Despite being offered an out-of-court settlement, Marchesi de' Frescobaldi, the prominent Tuscan wine producer, has opted go to court to clear its name following allegations of wine fraud. First reported in Wine Spectator in 2005, investigators allege that the estate's winemakers used a higher percentage of grapes from southern Italy than is legally acceptable in the production of some estate wines produced at the vintner's 260-acre Fattoria di Castiglioni estate in Montespertoli, southwest of Florence. A court hearing in Florence is set for Nov. 17 after an official indictment on March 6.
"We haven't changed our tune at all," said Lamberto Frescobaldi, who oversees the wine production on all of his family's estates in Tuscany. "We have collaborated with the investigators right from the start, and were even offered the chance to settle out of court. But we decided to stick to our guns and see this through to the end, because we know we have done nothing wrong. We owe it to ourselves, the company and all 650 of its employees."
Public prosecutor Gianni Tei, who is in charge of the case, was unavailable for comment.
Castiglioni is known for wines such as Giramonte, a Merlot-Sangiovese blend that bears the Toscana Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) designation, and the traditional Sangiovese-based Castiglioni Chianti, which carries a Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) label. It also began producing a new Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese IGT blend called Tenuta di Castiglioni with the 2003 vintage. Italian law permits IGT-labeled wines to contain up to 15 percent grapes from outside the designated region; in DOC and DOCG wines, no outside grapes are allowed.
Italian newspapers reported in early March that 14 people were indicted including Lamberto Frescobaldi and Niccolò d'Afflitto, Frescobaldi's in-house enologist. Also named were the company's winemaking coordinator, four managers of other Frescobaldi estates in Tuscany and six grape suppliers from Puglia, in southern Italy.
Marchesi de' Frescobaldi has been making wine in Tuscany for more than 700 years. Today, the company owns 10 Tuscan estates, located in all the major wine-producing areas of the region, as well as the Attems estate in northeastern Italy's Friuli region.