Brunello di Montalcino's producer council has said it will take legal action against anyone found responsible for the stash of €1m-worth of falsely labelled wine seized by Italian police.

The town of Montalcino that has given its name to one of Italy’s best-known wines

Italy’s financial police agency has seized 160,000 litres – around 220,000 bottles-worth – of falsely labelled Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino wines. The wines are worth an estimated €1m, police said.

As earlier reported by Decanter.com, the agency said it was investigating a wine consultant. The same suspect is also believed to have hacked into regional government computers to alter records of production and sales.

None of the wine is thought to have been sold to consumers. But, Brunello di Montalcino’s trade council, which tipped off police, reacted angrily to the alleged fraud.

‘It is a serious issue that could cause significant damage to Brunello di Montalcino,’ said Fabrizio Bindocci, president of the Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino.

‘This is a case of fraud against the consumer and most of all against the producers, who have been victims of this affair and who will respond decisively.

‘If and when the investigations confirm the various parties responsible, the Consorzio will immediately submit a civil claim and will use all means necessary to combat similar behaviour.’

Brunello di Montalcino winemakers have extra reason to be conscious of their image following a scandal around the 2004 vintage, when the US – a key export market – briefly halted all imports of the wine amid suspicions some producers have topped up stocks with unclassified grapes. Tougher quality controls were introduced.

Bindocci said that, following the current police investigation, a new rule requires producers to give 48 hours’ notice of sales of grapes and bulk wine – to allow authorities time to monitor transactions.

By October, the Consorzio also intends to publish a draft code of ethics, ‘by which all producers and those who work in the wine sector must abide’.

A spokesperson for the Consorzio said the current case is different from an investigation announced at the end of May this year, when Italian police uncovered tens of thousands bottles of wines with false labels, including some that claimed to be Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico.

Written by Chris Mercer