Fingerprinting technique can authenticate Chinese rice wine

Chinese rice wineThe profile of mineral elements in Chinese rice wine can be used to identify product made at specific wineries, say researchers.

The technique could be used by manufacturers to authenticate their own product and identify counterfeit and adulterated products, according to the scientists.

Chinese rice wine - also known as yellow wine - is a sweet alcoholic drink that has been consumed in China for centuries. The boom in China's economy has created a growth market for premium rice wine brands, with the inevitable consequence that they are now targeted by counterfeiters.

The counterfeiting can also have serious public health implications. In 2002, ten people were killed in Taiwan as a result of drinking fake rice wine contaminated with methanol, while a similar counterfeiting incident in the 1980s led to the deaths of more than 40 people in China.

Rice wines from three well-known Chinese wineries - Guyuelongshan, Kuaijishan and Pagoda - were profiled according to the levels of 19 macro and trace elements using a technique known as inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).

Each wine was found to have a distinctive 'fingerprint' of mineral elements, arising from the brewing water used in its production that along with contributing to its flavour, taste and appearance could be used to identify its source.

"Overall, it can be concluded that the mineral elemental fingerprinting can be used as an effective tool for rice wine authentication," note the authors of the study, which is published in the journal Food Chemistry (December 15, 2013 edition).

They caution that the work is only a feasibility study, however, adding that "more samples from other wineries and varieties should be incorporated to build a more robust model before such a methodology is accepted by the rice wine industry with confidence."

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