” France is scared “, the presenter of the TV news Roger Gicquel would have said.” Our customers are concerned », Announces the winemaker Louis-Michel Liger-Belair in the same serious tone. The reason for this fear? ” There is a lot of talk about counterfeits in the world of wine, the Burgundian explains. We have only a little experience with this phenomenon, but we know that it is not difficult to make a fake bottle despite the many protections that the manufacturers have introduced. Since I do not want to personally have to react at the last minute to a problem like this, I decided to take the lead with my own solution. »
Fraud and counterfeiting: a plague that hits tens of thousands of bottles every year around the world. Within the institutions responsible for control, the most pessimistic claim that 20% of international wine trade would be affected. The topic is not new. Ancient writings tell of maneuvers to color wine and other excesses. Stories of misleading mixtures, forgeries of names and false labels have shaped the history of this small world. In France, the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and the Fight against Fraud (DGCCRF) monitors the regularity of microcosm operations, supported by nine wine and spirits investigation teams. However, global trade in vintages has intensified. The community remembers the case of Rudy Kurdiawan, an Indonesian counterfeiter, counterfeit bordeaux from the Rousseau estate, Château de la Tour and dozens of other grands crus.
Today, as more and more bottles are exchanged online, many intermediaries – traders, online auction specialists … – take on the role of means of authentication, but with varying skills and sometimes morale, modulated by business interests, some manufacturers say. Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, for its part, considers that it is up to the winemaker to guarantee the authenticity of the production to the various buyers. Its solution is called Wokenwine, named after a new Luxembourg-based company created by financier Valéry Lux, ” a wine lover and consumer who has been confronted with questionable bottles, but also a passionate about new technologies and a great connoisseur of issues related to blockchain », Explains Louis-Michel Liger-Belair. The latter is itself a 20% shareholder in this platform, which connects each bottle with an NFT, that is, a digital format that acts as an unadulterated certificate of authenticity because it is recorded on the blockchain.
” By having the chip and the number on the bottle, it is enough to connect to the platform to identify the bottle as well as its origin and route. Wokenwine will associate the chip with a color code: it will be green when the wine is still stored at the winemaker, yellow when it is at the middlemen, black when the bottle is drunk ”Explains Liger-Belair.
Then it is left to draw attention to the existence of Wokenwine and the association of certain wines with NFTs, which could encourage buyers to check the authenticity of the bottles during the purchase. This system could restrict the movement of wines. Once a bottle is stored in a convenient location, the change of ownership can be reduced to a simple change of its code without any movement. ” This way you can avoid having bottles that travel tens of thousands of kilometers before they are sold, Louis-Michel Liger-Belair continues. In addition to issues of stock management and strict protection against counterfeiting, it is also about who drinks the wine and how they drink it. I am interested in identifying good customers that I do not know and meeting them. From July, he plans to link 3,000 bottles of his production to this system, which fluctuates between 20,000 and 30,000 bottles each year.
How much will this protection device cost interested parties? ” It is still under discussion. For the manufacturer, we want this to correspond to less than 10% of the price of the bottle. It also remains to be seen whether the intermediaries will contribute to the cost of this technology.»
Wokenwine will far from be the only player in the NFT market associated with the security of wine exchanges. Other systems offer to equip the bottles with an RFID tag that guarantees the connection between the bottle of wine and the information in the blockchain. For a year, the sector has been in full swing. Large groups multiply initiatives. Last October, Dom Pérignon presented champagne hundred bottles designed with Lady Gaga and their NFT versions, which were sold in a virtual space. Château Angélus, in Saint-Émilion, and the Australian brand Penfolds follow the movement, like many others, and mix advertising effect, the desire to be in line with the times, the fight against fraud and the desire to track precisely high-value products. The wine lover should win out of the implementation of these new devices, provided it does not rhyme with an overly high price on the bottle.
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