Half a million litres of red wine from two Frescobaldi properties have been confiscated and 12 members of the company are under investigation for alleged fraud.

The prestigious Florentine firm, which has just celebrated its 700th anniversary, is accused of producing DOCG, DOC and IGT wines with undeclared outside grapes not allowed under the rules of the strictly controlled denominations.

Fraud police searched two of Frescobaldi’s Tuscan estates earlier this week and 12 people are now officially under investigation including Leonardo, Lamberto and Vittorio Frescobaldi.

At the moment the investigation is focused on two of the family’s properties, Castiglione in Val di Pesa, and the company’s bottling cellar near Pontassieve, which services the company’s various properties.

National Italian newspaper Il Giornale reported that officials had been suspicious for some months after a routine check of the company’s books allegedly revealed a type of “parallel accounting”.

The paper says investigators concluded the amount of Tuscan grapes declared was increased on paper when in reality the amount was lower. In addition, only a portion of the amount of grapes received from Puglia – outside the denomination – seems to have been declared while the actual amount received was higher.

These conclusions, the newspaper said, were based on a series of documents, particularly transportation documents and records of both vineyard yields and wine production.

This has led authorities and investigators to believe that the firm has violated the strict laws regarding grape variety and origin as stipulated in the production codes. In what is being regarded as a preventive measure, nearly 500,000 litres of red wine have been confiscated.

Authorities simultaneously carried out similar searches in the south of Italy where prosecutors believe Frescobaldi bought grapes to be shipped to Tuscany. Besides various documents, investigators have also confiscated bottled wine from these undisclosed locations, which will be analysed presumably to determine their origin and grape variety.

Frescobaldi export manager Stefano Benini told decanter.com the investigation was ‘to verify that the denomination of the wines has been properly applied to the products,’ and stressed that none of the other Frescobaldi wineries – Pomino, Nipozzano, Castelgiocondo and Santa Maria – was being investigated.

‘This kind of investigation is routine in the wine business… We are confident that we can clear any issue and that this should not impact on our business,’ he said.

Speaking on behalf of the company, Vittorio Frescobaldi, president of the firm, said, ‘Of course we buy grapes from outside the denomination, but only to bottle as table wine or to sell in bulk at the estates.’

The family’s lawyer, Nino d’Avirro says that he has complete trust in the justice system and that, ‘we will prove that the wine production is completely regular.’

Besides the three Frescobaldi family members, nine other people are also under ivestigation including the Frescobaldi’s consulting enologist Niccolo’ D’Afflitto. D’Afflitto, one of the country’s top enologists, also works with various wineries throughout Italy including the estates owned by the Ferragamo family, Il Borro and Castiglion del Bosco, which are not involved in the investigation.

Written by Kerin O’Keefe