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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Brunello di Montalcino, the famed, rich red wine from Tuscany that was embroiled in an adulteration scandal for its 2003 vintage, has turned to technology to ensure a bottle's authenticity.
A consortium of Brunello producers is using mobile phones and the Internet to assure consumers about the purity of the product.
"You can now SMS - text - to get the bottle's history," Stefano Campatelli, director of the Consorzorio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino said Thursday.
Each bottle of the 2004 vintage has 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 that information along with the size of the bottle (usually 750 ml) to a telephone number in Italy +39 366 300 8880.
"You will get back a text that will tell you information about the producer, how many bottles were produced, the history of the bottle," Campatelli explained while taking out his cellphone to demonstrate.
The Consorzorio also offers a similar traceability feature on its website: here.
Brunello di Montalcino must be made solely from Sangiovese grapes. But it 2008 Italian government officials found some producers of the 2003 vintage were using grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to make the wine.
The vintage's sale was blocked, several hundred thousand bottles were impounded and 10 vineyards were seized by the government. Eventually most of the wine was stripped of the prestigious title Brunello di Montalcino and sold off as Rosso di Montalcino, which costs a third to half as much as its more prestigious cousin.
Campatelli was in New York for the Vino 2010, a gathering of more than 400 Italian winemakers. The United States was Italy's biggest export destination in terms of value and third-largest in terms of volume in 2008, according to the Unione Italiana Vini, which represents wine companies, makers and merchants.
Reporting by Leslie Gevirtz; editing by Patricia Reaney