Errata corrige: subsequent reporting of the seizure has revealed that the wine in question had not yet been bottled and was still in tank.
Italian media outlets have reported this morning that more than 220,000 bottles of counterfeit Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino have been seized by Italian treasury authorities.
“Investigations to date have allowed [authorities] to discover and seize 165,467 liters of wine (roughly 220,600 750ml bottles),” write the editors of the Italian national daily Il Sole 24 Ore, “including 75,620 liters of Brunello di Montalcino and 89,847 liters of Rosso di Montalcino worth at least €1 million.”
(Translation by DoBianchi.com.)
According to the authors of the report, which was based on a statement issued by the Siena prosecutor’s office, the wine had been fraudulently labeled by an unnamed consulting enologist, who worked with multiple Montalcino bottlers.
The prosecutor’s statement describes the individual as a “serial swindler,” who also engaged in an elaborate money fraud scheme using electronic banking transactions to steal approximately €350,000 from his victims.
The investigation was sparked by a tip from the Brunello di Montalcino consortium.
“The operational synergy between monitoring groups and certification authorities has made it possible to stop the fraud from affecting yet more consumers,” said Italian agriculture minister Maurizio Martina in a statement cited by the Sole 24 Ore report. “And it has put an end to odious, unfair competition faced by honest producers.”
The counterfeit wine, which authorities believe was purchased on the black market, was falsely labeled as Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 vintages.
The wineries victimized by the counterfeiter are not named in the Siena prosecutor’s statement, which has been reposted by a number of regional Italian mastheads and wine blogs this morning.