Researchers hope to put a cork in wine fraudAmy Born | November 17, 2020
Wine fraud is big business, estimated to be in the billions of dollars globally, according to Ruchira Ranaweera, Ph.D. student in the University of Adelaide’s Waite Research Institute. Working with a team of scientists, she conducted the research that enabled the identification of a wine’s geographical origins with 100% accuracy using fluorescence spectroscopy.
Fluorescence spectroscopy technology analyzes the fluorescence of molecules. The researchers chose a grape variety that is important around the world, Cabernet Sauvignon, and analyzed samples from the Bordeaux region of France and from three wine regions in Australia.
The current authentication method uses inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to measure elements in wine samples. This new technique is simpler, faster and more cost-effective.
“This method provides a ‘fingerprint’ of the samples according to the presence of fluorophoric or light-emitting compounds,” says Ranaweera. “When used in combination with a robust data analysis using a particular machine learning algorithm, it is proving to be a powerful technique for authentication.”
Using the combination of fluorescence spectroscopy and data analysis driven by machine learning, the team was able to correctly connect the wine to the region it was from with the fluorescence data, but could not with elements determined by ICP-MS.
“Wine authentication can help to avoid any uncertainty around wine labeling according to 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,” added Ranaweera.
The next phase of the research is to use the chemical information gathered from the fluorescence data to identify specific chemical markers that can discriminate between wine regions, said the project’s leader, David Jeffery, associate professor from the Waite Research Institute and the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production. With this knowledge, winemakers can gain a greater understanding of how the wine characteristics of their region differ from other regions and use that knowledge to develop regional branding.
Other applications for the technology that are either currently available or will be soon include phenolic and wine color analysis and smoke taint detection.
The research is published in the journal Food Chemistry and was supported by Wine Australia and the Australian Government, the Waite Research Institute and industry partners through the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production.