Producers are trialling technology aimed at reassuring consumers the wine they are drinking is, in fact, the wine they have purchased.
- Grosset Wines owner Jeffrey Grosset says consumers can hover over the cap to authenticate the wine’s provenance
- The technology is being trialled within Australia and the UK
- Kilikanoon Wines’ Travis Fuller says wine fraud is rife
South Australia’s Grosset Wines owner Jeffrey Grosset has founded Enseal — a product designed to combat wine fraud, which he says is a significant issue in the industry.
It’s not the first time the company has earned a “trailblazer” plaudit when it comes to improving the quality of wines from their Clare Valley base, about 100kms north of Adelaide.
The region’s winemakers, including Mr Grosset, were hailed as leaders in the cork-to-screw-cap movement more than two decades ago.
“As Australian winemakers, we’re into innovation and quality,” he said.
“That’s certainly what the screw caps were about and what this latest innovation is about as well.
“We’ve designed it around a traditional screw cap, which now has a chip inserted just underneath the top of the cap.”
So, how does Enseal work?
Consumers then use their phones to hover over the cap, and essentially, the chip will confirm that the wine and label are a match.
Although Enseal is not commercially available yet, the technology is being trialled in Australia and the UK.
“It’s been patented internationally, and we’re in discussions with two of the largest screw cap makers in the world,” he said.
The chip will also allow wineries to step away from manual auditing and move to a digitalised process.
Mr Grosset said that now more than ever, the need for product integrity was crucial.
“There’s more fraud in wine than there ever has been before,” he said.
“The amount of fraud occurring, not with just Australian wine, but everywhere, is quite significant and probably a lot higher than people realise.”
What is wine fraud, exactly?
Wine fraud can be achieved in three ways: refiling empty labelled bottles with unrelated wine, adjusting minor label details, or completely labelling bottles with misrepresented information about the variety, region or vintage.
Mr Grosset said it was difficult to measure to what extent wine fraud was happening to Australian wines internationally.
“We’re fortunate in Australia because one of the benefits of screw caps is that they’re harder to fake the wine,” he said.
“It’s more difficult but not impossible.”
Technology has multiple benefits
He said Enseal would also give producers the opportunity to connect and share information about the wine with the consumers.
This could be a timeline from when the grapes were picked to when they arrived at their international destination.
More specifically, information like rainfall data and sunshine hours could also be added.
Mr Grosset said that undertaking Enseal was not an expensive process, especially when weighed against the value of the actual wine.
“[It’s] at a very low cost. You’re only talking about two to 30 cents, not dollars,” he said.
“In a way, we’re trying to get people used to just taking out their phones and checking to see that it’s what it says it is and it hasn’t been opened.”
Mr Grosset said that unlike a QR code, which could be easily photocopied, the chip was linked to an immutable record system that could not be replicated.
Winemakers need to protect ‘reputation’
Clare Valley’s Kilikanoon Wines general manager Travis Fuller said he was excited by the advancements that Enseal could provide the wine industry.
“It’s the next evolution for screw cap, which the Clare Valley essentially pioneered,” he said.
Mr Fuller said that counterfeiting wine was easy, and when consumers were aware of this, they would want product reassurance.
“Unfortunately, we make some great wine in Australia, and some people try and copy it,” he said.
“It’s pretty rife.”
Mr Fuller said it was up to Australia to protect the “great reputation” of its wines.
But, he said, the new technology would put a stop to fraud and give producers valuable information about their wine markets.
“You could get to the point now with this technology that when somebody purchases your wine in a store in Wimbledon in the UK, you know when it’s been opened,” Mr Fuller said.
“You can start to see where your product is actually being consumed. It’s pretty exciting stuff.”