Wine notes

Friday 18 December 2009


12 December
Italian media reported yesterday that scores of Chianti wineries/oenologists (some of which are said to be 'renowned') are going to have to answer questions relating to fraudulent blending/invoicing of 'Chianti' wines from the NAS (Italy's fraud squad).

News emerged yesterday that the Guardia Finanza of Siena in Tuscany is investigating what appears to be a sequel to the recent Brunello scandal.

This time it apparently concerns as much as 10 million litres of blended inferior wines labelled with some of Tuscany's most prestigious denominations, including Rosso di Montepulciano and, again, Brunello di Montalcino. (At a presentation in London on Monday to celebrate Gaja's 150th anniversary, Gaia Gaja, while presenting a couple of vintages of their Pieve di Santa Restituta Brunello, observed about the earlier Brunello scandal that while it was the fault of the producers involved, perhaps the Consorzio was too lax in allowing the extraordinary growth of this denomination from 150,000 to 7 million bottles in the last 40 years - JR.)
No fewer than 17 people and 42 companies are reportedly under investigation. Although the enquiry is currently focused primarily on Tuscany, the scandal seems to implicate some as far north as Trentino.

The news comes just after some Montalcino producers, under investigation in the original Brunello affair, had their wines sequestered and were forced to declassify questionable wines to the lowly IGT designation in order to have them released and avoid further prosecution.

According to one report, a total of five hectares in Castellina in Chianti has been sequestered by the authorities. This is prime Chianti Classico land, but the five hectares are not necessarily denominated as such. Allegedly the land belongs to an operation that had been in the news recently because it was discovered that it was blending wines from Puglia into its Chianti. The police apparently followed a truck transporting bulk wine from Puglia to its final destination, confiscated the wine, and the whole batch was made IGT.

My own interpretation is that to produce the volumes of Chianti or Chianti Classico at the lowest possible price in order to service the large supermarkets, especially Germany and the UK, companies are willing to venture outside the law. I am not saying that supermarkets force them to do, but the fact remains that large retailers can put such pressure on price points, that this is one of the inevitable outcomes, especially when contracts on volumes and prices have been drawn up long before any fruit has appeared on the vines...