Italian wine blogger Maurizio Gily absolved of wrongdoing in defamation case

maurizio gily journalist wine italyAbove: venerated Italian wine writer, blogger, and winery consultant Maurizio Gily (right) was toasted by members of the Italian Federation of Independent Grape Growers at Vinitaly last month.

In the days leading up to Vinitaly, Italy’s annual wine trade fair Verona, Maurizio Gily — one of the country’s most respected wine writers — announced that an appeals court had overturned a December 2013 ruling that required him to pay a €5,000 fine in a defamation suit brought against him.

The case stretches back to Vinitaly 2008, when Espresso contributor Paolo Tessardi published his sensationalist feature on “Velenitaly” or “poisoned Italy” (a play on Vinitaly). In it, he implicitly admonished Italian wine lovers to avoid consumption of Italian wines. And he implied that many commercially produced Italian wines contained life-threatening toxins.

Not long after, Gily — one of the country’s most respected wine writers — published a blog post on his Mille Vigne blog in which he contested Tessardi’s claims. Ultimately, none of Tessardi’s claims proved to be true.

In the judge’s ruling in 2013, he noted that although Gily’s facts were correct, he had damaged Tessardi’s reputation.

Gily ascribed the urgency and vehemence of his blog post (subsequently removed) to the fact that Tessardi’s inaccurate reporting caused inestimable damage to consumers’ perceptions of Italian wine.

Tessardi only discovered Gily’s post three years after its publication (thanks to an internet search). And he filed his complaint against Gily in the wake of his discovery, long after any memory of the Velenitaly story or Gily’s editorial had faded from public discourse.

After the initial ruling had been handed down — I remember well — Gily wondered if it would be easier to simply pay the fine and move on.

Instead, he decided to crowd-fund the financial resources needed to fight the judgement. Ultimately, he raised €15,000.

Just a few days before thousands of Italian wine professionals gathered in Verona for the fair this year, Gily made the announcement on his blog: “We have won and Italian wine as won.”

“I am happy and I don’t want to hide it,” he wrote. “At least today, at least here, in a tiny part of the world, justice has been served.”

Maurizio, thank you for standing up for all of us. Thank you for standing up for Italian wine!

Today’s post is just the first — and perhaps the most urgent — in my Vinitaly 2015 highlights. Stay tuned for my top tastes and other juicy nuggets!

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