Wine fraud — it’s a real thing. But new research from the University of Adelaide promises to offer a fast and reliable method of verifying the authenticity of any bottle out there.
How would we ever have gone through this year if it wasn’t for trusty old wine (or any similarly inebriating drink)? But there’s a lot of counterfeit wine on the market, with the sale of such products estimated to be worth billions of dollars each year globally. The team wanted to produce a quick, cheap, and reliable method of testing the authenticity of wines, both to protect the health and interests of clients and to give wine-makers a means of building regional branding.
They successfully applied a novel technique of molecular fingerprinting using fluorescence spectroscopy to identify the geographical origins of three wine regions in Australia and the Bordeaux region of France with 100% accuracy.
“Wine fraud is a significant problem for the global wine industry, given a yearly economic impact within Australia alone estimated at several hundred million dollars, and globally thought to be in the billions of dollars,” says Ruchira Ranaweera, a Ph.D. student in the University’s Waite Research Institute, who conducted the research.
“Wine authentication can help to avoid any uncertainty around wine labeling according to the origin, variety, or vintage. The application of a relatively simple technique like this could be adapted for use in the supply chain as a robust method for authentication or detection of adulterated wines.”
The team compared their method to a pre-existing authentication approach, the ‘inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry’ (ICP-MS). ICP-MS works by measuring the ratios of different chemical components in a wine sample but is more complicated, slow, and expensive to apply than the new method.
The authors explain that the fluorescence spectroscopy technique generates a ‘fingerprint’ for each sample based on the presence of light-emitting (fluorophoric) compounds therein. This data is then fed into a data-analyzing algorithm that gauges a wine’s origin based on its chemical characteristics. Every wine they tasted this way was correctly identified by the program, but not so with the elements identified by ICP-MS, they explain.
“Other than coming up with a robust method for authenticity testing, we are hoping to use the chemical information obtained from fluorescence data to identify the molecules that are differentiating the wines from the different regions,” says Associate Professor Jeffery from the Waite Research Institute and the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production, who led the project.
“This may help with regional branding, by understanding how their wines’ characteristics are influenced by the region and how they differ from other regions.”
Ultimately, he explains, such techniques should allow us to identify the chemical markers that are characteristic to individual wine regions. Perhaps in time, they will also help us identify exactly which components give products from each winemaking region their unique personality.
The paper “Authentication of the geographical origin of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon wines using spectrofluorometric and multi-element analyses with multivariate statistical modelling” has been published in the journal Food Chemistry.