August 11, 2020

#WWCD: If Mouton can’t authenticate it…then who can?

By Chris

Whilst the world is reeling from a global pandemic, luxury brands don’t need their name tarnished by the opportunist criminals that deal in counterfeit wines. The recent fraud case with  Mouton may be a small instance of counterfeit, but one that happens way too often.

Below you will find excerpts from a recent article on the Drinks Business website. The piece, titled “MAN SENDS EMPTY BOTTLE OF ‘SUSPICIOUS’ MOUTON FOR VERIFICATION” really speaks for itself. A comical display of an opportunist looking to rort the authentication system that has failed the entire wine industry, forever. 

We believe that the multiple layers of security built into the Cellr Authentication System creates the ultimate defense for brands looking to protect themselves against such brazen attacks. Our view of the world is that we want to be the company at the global table that producers can point to and say, “those guys… they helped us be a better, more trusted and valuable brand.” 

A quick rundown of Mouton’s fraud case: 

  • A man named Pan purchased a 9 bottles of Mouton Rothschild from a Chinese retailer
  • When the bottles arrived there was no documentation, even after he requested them
  • His request for a refund from JD.com and complaints to Beijing Officials were ignored
  • The Mouton Rothschild technical department were able to verify batch numbers on the bottles with their archive, however without the actual bottles they couldn’t produce an official verification report. 
  • Pan sent an empty bottle to be verified, which showed that nothing was suspicious on the outside of the bottle 
  • BUT, the cork in the empty bottle did NOT match the cork in the archives indicating that the bottle may have been tampered with and refilled with another wine
  • However, as Pan had sent an EMPTY bottle to be VERIFIED they couldn’t check whether or not the wine itself was the real deal.

A quick rundown of Cellr’s wine fraud solution

  • It is comprised of two parts, hardware and software: 
    • A world-first tamper proof, tech-enabled lid with encrypted authentication techniques to provide complete brand protection for each unique bottle of wine.
    • The Cellr platform, which presents the information collected by the lids back to producers and consumers.
  • These combine to provide producers the ability to authenticate their wine to consumers in real time simply by tapping the lid with their smartphone. 
  • Each time the lid of a wine bottle is scanned a new digital record is created, including when it was first packaged at the point of provenance.
  • Every lids seal has a binary state, so once it has been opened, or an attempt to open it has been made, this will be revealed on the next scan to producers and consumers.

Now that’s out the way, let’s dive in and have a look at what it could have looked like for Mouton if they had decided to implement a complete anti-counterfeit system, like the world first authentication solution we provide at Cellr. 

After receiving the bottles, his request for the bottles’ documents was not entertained.

This is the beauty of a platform like Cellr… Pan, the consumer, could have simply scanned the lid to reveal the authenticity of all 9 bottles the moment he received them. Cellr can attach all kinds of awesome regulatory documentation to each digital twin we produce, meaning the request for the “documents” would have been a self serve exercise by the buyer, without all the additional rigmarole (and expense). In turn, this could mean a quality brand experience by one of the world’s most known (and counterfeited) producers.

Mouton said it suspected the bottle might have had its cork replaced after being filled with another wine. However, since it can’t examine the wine, it can’t judge its authenticity.

The tamper evidence built into the Cellr lid would have triggered and the bottle would show as “tampered” in the Cellr system the very next scan, thus removing all doubts in secondary markets. A binary state means producers have valuable protection against the rampant refill market.

He said he tried to keep the possession “intact” by emptying the bottle via drilling a hole from the bottom instead of removing the cork.

Classic move from a counterfeiter. Drink the wine and try to do a neat pinhole whilst you’re drunk. Whilst we can’t stop the pinholing activity, we can stop the needle refill action that follows. The tamper evidence Cellr designed will trigger from penetration as the counterfeiter attempts to refill the bottle through the capsule and cork.

To solve the doubts on authenticity, starting from 2005 vintage, Mouton Rothschild introduced numbered codes at all back labels to combat counterfeiting.

Extremely easy to replicate this “anti-counterfeit” strategy…might as well use a QR code (just kidding, QR codes are even worse).

As of the 2009 vintage, the winery opted for a more complete security system and it generated each code uniquely with a graphic element.

A graphic as a “more complete security system”…that’s like saying we use a single digit keypad and code to access the safe. The graphic (likely hologram) can again be replicated with ease, and has been for years.

The Cellr connected packaging solution has layers of protection built in:

  • The lid: Unprecedented tamper-proof hardware that was engineered by our own team with NFC and RFID chips built into the lid.
  • Data as defence: The data we create throughout the entire manufacturing process and the supply-chain up until the consumer scans in market means that not only does the Cellr lid itself protect your precious juice, the data also provides a camouflage outfit in a combat zone.
  • Clear line of sight through supply chains: Then, when you add in the track & trace elements of our platform, Mouton could have told the consumer the bottles previous steps throughout the supply chain before Pan even took possession. Then, Mouton could have sent Pan notifications when the wine was actually ready to drink. I bet he started with the 2014 (insert face slap emoji)

So, what would Cellr do? We would give Mouton a clear avenue to authenticate their wines in the consumers hands using our tamper-proof, NFC capsules. The integrated Ultra High Frequency RFID layer also built into the capsule offers another layer of security, only readable by a handheld scanner owned by authorised Mouton supply chain partners. Oh, and then if all that security is questioned, we roll back to the data we create for each and every bottle as it is born on the bottling line…immutable, sweet sweet data.

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