U.S. gives approval for import of '06 Brunello wine

Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:49pm EDT
 
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - The U.S. has given approval for the iconic Italian wine Brunello di Montalcino, which had been involved in a quality scandal, to be imported into the country.

The U.S. Department of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), in a statement released last week, said that since Italy had certified the 2006 vintage it would allow the vintage to be sold in the U.S.

U.S. collectors represent roughly 25 percent of the market for the storied Tuscan red, which fetches hundreds of dollars a bottle at auction.

"TTB announces that the Government of Italy has certified that the 2006 vintage ... meets all the requirements for the denomination," the statement said.

Under strict Italian quality rules Brunello di Montalcino must be made exclusively with Sangiovese grapes. But in 2008, Italian government officials found some producers of the 2003 vintage were using other grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

U.S. officials blocked some of that vintage. Italian officials impounded more than a half-million cases of the wine and seized 10 vineyards. The so-called Brunellopoli scandal touched some of the region's best known producers.

Most of that vintage was stripped of the prestigious title and sold off as Rosso di Montalcino, which costs a third to half as much as its more prestigious cousin.

A consortium of Brunello producers turned to technology last year to help restore the wine's image. Since the 2004 vintage each bottle has had a red label either around the neck or over the capsule on which a series of three letters and eight numbers are printed.

Consumers can text the series of letters and numbers along with the bottle's size to a telephone number in Italy or visit a website (here) to confirm the wine's authenticity.

 
<p>Bottles of Brunello di Montalcino red wine are displayed at a wine shop in the Tuscan town of Montalcino in central Italy in this September 22, 2004 file photo. REUTERS/Max Rossi/Files</p>