UK Blockchain Startup Everledger Secures the First Bottle of Wine on the Blockchain

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Emerging technology firm Everledger is the first organisation to secure a bottle of wine’s provenance on the Blockchain.

The bottle, a 2001 Margaux, was certified and secured on the Chai Wine Vault – a joint solution introduced by Everledger and world-renowned fine wine expert Maureen Downey to transform provenance tracking in the fine wine industry.

 

“We hear daily from our industry partners on the threat fraudulent bottles pose to sales, trust and most importantly reputation,” says Leoni Runge, Everledger’s Head of Fine Wine. “Blockchain enables us to secure the identity of an asset in a way we haven’t been able to before. For the fine wine industry this means the opportunity to add a layer of transparency to every stage of a bottle’s journey across the supply chain.”

“We’re starting to see the industry waking up to the impact of counterfeits in market but to date there hasn’t been a solution that could adequately verify a wine’s provenance,” added  Downey. “Wine certified on the Chai Wine Vault has a guarantee of authenticity, ensures buyer confidence, and protects the future value of wine assets for centuries to come.”

The Chai Wine Vault issues certification to bottles authenticated through Maureen Downey’s Chai Method (TCM) where 90+ data points are collected, in addition to high-resolution photography and records of a bottle’s ownership and storage. Everledger takes all this information and creates a permanent, digital incarnation of the bottle that is written permanently into the Blockchain.

This digital proof travels with the wine as it moves between different stakeholders in the supply chain, with ownership and storage records 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 resulting in an increase of an asset’s value for years to come.

Built on the Linux Foundation Hyperledger Fabric, The Chai Wine Vault is authenticated and secured by IBM Blockchain that helps bring transparency, security and efficiency to transactions in a permissioned environment.

“Global trade fraud costs billions of dollars each year in lost revenue due to malicious activity or human record-keeping errors,” said Donna Dillenberger, IBM Fellow. “Our work with Blockchain shows the potential to dramatically reduce these losses by ingraining transparency and security in the system from the ground up. Working with Everledger in tracing the provenance of diamonds, and now wine, shows how the application of this technology can fundamentally change the way consumer goods are exchanged.”

A proven leader in the diamond industry, Everledger’s focus for the past year has been on securing the provenance of diamonds on the Blockchain with 1,000,000 stones currently encrypted.

While a diamond’s provenance is threatened by conflict stones and the tampering of certificates, the wine industry shares the same need to protect a bottle’s identity and provenance in a secure and transparent way. In the fine wine industry where an estimated 20% of international sales are from counterfeit wine, problems with document tampering and fraudulent activity continue to affect the supply chain pipeline from grape to glass.

Until today, authenticators could only identify a counterfeit and were unable to certify an authentic bottle. Certification wasn’t possible given the risk of document tampering and the inability for the certificate to stay connected with the bottle of wine as it changes ownership and location.

Providing a single version of the truth for industry at every stage of a bottle’s lifetime journey, The Chai Wine Vault is part of Everledger’s continued commitment to work with industries where provenance matters to bring transparency to global trade.

Wine is a Valuable but Fragile Asset

  • Fine Wine is a proven valuable asset which, when purchased correctly will increase in value over time.
  • As a “perishable asset,” Fine Wine is an excellent way to share wealth from generation-to-generation.
  • The market is infiltrated with counterfeit bottles, and more are being made and put into markets every day.
  • Counterfeit bottles are almost always accompanied by counterfeit provenance stories to substantiate them. Many times, the provenance stories are believed and the counterfeits are sold, even by reputable merchants.
  • Currently, bottles that are authenticated are more valuable in the short term, but must be re-authenticated every time they are traded.
  • Collectors that have purchased fine and rare wines in the last 15-20 years need to have their bottles authenticated to ensure they are not sitting on valueless investments.
  • Wine is alive, and fragile. Quality and longevity are directly affected by a bottle’s unique transit and storage history. Thus, provenance is just as important as authenticity.
  • Authentic bottles with provable provenance are worth 20-40% more than equivalent bottles without the same known provenance, as evidence by the results of ex-chateau, and importer sales at auction.
  • While many producers have made great efforts to put technology in their packaging, many of those technologies are being worked around, and will be used to substantiate counterfeits in the future.
  • The only way to ensure the protection of wine assets is a solution that will address both authenticity and provenance, that is complex, and layered, cannot be physically duplicated with improved technology and which is incorruptible and timeless: Chai Wine Vault by Everledger.
  • Fine Wine Bottles authenticated and certified in the incorruptible Blockchain based database, Chai Wine Vault by Everledger are, and will become, more valuable for decades, and generations to come.

