WITH wine fraud across the globe estimated to be worth billions of dollars, University of Adelaide wine researchers are developing a new rapid method of authenticating wine.
The scientists identified the geographical origins of wines from three wine regions of Australia and from Bordeaux in France with 100 per cent accuracy with a novel technique of molecular fingerprinting using 'fluorescence spectroscopy', a technology that analyses fluorescence of molecules.
"Wine fraud is a significant problem for the global wine industry, given a yearly economic impact within Australia alone estimated at several hundred million dollars, and globally thought to be in the billions of dollars," said Ruchira Ranaweera - a PhD student in the University's Waite Research Institute who conducted the research.
"Wine authentication can help to avoid any uncertainty around wine labelling 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."
The researchers focused on cabernet sauvignon - a globally important grape variety and the second most planted in Australia - from three Australian wine regions and Bordeaux in France, the birthplace of the variety.
They compared an existing approach for authentication, which involves measuring elements in wine samples using 'inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry' (ICP-MS), with the more simple, rapid and cost-effective fluorescence spectroscopy technique.
"This method provides a 'fingerprint' of the samples according to the presence of fluorophoric or light-emitting compounds," Ms Ranaweera said.
"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."
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In every wine they tested using the novel combination of fluorescence spectroscopy with machine learning-driven data analysis, they were able to correctly allocate the wine to its region with the fluorescence data, but not with elements determined by ICP-MS.
The researchers say there are other useful applications of this technology for the wine industry either available now or in the pipeline, such as phenolic and wine colour analysis, and smoke taint detection.
Project leader David Jeffery, from the Waite Research Institute and the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production, says they hope ultimately to identify specific chemical markers that help discriminate between wine regions.
"Other than coming up with a robust method for authenticity testing, we are hoping to use the chemical information obtained from fluorescence data to identify the molecules that are differentiating the wines from the different regions," Associate Professor Jeffery said.
"This may help with regional branding, by understanding how their wines' characteristics are influenced by the region and how they differ from other regions."
The research has been published in the journal Food Chemistry and was supported by Wine Australia and the federal government, the Waite Research Institute and industry partners through the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production.
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