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Verify the origin of wine using isotope testing

Agroisolab offer a wide range analysis to suit the needs of authenticity, quality and safety testing. Agroisolab has access to the largest SIRA reference database of wines consisting of c. 4000 samples mainly from:

  • Argentina

  • Australia

  • Austria

  • Bulgaria

  • Chile

  • France

  • Germany

  • Greece

  • Hungary

  • Italy

  • Portugal

  • South Africa

  • Spain

  • USA (California)

Please view the map below for more information.


EU wine databank

Established in 1991, the EU wine databank was set up to keep up the reputation of EU wine and minimise malpractices, such as sugaring and watering, by enabling laboratories to perform authenticity analyses. It has played a fundamental role in helping the EU Member States to develop the scientific and technical competences needed to carry out isotopic analysis of wine. Agroisolab founder Prof. Förstel developed the stable isotope method to determine the origin of wine and played a crucial role in creating the EU wine databank.


Participating wine producers submit samples of their produce annually to the databank. As a result, it is possible for stable isotope laboratories to authenticate claims of geographic origin on bottles of wine sold at retail to a high level of accuracy.


Analytical methods

18O/16O | OIV-MA-AS2-12 - verification of origin


Analysis of the stable isotope ratios of oxygen are used as a standard method to verify the geographic origin of wine. Oxygen isotope ratios are also helpful to determine if additional water has been added to the wine.


Prof. Dr. Förstel, one of the founders of Agroisolab, was one of the leading scientists involved in the development of this method [Förstel 1991].


Determination of the oxygen isotope ratios in wine have played a crucial role in the European wine databank. According to regulation EU 2729/2000, 400 samples of wine are analysed annually by member states to regulate the wine market.

This analytical method is part of the compendium of international methods of wine analysis (OIV).


*Holbach B. Förstel H. (1991) Das Verhältnis der Stabil isotopen 18O und 16O zur Beurteilung von Auslandswein. 198: 223-229.

13C/12C | OIV-MA-AS312-06 - sugar addition


This method enables the measurement of 13C/12C isotope ratios in wine ethanol and ethanol derived from the fermentation of vine products (musts, concentrated musts, grape sugar). It is used to detect addition of external sugar (mainly C4 sugars) in wine/musts which is not permitted in various countries.


This analytical method is part of the compendium of international methods of wine analysis (OIV).

13C/12C | OIV-MA-AS314-03 - fossil fuel CO2


This method is used to determine 13C/12C isotope ratios in the carbon dioxide of sparkling and semi-sparkling wines (e.g. Prosecco). According to European regulation, carbon dioxide in sparkling and semi-sparkling wines should originate from the fermentation process. Addition of exogenous carbon dioxide (e.g. industrial CO2) is not permitted in sparkling and semi-sparkling wines.


This analytical method is part of the compendium of international methods of wine analysis (OIV).

D/H (I) | EEC No. 000/90 - undeclared sugar addition


This analytical method is used to determine the addition of sugar (e.g. beet sugar) to wine and was established as an official method in the European Commission regulation (EC) No. 000 / 90. This method is normally combined with the analysis of 13C/12C isotope ratios.

18O/16O (ethanol) - water addition in wine


This analytical method is used to detect water addition in wine. Recent research (Camin, 2013) has confirmed the existence of a correlation between the stable isotope ratios of oxygen in ethanol and the water component of wine.

*Perini M. Camin F. (2013) 18O of ethanol in wine and spirits for authentication purposes. Journal of Food Science. 78, 839-844.

How does country of origin analysis of wine work with isotope testing?

There are distinct regions in Europe that can be defined by the isotopic composition of their groundwater. The ground water in some regions has more heavy oxygen in it (18O) some has less heavy oxygen in it.


Consequently, grapes grown in the regional groundwater will  'take up' the oxygen isotope signature of the region they were grown in. Given that wine is made from fermented grapes, it is possible to determine the geographic origin of wine by looking at the oxygen isotope ratios in the water fraction of the wine.  


Further work has been carried out to isolate and analyse the isotope ratios of other components of wine. Analysing the isotopic composition of the alcohol (ethanol) in wine can help determine if sugar has been added to the wine, or can further enhance geographic origin interpretation.


Standard analyses are:

  • Detection of undeclared added sugar

  • Fermentation/industrial CO2

  • Geographic origin verification

  • Determination of water addition

View our global wine database

Agroisolab has the largest reference database of wines in the world available for use by companies, retailers and individuals.


Please take a look at the map we have created to show how many reference samples we have in our database for each country. You will need to click on the country for the map to display how many samples are held in the wine database.

Wine Glass Wine bottle Barolo wine fraud risk

Barolo wine fraud in March 2017 may affect European wine retailers

In March of this year, 5000 bottles of DOC and DOCG wines and spirits from the Piedmont region, including Barolo, were seized from on the suspicion they contained generic wines of poorer quality. The investigation is pending.


For updates on this story, and more risk updates sign up to our monthly food and drink newsletter here.