Brunello steps up controls following fraud investigation

Brunello, Vinitaly, wine scandal, wine fraud, wine investigation, wine adulteration, Frescobaldi, Argiano, Antinori, Col d'Orcia, Viglierchio, Castello Banfi News Wine News
  • Monday 7 April 2008

Brunello di Montalcino will implement a rigorous checking system to combat any suspicion of adulteration.

This follows reports that hundreds of thousands of bottles of top Brunello were impounded - and the sale of the 2003 vintage suspended - pending an investigation into matters which include non-permitted varieties having been added to the wines.

Count Francesco Marone Cinzano, owner of Brunello producer Col d’Orcia and president of the consortium of Brunello producers, said they would now test some 20-25% of wine each year.

‘We will be a lot more severe in our controls to guarantee and certify the good work of the majority,’ he told decanter.com at last week’s Vinitaly trade fair in Verona.

Adding that the Consorzio was unanimous in its support, Cinzano said that it would institute a rolling programme of testing producers and wines.

As Vinitaly - one of the biggest wine fairs in the world - opened, news broke that producers including Antinori, Frescobaldi, Argiano and Castello Banfi were being investigated for allegedly mixing Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, albeit in quantities of less than one per cent, into the wine which by law must be 100% Sangiovese.

Insiders condemned the timing of the investigation and the methods involved, citing political motivation.

‘The situation has quickly become political and threatens the commerce of innumerable small businesses and the pleasure of millions of consumers around the world,’ said Marc Goodrich, chief operating officer of Banfi Vintners, top US importer of Brunello.

‘In fact, the quality of Brunello...is still very much intact. The promise...to the consumer remains valid and unquestioned, but {producers} have been caught in crossfire between warring factions in what amounts to a political disgrace.’

Pierluigi Tagliabue of Biondi Santi - which is not under inspection and has had no wines impounded - also suspected political motivation.

‘I think it must be,’ he told decanter.com. ‘The timing is so well studied, coming just at the beginning of Vinitaly.’

He added that it would certainly cause ‘big, but not huge’ damage to the Brunello brand. ‘It’s bad for the overall image of Brunello.’

Many observers note inherent absurdities on the situation, not least, one source said, that the authorities had claimed it would be ‘a waste of time‘ to test the wines.

Winemakers agree that at anything below 2-3%, it is impossible to detect the presence of another grape variety in a supposedly 100% varietal wine.

However producers remain adamant that Brunello must remain 100% Sangiovese.

‘As soon as you allow even 1% of another variety you change the philosophy of Brunello,’ Tagliabue said.

Other producers outside Tuscany are sceptical.

‘Everybody knows that 100% of one variety never exists,’ Masi owner Sandro Boscaini told decanter.com. ‘Producers add small percentages to personalise their wine. We should be defending the addition.’

He added, ‘I can’t understand the rigid way of analysing a product that by nature is different every day.’

None of the producers have been charged.

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