Official findings of “Operazione Mixed Wine” Brunello investigation

The following summary and translations have been rendered from a report initially published Saturday, July 18, 2009, by Siena Free and information subsequently published by the Florence edition of La Repubblica. Translations by VinoWire.

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Above: Italian Treasury Department officials reported their findings in “Operazione Mixed Wine” on Saturday in Siena.

In a press conference held Saturday, investigators for the Siena office of the Italian Treasury Department announced that seventeen persons were found to have “cheated in commercial transactions” [translator’s note: official EU translation] and “falsely certified public documents.” Of these, eight persons engaged in plea bargaining with Italian authorities while nine received official notice that they had been found to have committed these transgressions.

Over the course of the “Operazione Mixed Wine” investigation, which was launched by the Italian Treasury Deparment in September 2007, the following amounts of wine were impounded and subsequently declassified and/or distilled according to authorities:

6.7 million liters of Brunello di Montalcino impounded, 20% declassified to Toscana Rossso IGT;

1.7 million liters of Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Chianti Classico DOCG, and Toscana Rosso IGT impounded, 40% declassified to lesser designations and 100,000 liters were “sent directly for distillation”;

400 hectares of vineyards suspected of being planted to unauthorized grape varieties were seized. Of these, 350 hectares were “put into line with the law.”

The director of the Consorzio del Brunello (Brunello Producers Association) and two inspectors of the Certification Committee were sent notice that preliminary investigations had found that they had taken part in a “conspiracy to cheat in commercial transactions” and that they had “falsely certified public documents.”

Seven wineries were investigated by authorities (later named by La Repubblica as Antinori, Argiano, Banfi, Casanova di Neri, and Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi). Two were cleared of wrongdoing (Biondi Santi and Col d’Orcia).

The investigation was headed by the Siena Prosecutor’s Office and was conducted by the Treasury Department of Siena and the Central Inspectorate for Quality Control of Food and Farm Products of Florence. The press conference was held on Saturday, July 18, at the Provincial Command Office of the Treasury Department of Siena.

The judicial inquiry began with an examination of documents taken from Consorzio del Brunello (Brunello Producers Association) “concerning the execution of ‘erga omnes’ monitoring intended to establish the ampelographic basis and unitary yield of grapes permissible for hectare planted to vine.” In other words, documentation of the types of grapes authorized and actually planted and the yields allowed and actually employed as per appellation regulations.

“Over the course of their monitoring, Consortium inspectors revealed the cultivation of grape varieties not recognized by the ampelographic basis allowed by appellation regulations for Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino (100% Sangiovese).”

“Despite the grave irregularities in inspectors’s verbal reports, the Certification Committee within the Consortium released ‘light non-conformity’ that allowed producers to obtain and sell entire productions of Brunello di Montalcino from the years 2003 to 2007 that lacked the requirements necessary to be adorned with the above-cited appellation of origin.”

“The Italian Treasury Department and the Inspectorate for Quality Control engaged in numerous operations delegated by the Siena Judicial Authority: searches of company headquarters (offices, cellars, chemical laboratories) and dwellings, wire-tapping, seizure and analysis of documentation by the Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino, direct inspections of the vineyards, aerial photographs of the land by the Treasury Department deployed from the Pisa airbase, analysis of copious accounting and non-accounting documentation.”

“These operations allowed investigators to ascertain that Montalcino wineries have violated appellation regulations for the production of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Chianti DOCG, and Toscana Rosso IGT.”

“The results of further inquiry led investigators to ascertain that leading Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino producers of national and international stature had engaged in commercial fraud by obtaining those wines using grape varieties not recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Forest Policies for the appellations in question and the illicit blending of vinous products.”

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6 thoughts on “Official findings of “Operazione Mixed Wine” Brunello investigation

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