Among the world’s most prominent sweet wine regions, Sauternes is also prized by distillers for its barrels — coveted vessels for imparting unique flavors when aging and finishing spirits. Amid concerns of counterfeits, the region has proposed issuing certification with barrel purchases, giving spirits producers extra protection against fakes when buying the casks.
A QR code will confirm each barrel’s location of origin and previous uses, and also allows for easier second-hand sales, according to an article by Jane Anson Inside Bordeaux. The process is currently under development and supported by Sauternes producers. It’s estimated that the initiative will launch in 2023.
New oak barrels retail for up to 900 euros each, a cost that might be difficult for small producers to afford. Considering the high resale value of used Sauternes casks — often in the hundreds of euros and expected to hold more value with authentication —selling the casks after use could be a boon for wineries.
Having held some of the world’s most complex sweet wines, the barrels impart unique flavors to whiskey and other aged spirits. Typical notes include hazelnut, apricot, and truffles.
Nearly 2,000 barrels are exported each year from Sauternes wine estates, according to the article. Major buyers include spirit producers in Scotland, Japan, Ireland, France, and beyond.
A smaller area within the French winemaking region of Bordeaux, Sauternes covers nearly 4,000 acres. Estates in the region typically leave grapes on the vine for extended periods to increase sugar concentration, while the most coveted releases gain their sweetness via noble rot. Producers age wines in barrel for 18–36 months.
As the threat of worldwide barrel shortages and counterfeits spikes concern among distillers, the new QR authentication can strike out worry of fake Sauternes casks.