Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Detecting fake wine vintages: It's an (atomic) blast

Date:
March 22, 2010
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Two decades of atomic bomb testing in the atmosphere are yielding a new test to determine whether that Bordeaux or burgundy really is from a vintage year and a commands premium price or actually is a counterfeit vin ordinaire or cheap plonk worth much less.

A new test can determine whether a Bordeaux or burgundy is from a fine vintage year and commands premium price or actually is a counterfeit vin ordinaire or cheap plonk worth much less.
Credit: iStockphoto/Roman Sigaev

Two decades of atomic bomb testing in the atmosphere are yielding an unexpected bonus for consumers, scientists reported March 21 at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). It's a new test to determine whether that Bordeaux or burgundy is from a fine vintage year and commands premium price or actually is a counterfeit vin ordinaire or cheap plonk worth much less.

Graham Jones, Ph.D., who headed the research, said that misrepresenting the vintage -- the year the wine was made -- is an ongoing problem. He is with the University of Adelaide, Australia. Some years bring perfect growing conditions for vineyards in a country or region of a country and the grapes produce exceptional wines that command premium prices. In other years, bad weather, such as heavy late-season rains that bloat grapes with water or long hot, dry spells at harvest, means poor quality wines. Some wine experts estimate that up to 5 percent of the fine wine sold today is fake.

"The problem goes beyond ordinary consumers being overcharged for a bottle of expensive wine of a famous winery with a great year listed on the label," Jones pointed out. "Connoisseurs collect vintage wines and prices have soared with 'investment wines' selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars a case at auction."

Jones said the wine industry is fighting forgeries with special seals and high-tech labels. The method for authentication of a wine's vintage may provide added confidence that the vintage on the label is the vintage in the bottle.

In their leading research, Jones and colleagues found that radioactive carbon dioxide produced from atomic bomb tests in the atmosphere absorbed by grapes can be used to accurately determine wine vintages. The new technique is similar to radio-carbon dating, used for years to estimate the age of prehistoric objects. It works by comparing the amount of carbon-14 (C-14), a less common form of atmospheric carbon, to carbon-12 (C-12), which is more stable and abundant. The ratio of these two carbon forms, or isotopes, has remained constant in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

"Until the late 1940's all carbon-14 in the Earth's biosphere was produced by the interaction between cosmic rays and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere," Jones says. "This changed in the late 1940's up to 1963 when atmospheric atomic explosions significantly increased the amount of C-14 in the atmosphere. When the tests stopped in 1963 a clock was set ticking -- that of the dilution of this "bomb-pulse" C-14 by CO2 formed by the burning of fossil fuels."

He explains that traces of radioactive carbon are captured by the grape plants through the absorption of carbon dioxide and eventually transformed into alcohol and other carbon-based components of the wine. The "bomb-pulse" of the atmosphere is eventually absorbed into the wine.

"The year that the grapes were grown fixes the age or vintage of the wine," Jones says.

"The carbon-14 isotope ratio of the wine alcohol can therefore be used to determine the vintage of a wine."

The scientists used a highly-sensitive analytical device called an accelerator mass spectrometer to determine the C-14 levels in the alcohol components of 20 Australian red wines with vintages from 1958 to 1997 and then compared these measurements to the radioactivity levels of known atmospheric samples. They found that the method could reliably determine the vintage of wines to within the vintage year.

In addition to testing alcohol, measuring the age of other wine components, such as tartaric acid and various phenolic substances, can help improve the reliability of the technique for detecting fraud, Jones notes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Detecting fake wine vintages: It's an (atomic) blast." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100321182907.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2010, March 22). Detecting fake wine vintages: It's an (atomic) blast. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100321182907.htm
American Chemical Society. "Detecting fake wine vintages: It's an (atomic) blast." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100321182907.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) With plenty of honking, flapping, and fluttering, more than three dozen Caribbean flamingos at Zoo Miami were rounded up today as the iconic exhibit was closed for renovations. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins