French scientists develop yet another way to use science to stop wine fraud.
Wine fraud and wine scandals have been making the news lately. Whether talking about Italian reds or fighting fraud in South Africa with new labels, it seems that both fraud, and ways to beat it, are at the forefront of the wine world’s mind.
During the aging process, wine is barreled while developing flavor. While most people do not drink wine that is French oak-barreled, but about 2% of premium French wines are and are bought for this reason. A specific fraud worrying French wine experts is passing off wine barrels as French oak when they are made from cheaper, Eastern European oak. French oak helps flavor wines with its tannins for a distinct mix of vanilla, smoke, caramel and clove.
French oak barrels are much pricier, thus some winemakers have started using the cheaper barrels but continued to label the wines as French-oak aged. This brings in a greater profit at a much cheaper expense. But much like the process of appellation, the French want stricter regulation to make sure that the barriques, foundres and demi-muids used are of actual French oak if that is how they are labeled.
Back in 2000, scientists developed methods for tracing the origin of wood. Adding DNA testing, a process has been developed to create kits at a low cost that can track the DNA of the trees to determine their origin.
Many in the wine world believe that this is unlikely to take off on a large scale. A barrel has about 45 pieces of wood and individually testing each piece of wood in each barrel would take far too much time. However, wine elites may take comfort in knowing the technology exists prior to investing in wine. No matter, though, the technology helping fight fraud gives many experts peace with such high incidences of fraud coming to light.