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Monday, September 10, 2007

Italian Military Police Get Sommelier Training to Combat Fraud

Stopping wine fraud is getting plenty of attention these days. Vineyards worldwide are applying everything from tongues to technology in the fight to outsmart counterfeiters.

Recently, Kodak (a client of the marketing firm where I work) announced that several of Napa Valley’s top wineries have employed a new high tech anti-counterfeiting technology to protect their brands and wine consumers. Colgin Cellars, HL Vineyards, Vineyard 29 and Staglin Family Vineyard are using a Kodak Security Solutions technology that uses invisible markers that can be added to printing inks, paper and other packaging elements allowing easy authentication of their products.

Now the Italian military is getting into the act and has qualified a team of military police as professional sommeliers. A team of 150 lucky officers have completed the 18-month course and are ready to fight counterfeit Italian wines.

The Italian Sommeliers' Association encouraged the police to take the training. It is said to be the largest wine crime fighting unit in Europe. Italy is now the largest exporter of wine in the world, having recently passed France.

Italian police say that counterfeiters often use cheap table grapes and chemicals to attempt to mirror the taste of expensive bottles of wine. The fakes can easily fool consumers and often even get past experts. In the case of wines like Brunello di Montalcino, which has to be aged for at least five years in oak barrels, the imitations can defraud consumers of substantial amounts of money. The fakes can also flood the market and push down prices of legitimate wine.

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