Penfolds releases blockchain wine bottles to tackle copycats

Treasury Wine Estates-owned Penfolds has teamed up with blockchain platform VeChain and Chinese importer DIG to launch blockchain-encrypted wine bottles in China for its Bin 407 label.

The partnership marks the first time that Penfolds has used such technology. Each bottle of Bin 407 is equipped with NFC tag containing a chip. Customers can then read the data stored in the tag which includes provenance information verified by independent auditors.

The bottles were launched in three sites in China last month including Waigaoqiao International Alcohol Exhibition and Trading Centre, D.I.G.’s flagship store and the Sen Lan Shang Du in Pudong New District.

DIG (Shanghai Waigaoqiao Direct Imported Goods Co.) and VeChain launched their Wine Traceability Platform back in June 2018. The partnership with Penfolds marks the second phase in its development.

Penfolds has frequently been the target of counterfeiters, particularly in China given the demand for its wines in the country. In November 2018, police in China arrested 11 people and seized more than 50,000 bottles of fake wine bottled as Australia’s Penfolds and China’s Changyu in a crackdown in central Henan province near Beijing.

In April in a similar operation in China’s central Zhengzhou city, authorities seized 50,000 bottles of fake Penfolds worth over RMB 18 million (US$2.8m), just five months after 14,000 knock-offs were seized in Shanghai in November 2017.

TWE however recently won its case against copycat brand ‘Rush Rich’ in Shanghai, a year after it filed a lawsuit in both Australia and China. 

Other Australian wineries, including Wakefield Wines and Seppeltsfield have already introducing traceable technology into their wine labels, to ensure customers can trace the provenance of their wines.

Businesses such as accounting firm Ernst & Young and Chinese alcohol wholesaler Oranco are also offering up their blockchain services to the wine industry.

According to a report published by the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office last year, the UK loses around £218 million each year due to counterfeiting in the wine and spirits industries.

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