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Brunello di Montalcino
Reuters/Stefano Rellandini
Something wasn’t right with all the Brunello di Montalcino bottles this year.
SOUR GRAPES

The Italian police just saved the world from 220,000 bottles of bad wine

By Svati Kirsten Narula

As is the case with olive oil, it appears that buying Italian-branded red wine may not be the best de facto choice for consumers—at least until fraudsters stop trying to flood the market with counterfeit bottles. Italian police this week seized 220,000 bottles of cheap wine that had been falsely labeled with the famous Brunello di Montalcino name. This is the second case of large-scale wine fraud uncovered in Italy this year.

The police are investigating a rogue oenologist who allegedly sold the wine in bulk to various local wineries, which bottled it and prepared to sell it overseas. This would have led to fake Brunello di Montalcino wines “on tables of half the restaurants in the world,” one police official told the Guardian.

Brunello di Montalcino is one of Italy’s most prestigious wines. By law it must be 100% sangiovese—made from a specific grape of that name. About 70% of it is exported, mainly to the US. The earlier 2014 scam also involved Brunello, in addition to Chianti Classico and Sagrantino di Montefalco. In 2008, on the heels of another scandal to have enveloped this terroir, the US restricted imports of Brunello bottles until the Italian government agreed to certify their authenticity.