Chips and NFT: Soon snitches on our wine bottles?

With the advent of Web3, a revolution is looming for wine. The soaring price of rare labels is heating up people’s minds. Of the start-up Swedish, American and French companies now offer to “chip” the most expensive bottles in order to make them traceable. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley…

The subject is exciting because many winegrowers suffer from speculation rather than creating it. They would like to know better the life of their bottles. Do they travel? Who resells them and with what added value? Who drinks them in the end? They are also tired of fighting counterfeits. An endless battle.

We remember Aubert de Villaine’s crusade against Romanée-Conti dealers. The co-manager of the most famous domain in the world mobilized mysterious correspondents in the auction rooms to note, by hand, the numbers of the bottles put up for auction, which then enabled him to remove the allocation from the client deemed to be both greedy and indelicate. A Tintin-like atmosphere that makes you smile today.

And now the digital aces are offering to solve all these problems. Their solution? Housing microchips in the bottle. Geolocatable, these chips are supposed to allow the winemaker to follow the wanderings of their bottles in the world. Do they cross the seas? Are they stored in a free port, do they sleep in a warehouse in Hong Kong? It’s very serious, several stars of the vineyard are already testing this equipment: Anselme Selosse, Count Liger-Belair and others.

Increasingly, it is a “package” chip + NFT

. Each bottle is associated with a “digital work of art” which is supposed to increase in value, of course. Laurent David, a former Apple at the head of Château Edmus in Saint-Émilion, already sells magnums with an electronic version of the label painted by an artist in the form of NFT, with a chip sealed in the neck. Last avatar, the launch of the marketplace

by three Frenchmen: Xavier Garambois, co-founder of Wine & Co and former boss of Amazon Europe, Guillaume Jourdan (Vitabella Paris) and Nicolas Mendiharat (Palate Club in San Francisco). The trio announces the creation of “dynamic communities between prestigious estates and passionate and demanding consumers”. Clearly, the opening of an exclusive digital channel between ultra-rich and major labels.

The winegrower is promised wonders: chip and NFT will guarantee the authenticity of his wines, he will have access “to all customer data” and, tomorrow, the chip will notify him of each resale of his wines anywhere in the world, which will trigger the payment of a commission… Wonderful, isn’t it?

And the amateur, what will this electronic snitch on his bottle bring him? guarantees him the authenticity, traceability and perfect storage of the wines he buys. Good. But on this account, how not to imagine that tomorrow, only bottles with their chip will be considered authentic? “Each amateur will also be able to manage his cellar by reselling his wiNeFT on WineChain”, promises the platform, which we feel is very focused on paid exchanges.

And the ethics in all this? The principle of ownership to begin with. Until further notice, whoever buys a bottle has the right to do with it as they see fit. Once the wine is sold, the winemaker is not supposed to follow the movement of his bottles on his screen.

One of the pleasures of wine is its simplicity, the blood of the earth in a bottle. We learn, we meet winegrowers, we buy wine from them, we take it from our cellar, we share it, we drink it, we give it away. There’s something terrifying about ‘tracing’ bottles like the latest €4 million Bugatti Chiron, isn’t it?

And then this: the wines acquired over a lifetime, all taxes paid, allow connoisseurs to discreetly pass on a heritage to their loved ones. What’s the point of seeing your purchases tracked by electronics when you don’t live in Shanghai or London?

If we sum up: the advent of chipped wines plays into the hands of speculation, that’s obvious; some data collected may be of interest to winegrowers, we understand this if we do not accept it. There remains this certainty: chipped wine will bring nothing good to the authentic connoisseur.

Non-Fungible Token. These are unique cryptographic signatures encoded and stored in a blockchain (read La RVF n° 661, June 2022, and n° 658, March 2022).

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Chips and NFT: Soon snitches on our wine bottles?

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