Adulteration of wine is a worldwide issue affecting consumers. It is also confronting the honest wine producers with unfair competition, as falsified wines are marketed as high-quality products. Wine fraud costs the regular EU wine sector an estimated 1.3 billion euro per year. More than one million liters of counterfeit alcoholic beverages were seized across Europe in 2020 and over 1.7 million in 2021.
The Swiss winery Schuler St. Jakobs, in collaboration with the Swiss start-up Authena, introduces an absolute novelty: For the first time it is possible to make a bottle of wine tamper-proof, thanks to an electronic security seal and blockchain technology. Schuler and Authena thus set a new course in the wine trade in Switzerland and beyond.
Schuler St. Jakobs, leading producers and distributors in the wine market, and technology start-up Authena AG, set a new course in the wine trade in Switzerland and beyond. The first enthusiasts to snag a bottle of Noa, Château Marlen, the new premium wine from Armenia, will receive the first “En primeur” wine connected, sealed and authenticated thanks to Authena’s blockchain-based technology. Schuler will launch its first counterfeit-proof vintage (the 2019) with a limited edition of 3,000 bottles. Subscription began in December 2021 and the wine will be delivered to customers in May/June 2022.
“Authena brings an unprecedented level of security to premium wines worldwide and every bottle can now be tracked from bottling to opening. Our blockchain-based solution in combination with digital-analog seals makes wine counterfeiting almost impossible worldwide” – says Matteo Panzavolta, CEO of Authena AG – “This technology also allows producers to enter a direct dialogue with all their customers. It creates an emotional connection and offers great up- and cross-selling potential because authenticity always remains verifiable over time.”
With Authena Shield TM, an end-to-end technology framework that ensures product traceability and security, Authena wants to put an end to the illicit alcohol market once and for all. To date, wine counterfeiting is a hugely lucrative business and represents the most significant share of food counterfeiting. Only in EU, wine fraud costs the regular wine sector an estimated 1.3 billion euro per year. The possibilities of deceiving wine lovers are almost unlimited. Top wines, as well as younger wines, are easy to plagiarize and the falsification of labels as well as the refilling of original bottles cannot be proven without a careful analysis up to now.
The simple authentication of a bottle of wine via a smartphone allows any brand to adopt Authena Shield TM‘s framework and easily scale it globally. Its technological framework provides a comprehensive system that allows companies to ensure the traceability, authenticity and integrity of products, preventing the practice of “refilling”, fraudulent labeling and any other type of fraud. In this way, brands, producers and consumers are actively protected against counterfeiting and its negative consequences, such as financial and health damages.
The technology is based on a physical-digital authenticity seal (based on IoT and blockchain) that uniquely identifies and authenticates the product, an app to verify its authenticity instantly, and a dashboard that allows manufacturers to track individual units in real time.
The seal sends information about the individual bottle of wine to the smartphone via the NFC (near-field communication) tag. When the reader of any smartphone comes within a few centimeters of the tag, its electromagnetic field is activated and information necessary for the identification and verification of the integrity status of the seal itself is transmitted. The opening of the bottle interrupts a circuit and makes it assume the status of “open”, both physically and digitally, in an irreversible manner.
This authentication process creates transparent and intelligent supply chains, offering customers more security and generating a new channel of communication between producers and end consumers all over the world. Producers can upload specific information, images and videos on a per-product basis, allowing end consumers to access details about the vintage, winemaking, aging and tasting notes.
“The legendary Areni region, where grapes have been cultivated for more than 6,000 years, is the place of origin of Château Marlen. Inspired by world-renowned winemaker Michel Rolland of Bordeaux, Schuler offers a new wine, Château Marlen, from its own vineyards in Armenia. This wine, limited to 3000 bottles and made from the Areni grape variety, will be presented in the classic Bordeaux dress,” says Nikolas von Haugwitz, managing director of Schuler St. Jakobs.
Château Marlen’s vineyards rise on volcanic soils near the sacred mountain Ararat. As Armenia is located on a plateau, the vines are located at an altitude between 1400 and 1500 meters above sea level. The great advantage of this altitude is that there is a considerable difference in temperature between day and night, which has a positive effect on the development of aromas in grapes. A bottle of Château Marlen encompasses the unmistakable terroir of Armenia. Schuler exclusively selects the best grapes from the vineyards of Aghavnadzor, which are immediately vinified on the spot. Maturation takes place in barriques produced by the winery itself.
Schuler St. Jakobs Kellerei was founded in 1694 by Johann Jakob Castell. It is the oldest and today one of the most renowned wine producers and traders based in Seewen-Schwyz. Schuler owns its own vineyards in Valais, Switzerland (Maison Gilliard and Domaines Cheva-liers), Tuscany (Castello di Meleto) and Armenia (Noa di Areni, Areni grape). Schuler owns 16 wine shops, a wine store, its own wine laboratory and a winemaking cellar. Enologists and cellarers are in charge of the production and aging of wines in the winery’s cellar. The winery is owned by Jakob Schuler, whereas Nikolas von Haugwitz, an internationally renowned wine expert, is the managing director.
Authena is the world’s leading provider of blockchain-based technology solutions for tracking supply chains and creating interactive end-to-end communication between manufacturers and end users. Based in Zug, Switzerland, the startup was founded in 2018 and has a team of 17 people, located all over the world. The company is active in the pharmaceutical, agrochemical, food, industrial and luxury sectors and is at the forefront of the fight against counterfeiting, parallel imports and product diversion globally. Through blockchain and IoT devices, manufacturers can ensure the authenticity of their products, monitor unauthorized interactions in real time, whilst enabling new direct channels of engagement with end consumers. Authena strives to implement green and transparent manufacturing strategies and sustainable business methods.