 

Counterfeit Wine: The Sad State of the Fine Wine Market

There is no way to accurately state the dollar amount of counterfeit wine circulating in the world’s fine wine markets today. But there is evidence that it could easily represent over US$1billion circulating in current markets. Between 2002-2012, Kurniawan created and sold over US$150million in counterfeit wine. That represents over US$550million of current market value in global wine markets, and almost all of those bottles are still in collections, or are still being returned and resold. And he is just one known counterfeiter.

Opportunists in Europe, Asia and the USA have viewed the very lucrative outcome of making and selling counterfeit wines, recognized the low risk involved due to few prosecutions, and have taken up the trade. This has spawned a new wave of counterfeiters who are flooding the markets. This is not about clearing the Kurniawan, Rodenstock and bottles from other already known counterfeiters, we also have new counterfeiter’s bottles being discovered all the time. In fact, a top wine expert in Hong Kong who advises collectors, in response to the news of the Oct 7, 2016 arrest in Marseille, of fraudsters selling counterfeit Dugat-Py, Roumier and Rouget Burgundy wines, responded in an email:

“I suspect this is the tip of the iceberg. The volume of suspect wines I am seeing coming out of Europe is at Rudy Kurniawan levels.”

Unfortunately, many counterfeit wines pulled out of circulation and returned to the vendor because of inauthenticity for a refund, are simply resold as authentic by those vendors to the next unsuspecting buyer.

 

Wine Fraud, and counterfeit wines have become a costly, endemic problem that affects all buyers and vendors of fine wine in the global marketplace. Counterfeits cost people money, jobs and livelihoods.

  • Counterfeit wine accounts for some 20% of international sales. Source: Sud Ouest
  • According to the International Center for Alcohol Policies, 30% of all alcohol that is consumed is fake. Source: Wine-Searcher.com
  • More than 50% of Chateau Lafite sold in China is fake. Source: Xinshi Li, President of the Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine
  • 7000 cases of fake Lafite, Mouton, Latour and other well-known Bordeaux wines retailing for a total of 32 million dollars were found in a single 2013 raid in China. Source: the Cellar Insider
  • 75% of Canadian Ice Wine sold in Asia is fake. Source: Rhys Pender, MW
  • The value of just one convicted counterfeiter, Rudy Kurniawan’s counterfeit bottles in the market today is over $550mill, and those bottles are all still being circulated. Source: Maureen Downey
  • On average, over 2 wine crimes involving wine fraud or theft happen each week. Source: WineFraud.com

 

Chai Wine Vault by Everledger: Finally THE Solution to an Age old Problem

Until today the only formal reporting an authenticator of fine and rare wine could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt was a counterfeit. In the hands of an experienced authenticator a fake bottle of 1982 Petrus – and in fact there are more fake bottles of this famed wine circulating than real bottles ever produced by the Chateau; can be spotted, and positively identified as a phony. But being able to certify that a bottle is “authentic” is a much more difficult challenge. The moment the authenticator and the wine part, the condition of the bottle is subject to change. It could be sold to another owner, consumed, refilled or altered in any number of ways. In other words, authentication until now, could not be proven past the moment of the authentication.

Today with the announcement of the Chai Wine Vault by Everledger, there is finally a way to prove the positive.

Wine authenticated through The Chai Method (TCM) is certified on the Blockchain, creating a permanent, digital record of provenance that can be accessed throughout a bottle’s lifetime journey. Maureen Downey, owner/founder of Chai Consulting LLC, a world renowned authenticator of fine and rare wine, searched for years for this solution.

