The Italian press reports that a new investigation into adulterating wines is underway in Tuscany, this time mostly in areas producing Chianti. Italy's financial police, in collaboration with investigators from the Ministry of Agriculture, late last week began questioning winemakers and visiting wineries, primarily in the area of Chianti Classico as well as fringe Chianti appellations around the famous region.
The investigation appears to still be in the preliminary stages. Reports estimate that 10 million liters have already been impounded, and 42 wineries have been visited. In addition, another 17 individuals, mostly wine merchants and enologists, have been interviewed. But as in past investigations, the authorities tend to impound wine first and then try to ascertain its legality afterward.
The Guardia di Finanza di Siena, the same government office that checked Brunello di Montalcino producers for close to two years for alleged wine adulteration, is spearheading the investigation. It claims that some producers are using wine from outside of their appropriate appellations in Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines. Moreover, wines from outside of Tuscany are being sold as the region's Indicazione Geografica Toscana (IGT), it claims.
"This is all politically motivated," said one winemaker in Chianti Classico, who asked not to be named. "They have no evidence, in my opinion."
I think that for well-known names in Tuscany this may be the case, but for as long as I can remember drinking Italian wines, I have heard stories about juice from the south of Italy being used to improve Tuscan reds. I have even seen tanker trucks delivering wines in the night in Tuscany. It could all be legal. Who knows for sure?
Indeed, the use of wines outside of Tuscany to "improve" blends is very acceptable, even totally normal practice. According to Italian law, a wine producer can use as much as 17.5 percent of wine from an area outside of Tuscany for its Tuscan IGT. They can also use up to 15 percent of another vintage other than what is marked on the bottle.
"I bought a tiny amount of wine from a merchant in Chianti Classico in 2005, and now the Guardia di Finanza is investigating me," said another wine producer. "I have all the documents to prove no wrongdoing, but they come in and treat me like a criminal."
I must admit that I don't understand how the Italian justice system works. It seems very arbitrary and unfair. I have a feeling that this will all end up like the Brunello di Montalcino investigation. Some people may have to declassify wines, or even pay fines, but other than that, it will be a case of name-calling and passing on hearsay. I hate the jealousy and envy that obviously obsesses some winemakers in Italy. And it only gets worse when the economy is bad and their sales are down.
I wish people would just make their wines in the most honest way possible, and sell them. But maybe that's just too much to ask?
Andy Cheung — Vancouver, Canada — December 14, 2009 8:18pm ET
Matt Scott — Honolulu HI — December 15, 2009 12:28am ET
James Suckling — — December 15, 2009 5:18am ET
James Suckling — — December 15, 2009 5:19am ET
Lorenzo Erlic — victoria canada — December 15, 2009 9:03am ET
Lucio Croce — Basel / Switzerland — December 15, 2009 11:09am ET
Bert Pinheiro — Baltimore Maryland — December 15, 2009 5:51pm ET
Andy Cheung — Vancouver, Canada — December 16, 2009 9:15pm ET
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