Italian police this week managed to pull the plug on what authorities in the country are calling the biggest wine fraud ever carried out in the wine-loving nation, when a scam artist managed to sell what amounted to a whopping 220,000 fake bottles of pricey Montalcino red wine. The culprit, a wine expert and consultant, dressed up cheap swill with fake labels and sold it on the wholesale market to distributors over a three-year period from 2011 to 2013.
“The seized wine was still with the distributors and no bottle was yet on the market,” Luca Albertario, head of the financial police in Siena, Italy told Bloomberg. “If sold as Montalcino on the market, the wine could have earned him about 5 million euros [$6.5 million].” “It’s the biggest fraud ever carried out in the agricultural and food sector,” Albertario told Agence France Presse. “Had the scam succeeded, it would have resulted in fake Brunello di Montalcino wines ‘ending up on the tables of half the restaurants in the world.’”
Here’s more from Bloomberg on how the scam was orchestrated:
The consultant used his relationship with some producers to steal official seals and other documents certifying the authenticity of the wine as Montalcino, according to the statement. In reality, the wine sold was described by police as “common” and below the needed standards. In addition to stealing seals, the consultant hacked into the region of Tuscany’s agriculture department adding records that matched the wine’s fake documentation, making it more difficult for buyers to doubt the wine’s authenticity.