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Producers insist on innocence in Brunello affair

High-profile producers involved in the Brunello di Montalcino adulteration affair have insisted they have done nothing wrong.

Last month the Italian Treasury Department announced the findings of ‘Operation Mixed Wine,’ an investigation of the alleged adulteration of wines produced in Montalcino and Chianti Classico, launched in September 2007 by the Siena magistrate.

Seven wineries were investigated. These were later named by the Italian daily La Repubblica as Antinori, Argiano, Banfi, Biondi Santi, Casanova di Neri, Col d’Orcia, and Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi.

Two wineries were cleared of wrongdoing, according to officials. La Repubblica named these as Biondi Santi and Col d’Orcia.

According to the investigators, 17 persons were found to have ‘cheated in commercial transactions’ and ‘falsely certified public documents.’

Of these, eight people engaged in ‘plea bargaining’ with Italian authorities, while nine received official notice that they had been found to have broken the law.

In a written statement, a spokesperson for the Argiano winery told decanter.com that its wine had been tested, certified, and approved for sale by authorities, aside from some of the winery’s 2003 bottling, which had been ‘declassified for commercial reasons.’

A Banfi spokesperson said that Banfi stands by its October statement in which it reported that the winery had been cleared of any wrongdoing. ‘There has been no change in the situation since then,’ he noted.

The Antinori winery declined to comment. Neither Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi nor Casanova di Neri were available for comment.

Of the 6.7m litres of Brunello di Montalcino suspected of adulteration and confiscated by authorities, 20% was declassified to Toscana Rosso IGT.

As well as this, 1.7m litres of Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Chianti Classico DOCG, and Toscana Rosso IGT were impounded.

Forty per cent of this was declassified to lesser designations and 100,000 litres were ‘sent directly for distillation.’

350ha of vineyards were found to be planted to unauthorised grape varieties and were ‘put into line with the law,’ in the words of officials.

The investigation was headed by the Siena magistrate’s office and was conducted by the Treasury Department of Siena and the Central Inspectorate for Quality Control of Food and Farm Products of Florence.

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Written by Jeremy Parzen and Franco Ziliani

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