Prominent Italian wine producer Frescobaldi has partnered with a group of prisoners on a tiny island in the Tuscan Archipelago on a white wine project.
Inmates at Gorgona prison tend their vines
Having planted vines on the island a number of years ago, inmates of the remote penal colony of Gorgona have made 2,700 bottles of Frescobaldi per Gorgona DOC, a Vermentino and Ansonica blend.
The vines are planted in a corner of the island to the north of Elba, where Napoleon was exiled by the British.
Despite their hard graft, the prisoners will not be allowed to drink the wine, which will instead be sold to restaurants and bars around Italy.
Thirteenth generation family member and the company’s vice president Lamberto Frescobaldi, who worked on the project, describes the wine as “intense, with a marvellous character.”
Marchese Lamberto Frescobaldi proudly shows off Frescobaldi per Gorgona DOC
The Frescobaldi family, one of Italy’s oldest and most respected wine dynasties, were hands on throughout the project, offering the island’s 50 inmates advice on planting, picking and winemaking techniques.
Marchesi de’Frescobaldi is the first company take part in a scheme launched last year in which businesses invest in the island to give prisoners skills that will help them get a job after they’re released.
In addition to winemaking, the prisoners work on a farm producing cheese and olive oil.
The project was welcomed by Anna Maria Cancellieri, the Italian minister for justice, who said it could be replicated at other prisons.
“Initiatives like this have a constructive effect on inmates, allowing them to specialise in an area of work that will be useful to them once they leave prison.
“For prisoners who do not find work, the rate of repeat offending is 80%,” she said.
Italian prisons are the third most overcrowded in Europe after Serbia and Greece.
“We need to go ahead with this model because we want to show the world that Italy’s prisons are worthy of a civilised country,” Cancellieri added.
Many Italian islands have been used as prisons in the past, both for political prisoners and common criminals. Gorgona is one of the few still in operation.
Public access to Gorgona is forbidden without special permission and boats must keep 1,600ft from the shore.