Red Scare

09 Apr 2008

At the Vinitaly wine exhibition in Verona last week, amid presentations and tastings from thousands of regional Italian wine producers, the subject on everyone’s lips was a new scandal involving the prestigious Tuscan Brunello di Montalcino wine. News also emerged of a deadly cocktail of toxic substances found in wine bottles on supermarket and shop shelves across Italy.

In the first case, various Montalcino wineries are said to have added a mix of merlot, sauvignon and cabernet grapes to their Brunello, considered one of Italy’s highest quality wines, which strictly goes against appellation regulations stating that it must be made from 100% sangiovese grapes.

In the second, lethal quantities of fertilizer, hydrochloric and sulphuric acid were found in over 70 million liters of wine distributed for sale over recent weeks. It is believed that such substances might have been illegally added to the wine to aid the breakdown process of sucrose into glucose and fructose. This, however, has created an alcohol that can result in a slow death for the consumer. So far, 20 companies up and down the peninsula have been involved.

These shocking findings recall a similar scandal that occurred in Italy in 1986, when traces of methanol in large quantities of wine led to the deaths of around 20 Italians.

Responsible Italian wine producers currently hope that the controversy and media attention surrounding these issues will not provoke a negative impact on their activity.

Victoria Blackshaw

[email protected]

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