Arcane(1), the technological transfer unit at the Centre d'études nucleaires in Bordeaux Gradignan (CNRS-IN2P3(2)/University of Bordeaux 1) has signed an exclusive cooperation agreement with The Antique Wine Company(3), which specializes in the international vintage wine trade, to authenticate the glass in the bottles by ion beam analysis.
Just like works of art, wine is now being subjected to advanced testing to establish its authenticity: after measuring caesium 137 radioactivity levels to test the age of the wine, the glass in vintage wine bottles is now being tested by particle acceleration. The London-based company, which specializes in the international fine wine trade, has asked Arcane to find a way of assessing the age of some of the 10,000 bottles that the company buys or sells annually on behalf of its clients. It wants to offer its customer base a new authentication service for vintage wine. Arcane analyses the X-rays emitted when bottles are placed under an ion beam produced by the particle accelerator at the AIFIRA(4) platform. This enables researchers to verify the age and provenance of the bottles and thus to authenticate the vintage, rather like checking a painter's signature on a masterpiece, without opening the bottle or damaging the contents in any way.
The results obtained for the glass are then compared with the certified database set up by Arcane using data from the analysis of the glass from 80 bottles of red Bordeaux wine ranging from the 19th century to today, for the most part fine wines from St Émilion and the Médoc region. Authentication is possible because of both the complexity of the glass manufacturing process, which have evolved over time, and the diversity of glass-making production centers, which give each object a characteristic signature. Analysis by ion beam provides information about the age of the wine by dating its container, thereby overcoming some of the limitations of the caesium 137 radioactivity technique, which cannot be used to date wine produced before 1950.
The cooperation agreement(5) will initially cover the analysis of approximately 160 bottles from top châteaux and from the wine cellars of The Antique Wine Company, with most of the results being integrated into the Arcane database. A second phase will begin in November 2008, with the creation of an independent French-based company called «Vincert S.A.R.L»(6) offering commercial expertise services.
- Regional workshop for characterization by nuclear element analysis. Arcane is managed by ADERA (Association for the development of education and research in Aquitaine), which has signed a cooperation agreement with CNRS/University of Bordeaux 1.
- IN2P3: CNRS's National institute of nuclear and particle physics
- The London-based Antique Wine Company was set up 25 years ago by Stephen Williams. It manages a portfolio of some of the most prestigious wine cellars in the world for its 17,000 clients in 67 countries: www.antique-wine.com
- Platform for cross-disciplinary ion beam applications in the Aquitaine region.
- The ten-year agreement was signed on 2 March 2008.
- To find out more about Vincert SARL