I caught sight of one of Lafite-Rothschild’s latest innovations during the primeur tastings of the 2011 vintage, the addition of Prooftag’s ‘Bubble Seal’ tag to the bottle and capsule.
The seal is applied across the capsule and bottle, as shown below, but it is not merely a simple seal to protect against tempering with the capsule. The seal embodies two codes, including a unique bubble code and an associated alphanumeric key.
The silver section at the top is the bubble code, randomly generated bubbles embedded in the prooftag which have an infinite number of possible patterns, and thus guarantee unique codes on all bottles into the future. This code is linked to the bottle, and can be checked against the Lafite database on their website (www.lafite.com – there is an ‘Authentication’ link top right).
Unable to resist I entered the code on the above bottle, which was photographed on the tasting table at Lafite. The droll response to code W61R00A325841 was:
“The code entered does not correspond to any reference registered in our database. Please try again and check with attention the number mentionned[sic] on your bottle. If the problem remains, please contact your point of sales. ”
The response was at first surprising, but then again perhaps not – the only way this bottle could have been sold to me was if it had been pilfered during the primeur tastings – I’m assuming that the bottles go on the database as they leave the château, or are at least earmarked for sale. Nevertheless, the website’s response would of course have me complaining to my merchant, which would uncover whatever fraud had been carried out. But if I had a code that worked, the website would then display the appropriate bubble pattern, and I could check that against the pattern on the tag. If the two match, all is well.
Well, not quite. This will prevent some frauds (not only the invented theft alluded to above, but – for example – a 2011 Lafite-Rothschild being relabelled as a 2010, as the bubble code will uncover this change of identity very easily) but not others (for example, a fraud where bottle, label and tag remain together, but the wine is replaced with another). But it is certainly a step in the right direction.
The system has been in use since February 2012, and will be applied to the grand vin from the 2009 vintage, and Carruades de Lafite from the 2010 vintage, as well as some earlier vintages released from the château in the future.