authenticating wineOn the agenda of the recent UK Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC) meeting I attended was a fascinating talk titled: Wine Fraud – Catching the Cheats (link to downloadable pdf of the talk) by renowned wine expert Geoff Taylor (link to profile) of Campden BRI. Although Geoff’s does not discuss Ion Chromatography (IC), his abstract has some startling facts where fraud could potentially make serious money for the criminals, ranging from the fine wine market where volume is low and unit prices are high through to the mass volume market.

The potential fraud that captivated me (and what might seem tiny in monetary terms to you and me), is a 1p (or cent) differential per liter on a popular variety but if you factor in the 750,000 liters the UK bottles a day, the fraudulent profit will soon add up. Similarly, I imagine there will be larger operations in France, Spain, Italy and globally where there could be significant dividends for the fraudsters.

As I occasionally like a nice glass of red wine, I thought I would investigate a little more into the topic of fraud and authenticity of wine. Press reports suggest the Food Standards Agency’s new food crime unit, recommended in an independent report, titled, Elliot review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks, (link to report), will also target the trade in fake wines. As an aside, Professor Chris Elliot (link to profile) was at the same LGC conference and gave a fantastic talk based around his report titled: Securing the integrity of our food supply. Although there were many key points in the talk, I was really pleased to hear the report says it must put consumers first and that food safety and food crime will be the highest priority and that laboratory testing has to be conducted to the highest standard.

My interest then turned to my background of analytical chemistry, and while I know there is not one single technique used for authenticity I did remember a recent blog by Sonya Pelia, titled, HPLC Method for the Metabolite Profiling of Wine, Juice, & Tea, (link to post) using HPLC and spectro-electro array detection but I was delighted to find an Ion Chromatography method on the very topic. This application note, titled, Determination of Organic Acids in Fruit Juices and Wines by High-Pressure IC, (link to downloadable pdf of our application note) talks about the importance of organic acid analysis for wine authenticity and uses my favorite anion-exchange column (Thermo Scientific Dionex IonPac AS-11-HC-4 μm column). These new anion-exchange columns use small particle size resins and really do significantly improve peak shape and resolution. By the way, am sure you have a favorite column too!

To learn more about these columns, you can also watch a 4-min video on these columns by clicking the Play button below.

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Organic acid analysis in wine by ion chromatography with suppressed conductivity detection can have benefits over UV detection methods for a few reasons including: it can be more sensitive, as certain organic acids have poor absorption in UV compared to IC and also you can get significant interferences from high UV absorbing sugars and phenolics found in wine samples which you do not see with the IC method.

From a personal and professional perspective I find this topic really interesting and hope to follow the story and I will post any updates for you to follow.

Is wine authenticity and its ion chromatography methods of interest to your laboratory? If so I would like to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Additional Resources

Do check out our Food Community which is a wonderful resource that is totally dedicated to our Food and Beverage customers and features the latest on-demand webinars, videos, application notes, and more.

Paul Dewsbury is a Global Marketing Manager for Food and Beverage in the Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry Division at Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. Paul has over 20 years’ experience in analytical chemistry with a specialty in Ion Chromatography and its applications both as a customer through to Sales and Technical Support for Dionex UK and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Paul has a strong customer focus and now applies the experiences he has gained in helping our customers find solutions to their needs and challenges in the Food and Beverage sector. Paul received his BSc (Hons) Degree in Applied Chemistry at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK.