Giving fine wine companies 'barrels of confidence'

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Fine wine companies are all about provenance - the finest grapes grown in the perfect conditions, with total traceability of grape, region and so on.

But what about the barrels fine wine companies use? They also need to have the right provenance, so how can you tell if an oak barrel is what it is described as being?

Researchers at INRA Bordeaux-Aquitaine claim to have found the solution, using genetic markers to trace the provenance of oak wood barrels.

Named OAKTRACK, their project is supported by the French National Research Agency and aims to combat the risk of fraud in the cooperage industry.

By sequencing the DNA of oak trees, the team selected the best genetic markers for various traits - and now say they can identify not only the species of oak wood, but even where in the world it was grown.

"Timber auctions attract the interest of many coopers when lots of wood come up for sale reputed to come from the high forests of central France from 200 to 300-year-old trees with large, straight trunks and exceptionally fine grain," the researchers explain.

"Market tensions of this kind may place pressure on the authenticity of wood provenance."

But with better testing, fine wine companies can feel more confident about the barrels they use, resulting in an even better wine for us all to enjoy at home.