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€1 million Italian wine scam uncovered

Finance police in Sienna have seized 160,000 litres of Tuscan wines labelled falsely as Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino.

The hill town of Montalcino produces some of Italy’s finest wines.

According to Italy’s The Local, police said they had seized a total of 165,467 litres of fake Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wine, worth an estimated €1 million (£800,000).

A consultant, along with several workers within the local wine industry, are alleged to have passed off wine of inferior quality as Brunello and Rosso Montalcino between 2011 and 2013.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Luca Albertario, head of the financial police in Siena, said: “The seized wine was still with the distributors and no bottle was yet on the market.”

“If sold as Montalcino on the market, the wine could have earned about 5 million euros (£4m).”

The consultant used his relationship with producers to steal official seals and other documents used to certify authenticity.

Police described the wines as “common” and below the required standards.

In addition to the theft of the seals the consultant hacked into Tuscany’s agricultural department records and made alterations which in turn made it more difficult to challenge the authenticity of the wines.

The consultant now faces charges of false advertising, embezzlement, fraud and unauthorized access to a computer system.

Police uncovered a total of 75,620 litres of Brunello di Montalcino, 89,847 litres of Rosso di Montalcino and 2,350 fake labels.

The alarm was raised after a report by the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium wine cellars highlighted discrepancies during an audit of the inspection body Valoritalia Ltd.

Produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino in Tuscany, Brunello is one of Italy’s most famous and expensive wines, often selling for hundreds of pounds a bottle.

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