By marking bottles, corks and/or labels, and other anti counterfeiting measures, Applied DNA can help to protect fine wines from fraud and diversion.
Counterfeit wines are estimated to account for as much as five percent of the secondary market (Wine Spectator). For centuries, most wineries made little effort to make sure their wines could not be faked. But now, concerned that customers will lose confidence and stop buying, wineries are exploring ways to make sure future bottles can be authenticated. New technologies that allow vintners, collectors, auction houses and law enforcement to easily validate the authenticity of their products are needed.
SigNature DNA marks can provide the ultimate in forensic protection for all fine wines. By marking bottles, corks and/or labels, DNA can help to protect fine wines from counterfeits and diversion. SigNature® DNA uses the DNA from plants to mark and authenticate products in a unique manner that essentially cannot be copied. We create customized, unique SigNature DNA markers that are applied into an ink, or directly on the package or product itself. It will not alter the quality of the product, nor will it require major changes to the manufacturing process. SigNature DNA can work together with RFID and other product tracking systems. Stable and persistent, virtually any item can be protected with SigNature DNA with an error frequency of less than 1 in a trillion.
Custom DNA sequences are created and embedded into a wide range of host carriers such as ink, varnish, thread, laminates and metal coatings.
Uncopyable. Forensic. Absolute.
SigNature DNA markers provide the ultimate in forensic power and protection for a wide array of applications. Highly secure, robust, durable and cost-effective, SigNature DNA markers can be used to fortify brand protection efforts; mark, track and convict criminals; and strengthen supply chain security.
Custom DNA sequences can be embedded into a wide range of host carriers including ink, varnish, thread, laminates and metal coatings.
Creating a SigNature DNA Marker
Botanical DNA is isolated
DNA is segmented
Segments are shuffled and reassembled to form an encrypted, unique, secure DNA marker
Applied DNA Sciences technical personnel authenticate markers and produce comprehensive witness statements, making the use of DNA evidence in legal action easy and effective.
Unique SigNature DNA Markers:
• Cannot be copied
• Covert and forensic
• Custom DNA markers can be created for specific vendors/suppliers or raw materials
• Compatible with a wide range of products; can be placed anywhere in or on the product
• Adaptable. Will not require major changes to the manufacturing process or supply chain
Jacob’s Creek, Australia's largest wine maker and largest exporter, is a recent victim of a counterfeiting scheme in England. Hundreds of bottles, which normally retail for between £6 and £10 a bottle, have been seized thus far in locations including London, Brighton, Cardiff, and Wales. Jacob’s Creek, a "value" brand owned by the French giant Pernod Ricard, is one of Britain’s top selling wine brands, so identifying the total amount of counterfeited product could prove difficult.
The fake wine is believed to be from China and is being sold to off-licences and independent shops for as little as £2. As with many wine makers, anti-counterfeiting measures are elusive. So far "product authentication" has been limited to alerting consumers about telltale signs of the counterfeit bottles.
To date authorities have identified the Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Merlot 2009, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Chardonnay 2009, and Semillon Chardonnay 2009 as varietals and vintages that have been impacted.
A Trading Standards spokeswoman has stated that “the wine is not harmful” and therefore is unlikely to pose a health risk. The risk to one’s palate is another matter – the same spokesperson also mentioned that the wine is of a “very low quality and substandard taste.” For consumers wishing to avoid an unpleasant experience, officials in England are encouraging people to inspect the lower bottom label on the back of the Jacob’s Creek bottle, which have the spelling mistake “Wine of Austrila”.
Anyone who may have bought any counterfeit wine is asked to contact Cardiff trading standards on 029 20 87 2059 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Two interesting items regarding counterfeit wines appeared over the weekend. In the first, a wealthy wine collector lost his suit accusing the Christie's auction house of knowingly selling him a counterfeit luxury wine, according to the Wine Spectator.
William Koch, a wealthy Florida collector of investment-grade wines testified that he bought a bottle of 1870 Lafite for $4,200 at a Christie’s auction in order to prove that it was counterfeit.
