Using Technology to Prevent Wine Fraud

More than 20 percent of exported wine may be counterfeit

More than 20 percent of exported wine may be counterfeit

Last August, Rudy Kurniawan was fined $48 million and sentenced to 10 years in prison.  His crime: making and selling counterfeit wine.  For years, he had been buying and selling millions of dollars of collectible wines.  It turns out he was actually inflating prices, forging labels and refilling bottles in his kitchen.

The most expensive bottle of wine ever sold at auction – attributed to 18th-century American statesman Thomas Jefferson and authenticated by Christie’s Auction House – turned out to be counterfeit.

Wine is a $60 billion annual global business.  Yet a recent French study found that more than 20 percent of exported wines may be counterfeit.  Some estimate that more than 5 percent of wine sold at auction is similarly fraudulent.  How do you know if you have bought a fake bottle?  That’s the $60 billion question.

Experts have proposed a number of methods to validate wine.  One measures the X-rays emitted as a result of exposure to a high-energy ion beam from a particle accelerator.  Another measures the amount of atmospheric radioactive carbon dioxide the grapes absorb from the atomic bomb tests of the 1950s.  Needless to say, these methods are both costly and involved.

Recently, scientists from Argentina and the University of California at Davis tested a new method using an Agilent gas chromatograph, mass spec detector and ChemStation software.  They determined that Malbec wines produced in Argentina and California – despite being made by the same winemaker and using the same protocol – had distinct molecular signatures.  There were compositional differences related to variance in altitude, precipitation and growing days.

This research  helps experts to “fingerprint” specific wines.  It may also help growers to produce better-tasting wines in the future.


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Filed Under: Applied Chemical
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A Heart-Cutting Award for Agilent

The Agilent 1290 Infinity II 2D-LC Solution wins a technology award

The Agilent 1290 Infinity II 2D-LC Solution wins a technology award

Agilent has received a technology award from The Analytical Scientist magazine.

When a laboratory analyzes an unknown sample, it typically uses a two-step process of separation followed by detection.  In gas and liquid chromatography, separation is accomplished by passing the sample through a tube-like column, where a solvent separates it into simpler components for analysis.

With complex samples, however, there are often too many overlapping compounds to obtain a complete separation, even with the highest-resolution columns available.

One solution is “multidimensional” chromatography, also known as “2D” or “heart cutting.”  A small fraction of the compound is “cut” or transferred from the first column to a second column.  Data is thus acquired from two detectors, enhancing the resolution of the cut section.  But 2D technologies have had issues with repeatability, precision and robustness.  Data points from the first dimension can be lost while the second dimension is running.

The Agilent 1290 Infinity II Multiple Heart-Cutting 2C-LC solution solves this problem with multiple heart-cutting abilities, enabling users to increase performance in the second dimension without losing data from the first dimension.  This fully automated solution has now been recognized by The Analytical Scientist Innovation Awards 2014 as one of the most transformative technologies introduced in the past year.

“Good to see that relatively complex/challenging analytical flow technology can be automated in a robust way,” said the judges.

“The Agilent 1290 Infinity II 2D-LC solution with multiple heart-cutting boosts analytical efficiency with superior peak capacity compared to conventional solutions,” said Agilent’s Stefan Schuette.  “It improves laboratory efficiency by providing unmatched ease of use.”


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How Agilent is Helping Reduce Jail Overcrowding

Alabama is using Agilent to improve its prison system

Alabama is using Agilent to improve its prison system

The city of Mobile, Alabama is using an Agilent DART mass spectrometer to rapidly process a backlog of drug tests that have contributed to jail overcrowding.

DART stands for “Direct Analysis in Real Time.”  First developed in 2005, this technique enables analysis of gases, liquids and solids in open air under ambient conditions, eliminating the need for sample preparation. Analysis can take place directly on the sample surface, including bank notes, luggage and clothing.

Last year, Alabama had a backlog of more than 38,000 drug tests.  Drug samples had to be sent out to a testing laboratory, resulting in long wait times.  As a result, suspects were forced to wait in prison until their innocence or guilt could be determined.  With the new Agilent DART-TOF (time of flight) instrument, samples can be tested locally and within a matter of minutes.

Agilent DART systems can be used in several applied markets, including forensics and food safety.  Mobile is the first crime laboratory system to apply DART technology.


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