The United States Threatens to Ban Brunello di Montalcino

Rocked by charges of fraud, Italian authorities ignored the US's repeated request for clarity.



Taking extreme measures, the United States has issued a warning to Italy that all imports of Brunello di Montalcino could be blocked starting June 9th.

From that date forward, the US will require laboratory certificates accompanying all Brunello authenticating that the wine contains 100 percent Sangiovese.

According to the rules that govern the wine, a bottle cannot carry a Brunello label if it contains any percentage of foreign grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Montepulciano.

At the beginning of April, press reports revealed that Italian anti- fraud authorities were investigating the denomination for discrepancies in the vineyards and yields. Nearly one million bottles were reportedly sequestered under lock and key from Castello Banfi, Argiano, Antinori's Pian delle Vigne and Frescobaldi's Castelgiocondo as part of the investigation. Those producers are appealing, but meanwhile, at least one company - Argiano - has voluntarily declassified its wine from Brunello to IGT. "We couldn't wait out this situation and not go to market," a spokesperson said. Sources say Antinori may also be planning to declassify its Brunello di Montalcino.

A climate of uncertainty and misinformation has characterized the previous weeks with some news reports suggesting that many more, perhaps dozens of producers may be under investigation. Under those circumstances, the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau sent at least two letters to the Italian Embassay in Washington requesting more information, and those letters were reportedly ignored. At that point they decided to issue a ban if verification from Italian authorities is not provided.

US sources said Tuesday that the issue for them was a possible violation of labeling laws and that an automatic procedure was initiated to protect the American consumer.

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