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Buyer Beware: Tainted Mafia Wine

by Asinus Asinum Fricat Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 01:57:06 PM EST

A few days ago I wrote about Italian buffalo mozzarella which was found to be contaminated with dioxins as a result of a long drawn garbage crisis. As I wrote, the Neapolitan Mafia, the "camorra", is believed (or should I say alleged) to have had a major responsibility for the rubbish crisis since it has long operated huge scale illegal dumping (a lot of it being industrial toxic waste) in and around Naples.

Last week, authorities in Italy "suspect" some 70 million liters of cheap wine on sale in local shops and supermarkets could contain illegal, harmful substances, a weekly magazine reported Friday. And in a separate report that threatens to harm the image of one of Italy's most prized vintages, L'Espresso magazine also said a probe is underway on an alleged scam to mislead consumers by falsely labeling bottles.

Who is responsible this time? The Mafia. Read on.

Cross-posted from http://politicook.net/

Italy produced and sold at least 70 million liters of cheap wine containing acid, manure and fertilizer, Italian weekly L'Espresso said on Friday, largely blaming organized crime in the south.

It said bottles sold at less than two euros (around three dollars) a liter contained very little wine, and a potentially deadly concoction of water and chemical substances, including hydrochloric acid.

L'Espresso said 20 companies, eight of which are in the north of Italy, were currently being investigated. In southern Italy, two companies based in Taranto and run by the local Sacra Corona Unita mafia were the main source of the bootleg beverage, the report said.

Despite a recent crackdown, many bottles of the tainted wine are still being sold, L'Espresso said, adding that it found a whole stack in a shopping center in northeast Italy.

But Agriculture Minister Paolo De Castro played down the reports saying that the investigations showed Italy has

"serious controls in place and we can demonstrate this with the facts"

De Castro also said that the amount of wine found to have contained illegal substances amounted to less than 1 per cent of Italy's total production. In a statement he described the Italian wine industry as dynamic and healthy, insisting that habitual wrongdoers known to the police "would not ruin the image of an entire economic sector".

Last Friday, the European Commission's spokeswoman on health Nina Papadoulaki asked Italian authorities for an explanation on the matter, hot on the heels of THE health commissioner, Androula Vassiliou, who only a few days ago had asked the Italian authorities to provide information with regards to the tests performed on the mozzarella tainted with dioxins.

The investigation on the chemically altered wine stemmed from a September 2007 raid on a producer in Veronella, in the north-eastern Veneto region, L'Espresso said. Canisters of sulphuric acid found during the operation prompted authorities to confiscate wine from the producer's cellar. Test results showed that the wine seized contained only between 20 and 40 per cent of permitted natural substances with the rest made up of illegally added sugar but also fertilizers, manure and several acids, aimed at raising alcohol content.

The illegal substances can over time threaten the health of consumers including cancer, L'Espresso said. According to  the same Italian magazine, further investigations led authorities to the alleged suppliers of some of the chemicals as well as more contaminated wine near Masafra in Italy's southern Puglia province.

Authorities now suspect that a criminal network possibly controlled by the mafia was involved in producing the potentially toxic wine and arranging its distribution.

Another separate investigation on false labels is centered in Tuscany where bottles labeled as high quality Brunello di Montalcino which is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes, in fact contained blends of other vintages.

The New York Times weighs in with this report:

At least five people were hospitalized over the weekend after drinking wine containing excessive amounts of methyl alcohol, hospital officials said today. Eleven Italians have died in the last two weeks and 25 others have been hospitalized with similar symptoms. Two of those hospitalized in the Turin area over the weekend were in comas and the others were suffering from stomach pains and blurred vision.

I'm personally sticking to the wines of the New World, and the ones I know from France. I don't care if the minister says there's nothing wrong with the Italian wine industry.

So, anyone with a suggestion? A new wine we should know about?
by Asinus Asinum Fricat (patric.juillet@gmail.com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 04:45:11 PM EST
Italian has dropped from the menu--!  Only one in a hundred bottles is tainted, maybe less!  Chilean I hear is always good--at least some of the money goes to chileans.

And I like the link!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 06:56:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I appreciate that trust is essential to consumers, and fragile. But Italian wines being condemned en bloc while Chilean wines get a pass? I wish we could be more rational than that.

You're clearly a dangerous pinko commie pragmatist.
by Vagulus on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 09:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don' think that's what the poster meant. We all know that upmarket Italian wines are excellent, and unlikely tainted, the trick is to spend up a little more to get a bottle of Barolo or the equivalent.
by Asinus Asinum Fricat (patric.juillet@gmail.com) on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 01:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a person I know who has been very unkind to me and caused great distress who really loves Italian wine.

Anyone know where I can get hold of some of the bad stuff ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 10:03:03 AM EST
Be sure to give buffalo mozza to go with the vino toxico.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 01:37:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL, any cheap table wine from Italy is bound to give your nemesis a case of gastric acids!
by Asinus Asinum Fricat (patric.juillet@gmail.com) on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 06:56:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bulgarain wine is strange in that I absolutely adore the stuff the locals make, practically everyone in the SW makes their own wine. Tho' I have learnt that the stuff in the market is good in October/November, but don't touch it in Feb.

But an awful lot of the bottled stuff is quite poor. With the exception of Todoroff, I've yet to find a bottled Bulgarian I really like. I think there is an issue that, here in the SW, production is dominated by the Harsovo/Melnik wines, which are prized because the local soil bacteria give it a special flavour. It just so happen I don't like that flavour.

But the search continues....

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 10:07:03 AM EST
I have bought some excellent wines from Romania, and lately Croatia. If you come across those on the mainland, try them.
by Asinus Asinum Fricat (patric.juillet@gmail.com) on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 01:26:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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