DNA testing could expose fake wines

  • Wednesday 14 August 2002

French scientists are mapping the DNA sequence of wine in a bid to curb fraud, an Associated Press report reveals.

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,

This said.

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.

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