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Mafia vineland given to coops in Sicily

Corleone may be a name more synonymous with Al Pacino than Nerello Cappuccio, but it is in this Sicilian village that confiscated mafia land is being given over to wine production.

As part of an Italian government move to put confiscated mafia property to more legitimate use, Sicilian land owned by incarcerated dons has been given over to local cooperatives.

The estates of imprisoned mafia bosses had been seized – in some cases over 20 years ago. It was not until 1996 that state legislation allowed these confiscated lands and properties, said to be worth many millions of euros, to be used for the benefit of the people.

In Corleone, 60km south of Palermo, land once belonging to the Riina estate has been handed over to a cooperative of local farmers. Corleone is the birthplace of ‘boss of bosses’, Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina, who is serving multiple life sentences for crimes including ordering the asassination of judge Giovanni Falcone.

The cooperative now makes a wine called ‘Vino Placido’, and grows wheat to make ‘anti-mafia’ pasta.

The most important grapes grown in Sicily are the white varieties Inzolia and Catarratto, and the reds Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio.

‘These properties were the fruit of money laundering, violence and drug-trafficking. The mafia had taken over the best lands, but now these are being given back to the people,’ said Nicolo Nicolosi, mayor of Corleone.

The Tempio del Monte Jato cooperative west of Palermo makes another ‘anti-mafia’ wine from 14ha of vines on land once owned by another notorious mafia boss, Romualdo Agrigento.

The co-operative produces a white wine, Tempio del Monte Jato, whose label proclaims ‘from Sicilian land confiscated by the mafia’ and features the nephew of a mafia supergrass who was murdered for his uncle’s revelations in the early 1990s.

‘The child looks at the Tempio del Monte Jato with hope. It is a message of hope for our land,’ Giuseppe Randazzo, of the Monte Jato co-operative, said.

The move from crime to wine has not been easy for those involved. Locals have been reluctant to to put their feet on what is considered ‘sacred territory’ for fear of reprisals. The estates are still being menaced – vines have been destroyed and even guard dogs have disappeared, their corpses found in dustbins several days later.

And as is the case with all wine, provenance is a major issue.

‘When we made background checks on some men applying to form a farm on one-time mafia land, we found they were mafiosi,’ Salvino Saputo, mayor of Monreale, told Reuters.

Written by Oliver Styles

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