The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones did not dispute the claim that the wine was counterfeit, saying "...the cause of his injuries was not Christie’s’ misleading statements but plaintiff’s desire to gather evidence against Christie’s,” In effect, the collector is judged to be the cause of his own losses.
Left unexplored is how Christie's came to be accepting consignments of counterfeit wines in the first place, and from whom. We can only comment that a wine product authentication program, like that offered by Applied DNA Sciences, would have helped any of the parties to this complicated matter, including especially Christie's who would have been able to conclusively test for provenance.
In another wine fraud case reported by Canada's CBC, Ontario's liquor control board is advising that some bottles of a 2006 premium red Italian table wine are likely fake.
The LCBO says people who have purchased a 750-ml bottle of 2006 Negrar Amarone Classico should return it in exchange for a 2007 or 2008 bottle or a refund.
Bottles with the number AAA 09439731 are suspected of being counterfeit and not produced by the supplier.
A likely judgment in need of authentication
The board produced its "likely" judgement based on the bottle shape of the counterfeit wine, which was is different from the authentic.
Luxury wines are fetching stupendous prices in Hong Kong. At a January auction there, held by New York wine auctioneer Zachys, a case of 1982 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild sold for more than $71,000 U.S., about $6,000 a bottle, well above the estimated price, according to USA Today. At a Sotheby's Hong Kong auction in October, three 1869 bottles of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild sold for $232,692 apiece, breaking all records.
Many of the winning bidders, according to Jeff Zacharia, president of Zachys, are mainland Chinese buyers. Problem is, all too many mainland Chinese luxury wine buyers are at risk for buying counterfeit wine. An alarmed Hong Kong officialdom is trying to stem the problem at its source. Hong Kong police maintain a specially-trained anti counterfeit wine squad and an intelligence bureau that tracks cases around the world.
But product authentication is tough. For example, since a major tactic of counterfeiters is simply to fill genuine bottles with cheaper wine, empty prized bottles have a market of their own, according to Delish.com, the food web site. Counterfeit bottles can fetch HK$40,000 ($4,800) on the market. Waiters in some upscale restaurants in China have been under instructions to smash bottles of fine wine after they are emptied, according to Delish.
The dilemma is this: with Hong Kong having recently replaced New York as the center of the luxury wine auction, this upscale business has burgeoned and at the same time become more vulnerable. It is in dire need of product authentication to protect both buyers and sellers, and even more so, the new Asian nexus of the wine auction markets.
Please see our feature "Luxury Wines and a Stunning DNA Technology," for background on anti-counterfeiting measures already in use by clients of Applied DNA Sciences, with more in the pipeline. Watch this space.
You don’t have to look far to spot the fakes on a walk down New York’s Canal Street. The counterfeit Guccis, Hermes and Coaches hang from the doors of street front stalls. The trade in luxury goods is open, blatant, and forms the backbone of a $600 billion industry.
Less easy to spot is the trade in counterfeit wines. Counterfeits can be exceedingly difficult to detect and criminals have been known to go to great lengths to pass along fakes. It’s not uncommon for the original contents to be emptied out of an original bottle and an inferior and often much younger wine filled in its place. Wine Spectator magazine speculates as much as 5 percent of the wine sold on secondary markets could be counterfeit.
Bottled for Thomas Jefferson...or not
In what is perhaps the best-known case of wine counterfeiting, several extremely rare and expensive bottles of Bordeaux said to have been bottled for President Thomas Jefferson were exposed as fakes in the last several years. Investigators discovered that bottle engravings linking the bottles to Jefferson were produced by modern engraving equipment. In a similar case, a number of Imperials (rare 6-liter bottles) of Chateau Petrus were exposed as fakes when it was determined that there were no records of Imperials having been produced during those vintage years.
