For Charles Pillitteri, the fight against fraudsters began when he discovered fake bottles of his Canadian ice wine in Taiwan in 1998.
He tried everything to safeguard his product from counterfeiting, from 22-carat gold to invisible ink, only to realise that none would protect the consumer at point of purchase.
The proprietor of Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, in the Canadian province of Ontario, found his solution in a bottle-top silver bubble seal that is impossible to copy.
“It gives us authenticity, traceability, integrity and customer satisfaction,” said Pillitteri as the recent Vinexpo wine industry fair in Bordeaux.
The seals — developed by Prooftag, a French firm that specialises in brand security — is among several technologies that vintners are embracing to foil fraudsters and reassure consumers that they are buying the real thing.
With Prooftag, a consumer armed with an iPhone, a downloaded software application and Internet access can authenticate a wine in seconds, even while standing at the wine-store shelves.
“Its easy. You take your iPhone, take a shot of the datamatrix code and it takes you to the website and it shows you a picture of the bubble pattern for the bottle you are looking at,” Pillitteri said.
“If you break the seal, all the bubbles are broken, the seal is gone and you cant copy it.”
Android and BlackBerry versions of the app are due out by year’s end.
Ice wine, a sweet dessert wine made from grapes frozen on the vine, is one of the most counterfeited wines in the world, particularly in Asia where it is a prestigious gift item.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.