ROME (AP) – Italian investigators said Thursday they seized 30,000 bottles of falsely labeled premium wine from central Italy, after savvy consumers who realized that the Brunello di Montalcino they were sipping turned out to be “normal table wine” alerted authorities of the fraud.
With a bottle of Brunello going for around $40, the fraud is estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of euros (dollars), said Col. Marco Grandini of the Siena branch of the Carabinieri military police.
During a three-month investigation, authorities staked out restaurants, wine bars and grocery stores in central Italy which carried the suspect wines. Along with about 10,000 bottles of Brunello di Montalcino, there were also impostors carrying premium labels such as Chianti Classico and Sagrantino di Montefalco. A Sangiovese wine bore opera singer Andrea Bocelli’s label.
The head of the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium, Fabrizio Bindocci, said the wines did not originate from his territory, and that producers were the victims of fraud.
“These were made by people who have nothing to do with this territory,” he said.
Authorities are expanding the investigation to seize counterfeit wines in other regions of Italy. Some of the falsely labeled wines may have been bound for international markets, including the United States, they added. They did not immediately comment on who the culprits might be.
It was not the first time the Brunello consortium has wrestled with reputation damages to their respected brand.
In 2009, five Brunello producers were cited for mixing unauthorized grapes into their 2003 to 2007 vintages. By Italian law, Brunello must consist only of Sangiovese grapes.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)