Above: a view of Mt. Amiata from Castelnuovo dell’Abate in the southeastern subzone of Montalcino.
On Friday, the Italian news agency ANSA (akin to our UPI or Associated Press) reported that 445 hectoliters of wine had been confiscated at a “noted” winery in Montalcino. It did not name the winery in question but claimed that the wine had been seized by the Italian forest service and by the anti-adulteration arm of the national police because of “hygienic and sanitary” infractions.
The title of the post was “Massive confiscation of wine in Montalcino.”
Over the weekend, the story was picked up by numerous mastheads, including some of Italy’s leading dailies.
The Brunello consortium responded swiftly with a blog post.
The seizure, says consortium President Fabrizio Bindocci in the post, had nothing to do with “issues related to appellation oversight,” although neither he nor the consortium specify what charges have been filed against the winery owner or why the wine was seized.
A source in Montalcino, who asked to remain anonymous because of the delicate nature of the report, has informed me that the seizure had nothing to do with adulterated wine or sanitary issues. It stemmed, in fact, from the winery owners’ failure to obtain required permits for a recently completed facility on the estate.
Tragically, Italy’s arcane and often heavy-handed bureaucracy, combined with its long-standing tradition of yellow journalism, has dealt another blow to consumers’ perceptions of Brunello di Montalcino, where memories of the 2008 adulteration controversy are still fresh and wounds still raw.
The saddest thing, in my view, is how no one on the ground in Montalcino has the courage to “get in front” of stories like this and embrace transparency over obfuscation.
This is an instance, no doubt, where transparency could lead to more veracity in reporting of events there.
The winery in question — a lower-end, commercial producer of Brunello, whose wines make it to the U.S. – should have taken responsibility for the “brand damage” and issued a statement itself.