“Wine certified on the Chai Wine Vault has a guarantee of authenticity, ensures buyer confidence and protects the future investment value of wine assets for centuries to come.”

Consumers and buyers of fine and rare wine now have a complete solution to ensure the provenance of every bottle of wine they buy or sell.

 

Everledger

Everledger is a trusted, global ledger used to track and verify the provenance of valuable items. A proven leader in the diamond industry with 1,000,000 stones currently secured on the Blockchain, Everledger is now extending the platform’s technology to create a digital wine vault to solve the problem of counterfeit bottles in the fine wine industry.

 

Leanne Kemp of Everledger

Leanne Kemp is the founder & CEO of Everledger – a digital, global ledger that tracks and protects diamonds and other valuable items on their lifetime journey.

With a wealth of successful startup companies under her belt, Leanne is pushing boundaries in protecting the global market of diamonds and luxury goods.

Using her extensive background in emerging technologies, business, jewellery and insurance – Leanne and Everledger are working towards ensuring global transparency by constructing a digital verification system that assists in the reduction of fraud, black markets and trafficking.

Everledger is leading the market in real world application of Blockchain technology with a set of industry awards including the Meffy Award 2015 for Innovation in FinTech, FinTech Finals 2016 for Best in Show, European Financial Tech Awards 2016 for Best Blockchain Company, Asia Insurance Technology Awards 2016 for Best Newcomer and Penrose Award for Innovator of the Year.

 

Note from Maureen Downey:

Since getting involved with culling counterfeits from the market in 2000, I have heard many ideas on fighting this blight. I have seen several laughable efforts as well as many great, but unfortunately unsatisfactory solutions to solving the counterfeit bottle fraud on the global markets.

As time has progressed, so have the sophistication of the counterfeits, and so have the outcries from collectors, producers, and reputable vendors for a solution to certify bottles they deal with as authentic and from trusted provenance.

To date no technology nor single solution has been successful. And authentication is only a solution that is useful for more than a single transaction. Each time a bottle is traded, it is represented as a new entity: it is inspected as a new entity and questioned as such, as it should be – because there is no immutable, incorruptible database where information about that bottles exists. And it could after all, have been altered, emptied with a coravin or a skillful ahso user, and refilled with 2002 Liberty Bay Cellars Merlot. (Rudy Kurniawan’s base wine for old Pomerol!)

At every turn, I have been underwhelmed by the technologies available as they either fail with time, like prooftags that peel off with a few years in a humid cellar, or they will simply be fodder for substantiating counterfeits of the future, as will the myriad of RFID solutions – all of which will be easily counterfeited in the years to come when we need the authentication the most. It has been very frustrating.

Until now.

About Richard Kastelein

Founder, Publisher and Editor in Chief of industry leading online publication, Blockchain News and co-founder and director at Blockchain Partners in London/Amsterdam/NYC. Kastelein is also an advisor with a number Blockchain startups doing ICOs including Humaniq.co where hs is interim CMO, DECENT.ch, Inchain, Chronobank, eGaas and others. He is regarded as one of the top journalists by the Blockchain and fintech communities – as is evident by his entry in the Top 150 Fintech journalists online and in the top 10 of the Blockchain Top 100 List.

As a prominent keynote presenter, he has spoken on Blockchain at events in Gdansk, Amsterdam, Minsk, Dubai, Antwerp, Eindhoven, Bucharest, Nairobi, Tel Aviv, Manchester, Brussels, Barcelona etc, where he helped spread the cause for Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency and, consequently, has built a notable network in the scene.

He’s also a director of a Dutch foundation called The Hackitarians and has run innovation events in London, San Francisco, Berlin, Amsterdam and other cities around the world on topics such Blockchain, Health, Energy, Internet of Things, AI etc.

In 2013, the European Commission appointed him as an expert for overseeing financing for emerging startups as a part of the European Commission’s 90 billion euro Horizon 2020 project, created in Brussels to promote innovation as a driving force of job creation and business ventures across Europe. He has also worked as an external expert for Innovate UK since 2012, judging startups for the UK government.

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