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Italian wine fraud ‘witch hunt’ spreads to San Gimignano

The blitz on Tuscany’s top appellations has spread to San Gimignano as producers accuse the Italian press of mounting a witch hunt.

According to the Consorzio of the San Gimignano Denomination, 30hl (hectolitres), the equivalent of 4,000 bottles, of red San Gimignano were confiscated by the authorities.

However, the head of the Consorzio, Giovanni Panizzi, was quick to downplay any suggestion that the more popular and well-known Tuscan white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, was under investigation.

‘Not one bottle of Vernaccia di San Gimignano has been confiscated, and there is absolutely no investigation underway for Vernaccia,’ he said.

‘A small producer, whom we cannot name, was apparently using oak chips for wine that was destined to become San Gimignano Rosso and for another lot that was to become Chianti DOCG,’ said Consorzio vice-president Walter Sovran.

The use of wood chips is prohibited in Italy for both DOC and DOCG wines.

Sovran told decanter.com that the wine will be declassified to IGT status and the authorities will not press charges as the wine had yet to be released onto the market.

He also attacked the press and the authorities for their part in the ongoing Italian wine scandal which has put top regions including Brunello di Montalcino and Montepulciano under the spotlight for allegedly illegal winemaking practices.

‘The real issue is that producers in Tuscany are becoming victims of what is turning out to be a witch hunt,’ said Sovran, who is also head of the Il Palagio estate.

‘The Italian press initially reported that 60,000hl of Vernaccia di San Gimignano had been sequestered, when Vernaccia was not even involved. Also, total Vernaccia output is only about 45,000 hl, so all the facts were wrong.’

He added that Tuscany’s top white appellation, which must be made with a minimum of 90% Vernaccia grapes, has already felt the effects of the articles.

‘As a result of the misinformation reported by Italian newspapers and websites, various German importers have now requested certificates guaranteeing the wine [is genuine],’ he said. ‘They have even threatened to block imports until they are satisfied that Vernaccia is not involved in any attempt at commercial fraud.’

The Consorzio is considering legal action against the newspapers.

Written by Kerin O’Keefe

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