Electronic cap keeps winemakers honest

Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory’s Vulnerability Assessment Team (VAT) at the Department of Energy have created a special cap for wine bottles that “breaks” when it is tampered with, essentially confirming that a wine is fake or adulterated if it is forcefully removed and replaced.

The cap contains a circuit and a special tie-dye style identifier and a unique number. The cap should cost only a few dollars but will ensure that each bottle is original and has not been reconditioned or, worse, counterfeit.

In addition to the outright counterfeiting of fine wine, buyers face another potential problem when assessing the purity of a bottle. To preserve the life of some of their wines, some winemakers will remove the cork from the bottle and blend in a small quality of wine from a newer vintage in a process known as “reconditioning.”

Although reconditioned wines may have longer shelf lives, some winemakers try to pass off their reconditioned bottles as purely the older vintage, Johnston said. With the Argonne cap, bottles cannot be reconditioned without the buyer eventually finding out.