Atom Smasher Dates Fine Wine
PARIS, Sept. 3, 2008 -- French scientists are using high-energy ion beams from a particle accelerator to tell vintage Bordeaux wines from fakes.
According to the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, the National Center for Scientific Research), Arcane, the technology transfer unit in Bordeaux, France, signed a contract with London-based wine traders the Antique Wine Company to develop a way to authenticate the age of some of the 10,000 bottles of vintage wines it buys or sells annually.
Questions about the authenticity of some French Bordeaux has been in the news in recent years. Florida billionaire William Koch is currently suing German wine deal Hardy Rodenstock over the authenticity of four bottles of Bordeaux that were alleged to have belonged to Thomas Jefferson, and has also filed lawsuits against other wine auction houses that he alleges sold him fake wines.
Authentication of the glass in a wine bottle by ion beam. Photo: ©ARCANE-CENBG)
The nuclear scientists at Arcane analyzed the x-rays emitted by bottles' glass using a beam of ions from the Aifira (Interdisciplinary Applications of Ion Beams in Region Aquitaine) particle accelerator to determine when the glass was produced. If the wine was dated 1963, for example, but the bottle was found to have been made decades later, the traders would know the contents were counterfeit.
The researchers used data gathered from analyzing 80 bottles of red Bordeaux wine produced between the 19th century and today to build a database. Authentication using the glass as a basis is possible because of the complex process of glass manufacturing that has evolved over time, CNRS said, and the diversity of glass producers, which give each bottle a characteristic "signature."
Analysis by ion beam provides information about the age of the wine by dating its container, overcoming some of the limitations of the caesium 137 radioactivity technique used to test the age of the wine itself, but which cannot be used to date wine produced before 1950, CNRS said. The technique also does not require the wine to be opened or damaged in any way, it said.
The 10-year contract covers the analysis of about 160 bottles, with most of the results being integrated into the Arcane database. A second phase will begin in November, with the creation of an independent French-based company called Vincert SARL providing commercial expertise.
For more information, visit: www.cnrs.fr/index.html
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