The Consorzio of Brunello di Montalcino is suing two major Italian newspapers for defamation.
L’espresso, a weekly publication, and the daily La Repubblica, ran articles on 4 April this year on two scandals – the Brunello grape blending scandal, and the massive investigation into wines made with potentially harmful products, led by the prosecutor’s office inTaranto, Puglia.
L’espresso even used the headline ‘Benvenuti a Velenitaly’, which literally translates as Welcome to Poison Italy. It was also a pun on Vinitaly, Italy’s most important wine fair, which opened as the articles appeared.
Patrizio Cencioni, president of the Brunello Consorzio told decanter.com the articles, published close to each other, damaged Brunello’s image by association.
‘We’re suing for unspecified damages, because we feel these two articles have hurt Brunello’s image by insinuating that Brunello was harmful to consumers, which of course is not true.’
International consumers became confused over the issues and concerned that drinking Brunello could be dangerous, Cencioni added.
Shortly after the article many importers asked Brunello makers for certification that their product was safe, Cencioni said.
He and others feel that later problems over certifying Brunello for US importation may have been generated by the negative fallout from the articles in question.
The Siena prosecutor running the investigation in Montalcino, and the Minister of Agriculture, Luca Zaia, have publicly confirmed that the Brunello case concerns only grape blending, which is illegal under the wine’s strict production code.
L’espresso and La Repubblica are both owned by Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso Spa.
Written by Kerin O’Keefe