Italian police in Puglia last week broke up an illegal wine trafficking ring in the province of Lecce.

The sprawling factory where 250,000 litres of wine were stored was hidden by trees and tall bushes, and invisible from the outside. Police – acting on a tip-off – located it using aerial imagery.

Authorities were alarmed to find that about 100,000 litres of the wine were fermenting, which is unheard of this time of year.

This led to the discovery on the premises of industrial quantities of chemical fertilizers, including crystallized ammonium phosphates and sugar, which were apparently added to the ‘wine’ to make it ferment. Colouring agents, and other toxic chemicals were also found.

The wine is being analysed to determine its exact contents, but it is believed to be hazardous for human consumption. Thanks to transportation documents found on the scene investigators were able to intercept and stop a tanker truck loaded with the adulterated wine. This was on its way to an undisclosed facility near Cuneo in Piedmont, where it is thought it would have been bottled. It is not known where these bottles would have then ended up.

The local authorities held a press conference last week giving details of the raid. They admitted that while seven people have been identified as being involved, they have not been arrested nor have their identities been made public.

Written by Kerin O’Keefe