Fukushima's Nuclear Imprint Is Found in California Wine (Drinkers, Don't Panic)

Typically, the test has been conducted on unopened bottles.

Mr. Pravikoff said the method was developed three decades ago and gained prominence as people became more attuned to wine fraud.

Two years ago, he said, he was shopping at a supermarket when he found several bottles of cabernet sauvignon from California’s Napa Valley, produced years before, but after Fukushima. That spawned the idea to test for the disaster’s imprint.

“I just bought them, just to see,” he said. “It is more for the pure scientific aspect that we were interested in measuring them.”

Mr. Pravikoff said he would like to do more testing on bottles produced before the disaster to build more confidence in the team’s findings.

Maureen Downey, a wine authentication expert who leads Chai Consulting, a wine collection consulting firm, called the French researchers’ method “fantastic science.”

But she said it was of limited use to those in the wine industry, as prices could vary by thousands of dollars between neighboring vineyards, for example.

“Fifteen feet away is a difference in your bottle worth $15,000,” she said.

Wine, for its part, still remains a hotly debated drink when it comes to health: One study found that patients with Type 2 diabetes who drank wine, most notably red wine, had a reduced cardiometabolic risk, or the chance of heart disease, stroke or other medical conditions. Many other studies warn of the health risks of alcohol abuse and the danger to pregnant women.

While radioactivity from Fukushima will probably not hurt those seeking California wines from 2011 and later, the lesson, as always, is to drink in moderation.

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