IBM and eProvenance, a Franco-American company that specialises in monitoring wine shipment conditions, recently unveiled plans to create a new wine industry ecosystem by harnessing the power of blockchain. Central to this initiative will be VinAssure, a new, IBM blockchain-powered platform that is designed to provide users with a more insightful and secure way of tracking wines as they move through the distribution and transportation process from vineyard to consumer. For example, using existing identifiers such as a QR code on the bottle, consumers will be able to learn about a wine’s provenance and flavour profiles, or whether it meets certification standards for organic, biodynamic or sustainability practices. Similarly, retailers will be able to access information about a wine’s production environment or the conditions in which the wine was transported.

VinAssure runs on IBM Cloud and represents another success for IBM Blockchain Transparent Supply, a technology platform that enables organisations to build blockchain-enabled collaboration and data-sharing ecosystems with their supply chain partners. The solution has already been adopted by organizations from various industries, including retail, agriculture and pharmaceuticals.

VinAssure also strengthens eProvenance’s existing solution portfolio, which includes tools for monitoring and analysing shipment and supply chain conditions – not only for wine, but for any products that are potentially vulnerable to temperature fluctuations or humidity (including fine art and leather goods).

In order to really make a mark within the wine industry, VinAssure will need to attract members and participants from across the wine ecosystem. Ideally, VinAssure supply chain partners should include not just wine producers but also négociants, importers, transporters, distributors, restaurants, and retailers.

However, VinAssure is off to a good start, with eProvenance having already announced its first VinAssure member: De Maison Selections, a US importer of wines, cider and spirits from independent producers in Spain and France. Other wine industry organizations reportedly intending to join VinAssure include Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Export Division, one of the largest wineries in the US, and Maison Sichel, a Bordeaux-based négociant and winemaker.

A growing membership will further help to reinforce the new blockchain solution’s strength and utility. Indeed, as VinAssure membership grows, supply chain members and consumers will be able to access information from across the supply chain, from the vineyard through the entire transport and delivery process, all of which will be validated and stored on the blockchain.

As it builds the new VinAssure ecosystem, one of the challenges eProvenance could face is the need to articulate and demonstrate the benefits a blockchain-based system offers, relative to possible costs, among wine industry organisations that are likely to have never heard of the technology before. An additional challenge will be the growing competition in this market segment.

Other companies using blockchain to target wine industry supply chain management opportunities include EY, whose blockchain-based solutions are being used to support a number of initiatives. The wine industry has also seen several blockchain-based initiatives from local start-ups, which some producers, distributors and retailers may view as a more cost-effective and preferable option to working with large global solution vendors such as IBM/eProvenance.

With its potential to help address traditional wine industry challenges related product authenticity and supply chain traceability and accountability, vintners and oenophiles alike could soon be raising a glass to VinAssure and similar blockchain-based solutions.