DNA testing could expose fake wines
- Wednesday 14 August 2002
Scientists at the National Institute of Agronomic Research at Montpellier in southern France have so far mapped the DNA
sequence of 600 wines. However, these are not the genuine
article, but samples made up of single-grape fermentations
before any purification has taken place.
"The hope is that we will one day be able to map profiles of
high quality wines and differentiate them from lesser blends
and mixtures,' said INRA researcher Philippe This.
At this stage, any DNA test would be able to detect only the
presence of certain grapes in a wine, not their relative
quantities. Scientists are also hampered by the fact that the wine-making process, which includes purification and
filtering, removes much of a wine's DNA before it is bottled.
"We should know within the next six months or so whether
we can create a workable test from our research findings,
DNA testing would provide an important weapon in the French wine industry's anti-fraud armoury. Traditionally, authorities have had only cellar books, labels and accounts to to on.
'It's extremely easy to falsify the origin of wine,' said Alain Chatelet, who heads the wine inspection division of the Government's Competition, Consumption and Anti-Fraud
Agency. The agency made over 26,500 checks on wine last year.
'Right now, there are virtually no types of analysis that would allow us to distinguish one wine from another.' Other studies on the amino acids, isotopes and mineral content in wine are also under way, he said.
Fraudsters have targeted top producers in Bordeaux and
Burgundy in recent years, while six of France's leading
negociants are currently suing merchant Jacques Hemmer
for supplying Languedoc wine in Bordeaux-labelled bottles.