This High-Tech Wine Bottle Fights Fraud
New anti-counterfeiting tech from one of Burgundy’s most acclaimed winemakers.
Even before one of history’s most sensational wine-fraud cases emerged, Laurent Ponsot, then the winemaker at Burgundy- based Domaine Ponsot, knew that charlatans lurked at the fringes of his beloved industry. When he first spotted a phony bottle in 1995, he recalls, “I started to think about what to do about it.” And then came Rudy Kurniawan, a youthful upstart wine dealer purporting to possess the world’s greatest cellar and selling tens of millions of dollars’ worth of fine wines at auction—only to be exposed in 2012 as a massive counterfeiter. It was Ponsot who helped the FBI investigate and eventually catch him. (In one memorable instance, an auction was interrupted to pull the Ponsot wines that were up for sale—they had, in fact, never been made by his family.)
The affaire de Kurniawan fueled Ponsot’s efforts to create safeguards, knowing that for any collectible commodity, the most important ingredient is authenticity. Working with eProvenance and Selinko, two technology start-ups, at his new entity Laurent Ponsot (founded in 2017), Ponsot has created a system that deploys five unique safeguards. First comes the bottle itself, made from a mold that exists only at Ponsot’s new Burgundy-based operation, which debuted its wines last fall. The second component is the label, which contains a temperature sensor, as well as a secret, proprietary technology that enables its verification. en there is a polymer closure in place of a traditional cork that’s made in one factory on the planet, Ponsot says, along with a tamper-proof chip that can be scanned and read with a near field communication smartphone or similar device. The chip reveals whether the bottle has been opened, creating what Ponsot calls an “anti-refilling” system. Finally, there are six chips embedded within each shipment of grand cru wine that monitor the wine’s storage and temperature, creating what start-up partner eProvenance refers to as “intelligent cases.”
The system is now available to winemakers everywhere through eProvenance and Selinko, as well as through the company ArdeaSeal (to whom Ponsot sold the patents of the closures.) How foolproof is it? An ambitious counterfeiter could theoretically duplicate this technology, but the cost would almost certainly be too prohibitive, Ponsot says. “Nothing is impossible on earth, especially with the technology of today,” he says. “But we make it very difficult on the fakers.”
Anti-Fraud Tech, Explained (see image)
A. Hot or Not
A non-reversible sensor turns black if the bottle has been exposed to too high a temperature.
B. Instant Authentication
A microchip lets you confirm the wine’s authenticity using a free app from Selinko on a smartphone or tablet equipped with near field communication. Not sure if your device has NFC? Visit nfcworld.com to find out.