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Dating wine using bomb ‘pulse’

world Updated: Mar 23, 2010 01:29 IST

A trace of Bikini atoll could join hints of black cherry and complex citrus notes in the sommelier’s lexicon for describing fine wines, research has suggested. Harmless amounts of radioactive carbon have been found in wines made from grapes harvested since the last atmospheric atomic bomb tests were carried out in the 1960s.

But the “bomb pulse” of radioactive carbon lingering in the alcohol of wines produced since could be a good thing for wine dealers and collectors.

Scientists have been able to pinpoint a wine’s vintage to within a year by analysing the levels of radioactive carbon in the wine, a technique they say could help detect fraudulent attempts to repackage cheap plonk as a high-end tipple.

Last month, a group of French wine dealers were charged with conning leading US winery E&J Gallo into buying 18m bottles of plonk repackaged as pinot noir.

Some experts claim that around 5 per cent of fine wines currently being sold are faked, either by being diluted with cheaper wines or sold under false labels. The fraud is driven by extraordinary prices commanded by top-quality wines. A case of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982 — which cost £2,613 in 2000 — sold for more than £25,000 last year.