As deadline for Brunello certification arrives, TTB publishes revised circular but Italy’s response remains unclear.

The U.S. Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade (TTB) deadline for certification of Brunello di Montalcino is today, Monday, June 23. At issue is whether or not the wines have been made with 100% Sangiovese grapes (as required by appellation regulation). The U.S. government requirement comes in the wake of news that the Italian government impounded more than 1 million bottles of 2003 Brunello believed to have been adulterated by the addition of grapes other than Sangiovese. Although at least one Italian newswire has reported that Italian officials and their counterparts are currently meeting to hammer out specifics, the Italian government’s response to the crisis remains unclear.

On Friday, June 20, the TTB issued a revised circular, superseding the circular published on Monday, June 17. Although the wording of the revised circular is slightly different, the U.S. government’s requirements have remained unchanged. Importers will be required to present “a declaration from the Government of Italy stating that the product’s vintage date and brand name meet the requirements of the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and that the product is acceptable for sale as such in Italy.”

Importers and Brunello producers have yet to be informed by the Italian ministry of agriculture as to who will provide such declarations. In the meantime, the hands of importers and producers — even those who have obtained laboratory analyses and certification that their wines are 100% Sangiovese) — remain tied.

Confusing matters even more, the U.S. government has issued no statement regarding wine already in U.S. On Tuesday, VinoWire editor Jeremy Parzen spoke to the Italian wine buyer at a major wine retailer in California. The buyer told him that although he believes that the Brunello on the shelves of his store is now “illegal,” he will continue to sell it and does not fear any legal repercussion. “The American government,” he said, “will never come after the retailer. There are just too many wine stores in the U.S. for them to come after me.”

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