Hungary—a country with a growing wine export market—is composed of 22 wine regions. Despite winemaking playing an important role in Hungarian culture for hundreds of years, the country has not been as well-renowned globally as countries like France, Italy, and Germany. Tokaji—a sweet wine from the northeast region of Tokaj—is perhaps the most well-known Hungarian wine, but other wines of great value are produced in the country. For this reason, protection of Hungarian wine from wine fraud and forgery through the generation of a wine map of origin is of great importance.
Novel Tools and Partnerships
New, innovative tools are being developed to advance wine authenticity and identification methods. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is a powerful technique capable of making precise measurements of thousands of different wines, and its recent adoption in Hungary is providing wine customers and producers with confidence and trust in the content and origin of their wine. NMR has been used in western Europe for a number of years, but Hungary is the first eastern European country to adopt it.
The Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture and Diagnosticum Zrt., a Hungarian diagnostics company, have been working together in recent years to achieve two goals: 1) to develop a wine map of origin and 2) to contribute data on Hungarian wines to the existing international database. The recognition of a need of alliance between the Ministry and Hungarian wine associations led to the signing of a contract in July 2017, propelling the Hungarian wine authentication and identification program through the use of innovative technology.
The Ministry has now acknowledged the importance of an inclusive Hungarian wine map—the first in Eastern Europe—to extend the existing European Union (EU) map consisting of French, Italian, Spanish, and German wines. The addition of Hungary to the map will positively impact international business, wine producers, and dealers.
Ensuring Wine Authenticity
Wine fraud encompasses intellectual property infringement, wine adulteration, and counterfeiting, which can be done by misrepresentation and mislabeling of grape variety, blend origin, or vintage. The Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture is looking to tackle this problem using NMR screening technology.
The Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture and the EU commissions and funds the Hungarian wine identification and authentication program. Diagnosticum carries out screening of wine samples sent to its laboratory by wine producers who are keen to reinforce their customers’ trust by authenticating their product. When wine producers from across Hungary send their samples in, Diagnosticum uses Bruker’s NMR FoodScreener to screen for 52 different measurement parameters and produce a report. Each individual wine sample is then compared to a broad authentic database of reference samples and a detailed certificate is produced. The parameters include tests for decomposition, markers of fermentation, amino acids, phenol derivatives, and stabilizing agents.
“At the moment, we can produce a measurement report from sample receipt to report delivery within one month,” says Sándor Fazekas, Minister of Agriculture, who signed the agreement between the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture and Diagnosticum. “In the next year, we’re hoping to bring this time down further. The testing itself is very speedy—we can measure 120 samples per day across the two instruments we own, and only need a small sample to get an accurate measurement.”
Wine Screening with NMR
Using NMR allows Diagnosticum to acquire spectroscopic profiles, or fingerprints, from wine samples that are specific to individual samples, and compare these to a large database of authentic wine samples using a multivariate statistical approach. This high-throughput technique provides a wide range of targeted and non-targeted information, such as the detailed chemical composition of the wines, the geographical origin (including influence of soil), identification of wine variety, vintage year, any form of adulteration, and aging of the wine. The resulting test certificate provides foreign and Hungarian traders with a greater guarantee of the origin and quality of the wines than previously available.
“The importance of wine goes beyond its pure market value—it empowers the whole economy,” says Fazekas. “It is therefore imperative that the wine is of excellent and authentic origin for domestic and overseas customers. In order to implement the program, the Ministry will enter into a strategic agreement with Diagnosticum where they will provide the technical background needed to draw the map of origin of Hungarian wines, creating a database based on an internationally authentic mathematical model. In return for submitting their samples, Hungarian wineries will be given a year’s free access to provide their wines for analytical studies, which has not been available to them until now. We see great potential in the innovative work that Diagnosticum are undertaking, which will unquestionably make the self-identification of Hungarian wine possible.”
The wine analysis certificate gives both foreign and Hungarian traders a greater guarantee for the origin and quality of the wines, significantly improving the market position of Hungarian wines and strengthen consumer confidence. The “fingerprint” of the individual wines are visualized and verified in the database, and the technology used demonstrates the chemical characteristics of the wine, as well as information on the soil in which the grapes were grown. Consumers are increasingly wary of wine fraud, so validating authenticity will increase consumer trust on a global basis.
“NMR is the most reactive high-resolution spectrum technology, which is uniquely placed for generating unique wine identifiers (fingerprints),” says Ferenc Péterfy, PhD, chairman of Diagnosticum. “The NMR spectrum can be used to identify the wine’s region, vintage, and variety, using a database based on authentic patterns. This is incredibly valuable to us and is the driving force of the Hungarian wine authentication and identification program.”
Diagnosticum and the Ministry are in direct contact with Italian and French wine laboratories, which have been using NMR technologies for wine screening for some time. As part of the wine map of origin project, Diagnosticum has open access to these NMR facilities and the countries are able to discuss the latest advances in techniques.
“The same sample can be measured in different countries, but with NMR we should all get the same results,” says Péter Szaszák,who is project director of the program at Diagnosticum and is leading the partnership with the Ministry to develop the Hungarian wine map of origin and the international database. “We can directly ask other countries’ wine laboratories how they are using these new technologies and what their workflow is. We’re still learning, and we still have a lot of questions which, with the help of other countries, we will gain more answers to.”
Wine fraud and forgery is an industry-wide global issue, where significant investments are being made to bring new sophisticated solutions to market to improve authentication and identification methods. Mathematical modeling of wine analyses to create the wine map of origin is a work-in-progress, where professionals must be trained to interpret the data output from NMR screens. It is thought that in the next two years, a robust mathematical model will be available to wine producers, and the turnaround time for analysis and reporting will be cut in half. The advances in NMR technology could mean that countries not using this technique will be left behind.
Dr. Mangelschots is president of Bruker Corp.’s BioSpin’s Applied, Industrial & Clinical division. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.