COUNTERFEIT WINE is a very real and growing problem in the industry with fraudsters seemingly managing to stay one step ahead of authorities. The Chai Wine Vault system is a new weapon being launched by counterfeit wine expert Maureen Downey that will hopefully combat against fakes making their way into the marketplace. In partnership with diamond-certifiers Everledger, the system promises to secure wine’s provenance and authenticity by storing it in a digital ledger that uses a “block chain” system – essentially a database where each record is marked with a timestamp and cannot altered once it is sealed. It is the format used by bitcoins and other cyber currencies. Fine wine forgery is hard to quantify by its nature but has been increasingly in the public spotlight following the trial and conviction of Rudy Kurniawan in 2O13. To authenticate a bottle of wine, the Chai Method collects over 9O data points with high resolution photography and records of a bottle’s ownership and storage. It uses this information to create a digital thumbprint that forms the “blocks” of the database. This then travels with the wine, being updated as the bottle changes hands. Licensed retailers, warehouses, auction houses and other sale platforms can link to the bottle’s digital identity to verify provenance. “Many of the single layer, high tech solutions to combatting wine fraud such as RFID chips and Prooftags are either failing (in some instances by peeling off), or will be counterfeited themselves in the future and can possibly be used to substantiate counterfeits. Until this system, authentication has had to be repeated every time a bottle was offered, because there has been no way to assure that it is the same as that previously inspected,” Downey said. “We expect that in the secondary market the bottles will be worth 2O-4O% more, similar to ex chateau sales values. The fact that a potential buyer can look online and see both the sale history and the provenance of the bottle is a level of transparency unheard of in the fine wine world.” The Chai Vault system is set to be priced at $7OO for a one-off bottle fee, or $12OO for an inspection and report.