Thursday 22 August 2019

Saboteurs destroy '400,000 bottles of wine' out of spite

Evidence of the world's oldest wine has been discovered (Stock picture)
Evidence of the world's oldest wine has been discovered (Stock picture)

Andrea Vogt

A family-owned winery in northern Italy has lost the equivalent of 400,000 bottles of sparkling wine in the latest act of skulduggery apparently prompted by a fraud investigation.

Vandals broke into the grounds of the Conte Vistarino winery in the middle of the night and drained refrigerated steel tanks where riesling, pinot grigio, chardonnay and other white varieties were maturing.

"It was a tremendous shock," Ottavia Giorgi di Vistarino, the 40-year-old countess who manages the winery in the hills south of Pavia, said. The raid wiped out an estimated €500,000 worth of wine at the Lombardy estate.

The saboteurs did not cause any other damage and did not steal anything, suggesting it was an act of spite.

A regional investigation is currently under way after reports some producers were 'cutting' their wines with inferior grape varieties.

Some 300 people are under investigation for crimes ranging from bribery to falsifying documents in a €20m fraud inquiry.

Prosecutors allege some wineries sold certified pinot grigio, that had been cut with other varieties.

The Conte Vistarino estate is not suspected of any wrongdoing.


Ms Giorgi di Vistarino said the family had received no threats and had no idea who might be behind the sabotage.

"If you have no idea why, you don't sleep at night," she said. "The team is shaken, but we won't let it stop us."

The company paid local farmers in full for the grapes at the end of November. Less than a week later, the saboteurs drained approximately 10pc of the wine that was maturing to be sold to third-party sparkling wine producers.

Michele Rossetti, the president of the local wine consortium, expressed solidarity with the family and urged authorities to "find the guilty parties and bring them to justice as swiftly as possible".

Last week's break-in was the latest case of wine vandalism in Italy, where a recent export boom, particularly for sparkling wines, has sparked fierce market competition and concerns that organised crime is trying to infiltrate the lucrative sector.

In 2012 saboteurs drained 62,000 litres of prized Brunello di Montalcino from casks at the Case Basse winery in Tuscany, worth an estimated €13m.

There was a similar investigation into wine 'cutting' being conducted at the time. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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