Vintage wines: a breakthrough in the fight against counterfeit wine

A team of French scientists has made a significant breakthrough in the fight against counterfeit vintage wines, as reported recently by Britain’s biggest wine magazine Decanter.

The team employed mass spectrometry to analyse the wood composition of barrels used during the winemaking process.

Scientists can ascertain exactly which forest source the barrel wood was grown in as each forest has a ‘signature’ dependent upon soil type and the groupings of lichens growing there.

This technique in itself is nothing new – it is already possible to derive the age and grape variety by analyzing compounds released by vapourising a wine sample. However, successfully employing the technique to trace the origin of barrels could prove a considerably important step forward in the fight against counterfeit vintage wines.

The analysis is conducted by measuring wine samples against lichen cultures and climate pattern data to identify the origin of the wood. The age of the barrel can also be determined. If there’s a disparity between the age and origin, and the claimed vintage of the wine, the wine is counterfeit.

Experts claim that sales of counterfeit wine account for up to 5% of the fine wine secondary market.
Billionaire William Koch filed a $107,000 case against auction house Acker Merrall last year after he realised that 5 of the wines he purchased at auction were counterfeits.

Of course no investment area is devoid of risk, which is why it’s vitally important to know who you are dealing with if you’re using a private company to select and source fine wine to be used as an asset class. You need to be reassured that you have the requisite paper trail to prove that you have certification of title over your wines – and also that you haven’t been massively overcharged. Also, Provenance Fine Wines would always recommend ensuring that records of any company you do business with are up to date (easy to do via Companies House) and, if in doubt about anything – get a second opinion



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