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Is your wine genuine? - JRC releases ERM-AE003, an essential standard for wine authenticity testing

17 June 2021

Counterfeiting of wine is a world-wide issue, affecting consumers as well as damaging wine producers and public authorities through loss of tax and duty revenues. Specific analytical measurements are needed to verify the authenticity of wines. The JRC has released a standard that is essential for executing these measurements according to official methods adopted by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and the European Union for wine analysis.

Counterfeiting of wine is causing significant damage to the wine industry, financially, but also in reputation. Consumers maybe mislead by fraudulent practices on this high-value commodity. The economic impact of such fraudulent activities in the European Union wine sector is estimated at EUR 1.3 billion per year, which amounts to 3.3 % of the Union wine sector’s sales. Over 1 million litres of counterfeit wine and alcoholic beverages were seized in one single action alone in 2019/20, lead by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

To detect adulteration practices, specific analytical measurements are carried out by the competent authorities in the Member States, such as site-specific natural isotope fractionation – nuclear magnetic resonance (SNIF-NMR®) spectroscopy. Stable isotope ratio analysis via NMR spectroscopy is a very powerful tool in food fraud detection. Stable isotope analysis can not only identify the origin and vintage of wine, helping the verification of compliance with the label description, but also detect illegal practices of wine adulteration.

The SNIF-NMR® is used in an official method adopted by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and the European Union for wine analysis. The deuterium-to-hydrogen (D/H) isotope ratio (i.e. 2H/1H) is one of several parameters that help in verifying the authenticity of wines. (D/H) ratios measured by SNIF-NMR® on the ethanol distilled from wine samples are compared to reference data and profile maps of authentic samples contained in the European Union (EU) Wine Databank, allowing the detection of fraudulent products.

 The JRC produced ERM-AE003, a new batch of pure tetramethylurea (TMU) certified reference material (CRM) with a defined deuterium-to-hydrogen (D/H) isotope ratio, to replace the exhausted previous batch of TMU CRM.

ERM-AE003 is the needed internal standard in SNIF-NMR® spectroscopy measurements for determining D/H ratios of ethanol distilled from wines and spirits. Its use as internal standard is also mentioned in official SNIF-NMR® methods of the OIV and AOAC (Association of Official Analytical Chemists) for ethanol distilled from fermented fruit juices and syrups and to check the genuineness of other food commodities like vanillin and vinegar.

After assessment of homogeneity and stability of the material, the D/H ratio certified value was established by measuring ERM-AE003 together with the TMU master batch IRMM-425 in repeatability conditions. All laboratories applied the SNIF-NMR® method OIV-MA-AS311-05.

The CRM ERM-AE003 (together with its certificate and certification report) is available from the JRC's online catalogue and from the JRCs authorised distributors.

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