Margin of error: one in a trillion
Applied DNA Sciences has made a stunning breakthrough to ensure the authenticity of wines. This powerful tool utilizes Applied Sciences’ powerful SignatureDNA anti-counterfeiting solution to mark the labels affixed to bottles. DNA actually derived from plants is mixed with the inks used to print the labels, thus creating a foolproof way to “tag” each bottle. The authenticity of each bottle can be easily checked and matched against a database. The margin of error is one in a trillion. Since the “tag” on the bottles incorporates DNA, the information is admissible in many jurisdictions as forensic evidence. This forensic evidence has been used in a number of successful criminal prosecutions in the United Kingdom.
On the surface, it sounds like it’s good for the environment. You take the glass containers and refill them – just like in olden times when the milkman came to your door – recycle, reduce, reuse. But there’s a bit of a dishonest twist when it comes to wine. You pick up a vintage bottle that once held a very expensive wine, fill with something other than that, and you’ve got a very desirable wine collection in no time. And excellent vintage bottles are easy to find. I recently went onto eBay and under search terms I entered “empty wine bottles”. I came up with almost 60 matches offering empty wine bottles ranging in price from under $1 to over $50. Some of the bottles being offered were quite specific - a bottle of 1994 Grace Family Vineyards Cabernet, a bottle 1995 Tignanello Red Blend from Tuscany, and a bottle of 1996 Screaming Eagle, all empty.
The bottles mentioned above together may sell for between $10 and $60 on eBay when empty. Filled up again with some red wine, re-corked and re-foiled, these three wines could sell for a total of about $2224, according to WinePrices.Com. An attractive mark up for a counterfeiter!
Another example that seems to support this theory of refilling empty bottles is that Château Mouton-Rothschild bottles, designed by a different prominent artist for each vintage, are being sold for less than other presumably less collectible but more easily counterfeitable bottles. One might assume that these bottles, when empty — since they’re limited-edition works of art — would have higher value than other empty bottles if they were really being collected for legitimate purposes - but I suspect they’re not!
The notion of refilling wine bottles is both intriguing and frightening. It goes to show that given any opportunity, counterfeiters will act. Much like a proactive environmental protection effort can help create a positive space for living, a proactive approach to brand protection creates a fertile business environment, driven by quality, customer satisfaction, and, above all, customer safety.
Click here to learn more about brand protection using Signature® DNA.
Until recently, the contents of a glass of wine had only been scrutinized for their oenological merits. Lately however, a spate of highly publicized incidents has brought this crisis of counterfeit and fraudulent wine to public attention. In 1998, bottles of 1990 Penfold’s Grange were revealed to be counterfeit, exhibiting typographical errors and inconsistent printing. Approximately 16,000 bottles of Sassicaia, retailing at $100 to $125 a bottle, were identified as fake and seized in Italy in 2000. But perhaps the most renowned and shocking counterfeiting scandal came to light in 2007, when a lawsuit brought by billionaire wine collector William Koch sparked a widespread federal investigation of several notable auction houses, wine collectors, and importers.
One common method of counterfeiting involves replacing the label of a weaker-vintage wine, such as a 1987 Bordeaux, with a label from the same wine produced in a better vintage, such as 1989. (For example, in the past a Château Le Pin 1989, sold for an average auction price of $2,086, Le Pin 1987 averaged $777.) It's one of the simplest ways to produce phony wines, since counterfeiters can copy a label with a readily available quality scanner and printer. The bogus bottles are then resold on the wine market as genuine and can circulate at retail or auctions for years before anyone suspects something is wrong.
In addition to the outright counterfeiting of fine wine, buyers face another potential problem when assessing the purity of a bottle. To preserve the life of some of their wines, some winemakers will remove the cork from the bottle and blend in a small quantity of wine from a newer vintage in a process known as "reconditioning." Although reconditioned wines may have longer shelf lives, some winemakers try to pass off their reconditioned bottles as purely the older vintage.
The problem has grown large enough that the FBI's art fraud squad has been investigating. Counterfeit wines are estimated to account for as much as five percent of the secondary market (Wine Spectator). For centuries, most wineries made little effort to make sure their wines could not be faked. But now, concerned that customers will lose confidence and stop buying, wineries are exploring ways to make sure future bottles can be authenticated.