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Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Wine DNA to foil crooks
Hardy's wine to be
Bottles of premium Australian wine are being given genetic "fingerprints" in an attempt to foil counterfeiters.

The Australian wine company, BRL Hardy, unveiled a world-first security seal on Thursday, which uses DNA coding to authenticate its flagship wine.

Eileen Hardy shiraz
Scanners can "read" the DNA in the seal
The seal is based on a DNA identification process used on tickets for the Sydney Olympics.

The move comes after a series of high-profile fraud cases, such as the 1998 discovery of fake bottles of the country's leading premium wine Penfolds Grange.

BRL Hardy's international marketing manager Jim Humphrys said the spate of thefts and forgeries had prompted the company to explore DNA identification.

"If you're a collector and you buy a dozen of these, you're going to spend well over $1,000 [370] and you don't want to turn around in three or four years' time and find out you've been sold a dud."

Hi-tech solution

DNA from the company's 125-year-old vines in south Australia is impregnated into light-reflective ink and applied to a tamperproof neck label that will seal the bottle.

If you buy a dozen of these, you're going to spend well over $1,000 [370]

Jim Humphrys
Electronic scanners can pick up the DNA in the ink, and the ink itself can be tested for the presence of the vine's DNA.

Security measures to authenticate stock will include random and pre-sale checks at auction houses and at wine retailers, and customer enquiries will be checked on request.

Super plonk

The seal will be on bottles of the Eileen Hardy shiraz from 1 August when the company releases the 1998 vintage.

Supermarket wine bottles
The seal is not for use on just any old plonk
The company produces 3,000 to 6,000 cases of Eileen Hardy each year, which sells for between 40 to 50 a bottle in the UK.

The company's red winemaker Steven Pannell said wine was an increasingly popular investment.

"Sadly this has led to an increase in wine fraud with our industry."

Wine companies around the world have introduced anti-tamper devices such as special cork seals and laser etching on bottles to prevent thieves from forging premium wines.

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See also:

29 Dec 00 | Europe
Police probe French wine 'fraud'
21 Jun 01 | Business
New world wins the wine war
13 Dec 00 | UK
Stick a plastic cork in it
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