In Brief:

  • Tencent is using blockchain to secure wine supply chains.
  • Blockchain could help consumers verify the authenticity of products they buy in an industry rife with fraud
  • Other companies in China are starting to use blockchain for the same application

Shenzhen-based tech giant Tencent has announced plans to create a wine traceability platform using blockchain, in partnership with one of China’s largest wine producers.

The collaboration with Changyu Pioneer Wine hopes to find a solution to China's booming counterfeit wine industry. 

Bin Ma, vice president of Tencent, told Chinese media that the wine blockchain traceability system could help improve the domestic wine industry’s standards.

According to Tencent, each bottle of wine would be issued a unique traceability certificate which would be recorded on their blockchain platform. Consumers could then check the wine’s authenticity by scanning a QR code which tracks the wine’s production and distribution process.

China’s is the fifth-largest wine consumer in the world, imbibing 1.76 billion liters of it in 2018. Counterfeit wine is a billion-dollar industry around the world, but particularly in China where the market is flooded with fake wine, according to experts. 

“Unfortunately, buyers in nascent markets are not as knowledgeable of what to ask about or look for with provenance, nor any aspect of wine authentication, leaving this market a prime target for counterfeiters and those selling counterfeits. As much as 50% of the fine wines in China are believed to be fake,” said Maureen Downey, an expert on fake wine.

Blockchain for drinks?

As reported on by media partner Forkast.news, blockchain has often been proposed as a way to help improve transparency in a number of industries in China, including food supply. 

In June, China’s southwestern Yunnan Province launched a similar blockchain traceability platform, but for pu’er tea—a type of fermented tea that is popular in Asia. In this case, consumers can also scan a QR code on the product to trace the origins of the tea as recorded on the blockchain platform run by the local government. 

Another alcohol-related application is Chinese baijiu — a clear liquor made from fermented sorghum. The fiery drink may not be ubiquitous outside China, but it is the world’s most consumed hard liquor.

Earlier this year, Chinese technology company Sina partnered with baijiu producer Wuliangye Yibin to employ blockchain in the liquor industry. As with previous examples listed here, the use of blockchain is designed to ensure quality and traceability.

But like wine, baijiu’s value increases with time, making it a potential candidate to be treated as a “baijiu futures” through blockchain. Decrypt has previously reported how Vin X—now Vinsent— are using blockchain to disrupt the wine industry through “wine futures.”

This story was produced in collaboration with our friends at Forkast, a content platform focused on emerging technology at the intersection of business, economy, and politics, from Asia to the world.