eProvenance, a company that tracks wine shipment conditions, has launched VinAssure, a blockchain-based tracking service. Blockchain creates an unalterable record associated with a product. By creating a shared public record of the transactions and conditions associated with a particular bottle, VinAssure can guarantee—for both consumers and trade— information like shipping temperature, provenance or farming practices and certifications.
Experiments with blockchain to trace the origins of food in other areas of agriculture are well underway. In the wine industry, however, it could have significant implications for the secondary market decades in the future, as it will be impossible for fraudsters to counterfeit backdated data, offering a verified provenance for whenever (or wherever) entries are created in the ledger.
According to a spokesperson, VinAssure is “the first [company] in the wine trade to design and offer a blockchain for the wine industry,” rather than a blockchain company adding the capacity to trace wine. The public-record blockchain will only grow as long as it’s handled by VinAssure users, but it will be proof that a bottle’s provenance. Because it is built on IBM’s Blockchain Transparent Supply platform, it is “interoperable with other blockchain solutions built on top of the same platform, including IBM Food Trust.”
Importer André Tamers’ De Maison Selections, which has used eProvenance to track the temperatures of their shipments since 2015, will be the first company to use VinAssure. While the potential uses of this technology are varied, for Tamers, it’s first and foremost about guaranteeing the integrity of the cold-chain, which he calls “a passion project of the company for the last twenty years.” De Maison will use VinAssure in its capacity as a national importer as well as in its state-level distribution in New York and New Jersey. With more data input into the chain, the guarantee grows ever stronger.
The Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Export Division and Maison Sichel, a négociant in Bordeaux, will soon join De Maison as VinAssure members.
Terre Alfieri has become Piedmont’s newest DOCG. It allows for a red wine based on nebbiolo and white wine from arneis (85 percent minimum for both). Terre Alfieri’s production area includes 11 municipalities, seven of them in the province of Asti.
Following allegations in the New York Times of a history of issues with gender equality at the Court of Master Sommeliers and the long-term manifestations in sexual harassment, the body has elected 11 new board members. Christopher Bates, Robert Bigelow, Brahm Callahan, Keith Goldston, Michael Meagher, Kathryn Morgan, Joshua Nadel, Sabato Sagaria, Mia Van de Water, Emily Wines and David Yoshida, all MSes, will serve terms of varying length to adjust the usual staggered-terms model to this one-time overhaul. The board has unanimously elected Emily Wines, MS as its chair, and the group’s first task will be delineating criteria for selecting four additional board members from outside the organization to add diversity of experience and perspective.
ProWein, the international wine trade fair held annually in Düsseldorf, Germany has been canceled for 2021 due to COVID- 19 concerns. It is scheduled to resume March 27–29, 2022. Verona’s Vinitaly has moved the dates of its 2021 exhibition from April to June 20–23. Similarly, VinExpo Paris has been postponed from February 2021 to June 14–16, 2021. Other fairs in Bordeaux, New York and Hong Kong have been postponed until 2022.
While the tariffs the US imposed in October 2019 on wines and spirits of several European countries due to a trade dispute involving government subsidies of AirBus have remained unchanged through 2020, a new tariff war has started across the Pacific, as China, alleging that Australian producers dumped wine on the Chinese market to the detriment of local producers, set tariffs of up to 212 percent on Australian wines entering the country, effectively undermining a market that accounted for nearly 40 percent of Australia’s wine exports. As a result, Australian producers are reportedly diverting shipments to other potential markets, including the US, which might see lower prices for these same wines.
The Oregon wine industry lost one of its leading members on October 21, 2020 with the passing of Ken Evenstad who, with his wife Grace, founded Domaine Serene in 1989. After success in the pharmaceutical industry, the Evenstads turned their amateur interest in wine into a professional one, purchasing property in the Dundee Hills that they grew to 1000 acres, 300 of which are planted to vines. Reversing the trend of Burgundy winemakers investing in Oregon, in 2015 the Evenstad family acquired a Burgundy estate of their own, Château de la Crée in Santenay.
Lucas Pichler and his father Franz Xavier Pichler, of F.X. Pichler in Austria’s Wachau, have withdrawn from Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus—the association the senior Pichler helped found in 1983. The organization established quality designations of Wachau wines on the basis of sugar ripeness levels, lowest to highest: Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd, offering consumers guidance in terms of wine style. With climate change, the Pichlers say that achieving higher levels of sugar ripeness is a regular occurrence, making Vinea Wachau’s standards obsolete. In its place, the Pichlers will label their wines according to the Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC) system, equivalent to France’s Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), starting with the 2020 vintage.
This story appears in the print issue of February 2021.
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