Italian police have seized more than 4,000 counterfeit bottles of a prestigious “super Tuscan” wine that can fetch up to €360 (£325) a bottle.
The operation, called Bad Tuscan, led to the arrests of two people with 11 others under investigation for allegedly counterfeiting one of the storied red wine, Bolgheri Sassicaia by Tenuta San Guido.
Investigators said the counterfeit wine originated in Sicily, while the bottles hailed from Turkey and the labels and wooden boxes came from Bulgaria. The operation culminated in the confiscation of 700 cases of wine totalling 4,200 bottles. The 2010 and 2015 vintages, celebrated by Italian and international critics, were the most prevalent among the fakes.
“The investigation began by chance when two members of the Guardia di Finanza [financial police], came upon a case of the fake wine on a street in Empoli, in Tuscany, which had probably fallen from a truck,” said Giuseppe Creazzo, chief prosecutor in Florence, during a press conference.
“In the case was a note with two mobile phone numbers, which set off the investigation and led to the arrest of two individuals who had carried out this fraud with meticulous care. Fortunately, we managed to block the sale of this wine, one of the most famous in Italy and the world, on the international market.”
According to investigators, several customers, including some from China, Korea and Russia, had already ordered about 1,000 cases at about 70% less than the cost of the original.
“Unfortunately, counterfeiting of prized Tuscan food products is very common,” said Francesco Colpizzi, the president of the Tuscan Wine and Agriculture Federation.
The Bolgheri Sassicaia, produced by Tenuta San Guido in Tuscany, is a bordeaux-style red wine. It is considered to be one of Italy’s most exclusive wines, with the 2015 vintage praised by Wine Spectator as the world’s best.
In 2019, the 2016 vintage was awarded the maximum 100 points by the American wine critic Robert Parker.
Bolgheri Sassicaia originates in vineyards located near the splendid coastal landscape of the Tuscan Maremma. It is mainly produced with cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. The wine, aged in French oak barrels for 24 months and in the bottle before going on sale, is a deep ruby red colour. In 2015 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York, a case of 1985 Sassicaia fetched $18,375 (£14,200).