea off of Maker’s Mark which started doing its bottles like this in 1958. Granted, some others may have done this before then but I really think Maker’s was what made so many others try it. The bourbon is very easy to open because there’s a tab that you pull and it unravels around the cap and allows you to easily open the bottle. I haven’t run into this with wine but I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be to open. Stick to corks!

  14. skip smith says:

    To “Paul in Boca” re: his 12/2/2008 entry (or anyone else who would like to comment): What kind of corkscrew did/should you use to open a 3.0 litre wine bottle? Thanks.

  15. skip smith says:

    Please reply to my 3/13/2009 entry.

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