Breakthrough in fight against counterfeit wine

  • Friday 3 July 2009

French scientists have made a breakthrough in the fight against counterfeit wines.

Counterfeit wine bottles on display in Beijing, 12 June 2007.

The scientists used mass spectrometry to analyse the wood used in the barrels during the winemaking process.

As each forest gives its own chemical signature depending on the soil type and the mixture of lichens growing there, scientists can identify the exact forest in which the barrel wood was grown.

The technique of using mass spectrometry to analyse different varieties of wine is nothing new. Scientists can already identify the age or grape variety of a particular sample by analysing the compounds in a vapourised sample of the wine.

However the ability to trace the origin of the barrels could be hugely important in the fight against counterfeits.

By analysing the wine samples against information on lichen growth and recent climate patterns, the age of the barrels can also be determined, and, if the barrels are younger than the claimed vintage of the wine, the wine must be a counterfeit.

The wine trade is plagued by the sale of counterfeit vintage wines, which some experts say accounts for up to 5% of the fine wine secondary market.

Last year billionaire William Koch filed a case against auction house Acker Merrall for $107 000, after he discovered that five wines bought from the auction house were counterfeits.

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