Arts & Entertainment

Dowd On Drinks: Scandal Rocks Tuscan Wine World

Sometimes in business you can be too productive.

Think not? Check with the prominent Italian winemaker Castello Banfi. The Tuscan vintner, which actually is headquartered on Long Island, N.Y., has had 600,000 bottles of its 2003 Brunello di Montalcino confiscated by Italian authorities as part of an investigation into alleged irregularities in the quantity of bottles produced.

Enrico Viglierchio, a Castello Banfi executive, confirmed a story in the Tuscan newspaper Corriere Fiorentino that police had seized wine produced by Castello Banfi and three other vintners — Antinori, Frescobaldi and Argiano — on suspicion the high-end products had been cut with other grape varieties such as Sauvignon, which would be commercial fraud if true.

"It seems we produced more" than officials think they could have produced, based on the calculation of acreage dedicated to grapes for Brunello, Viglierchio said in remarks carried by Italian state TV.

Although the investigation isn’t close to being finished, a Tuscan trade organization already is taking action to blunt criticism.

Count Francesco Marone Cinzano, owner of Brunello producer Col d’Orcia and president of the consortium of Brunello producers, told that producers now will test some 20-25 percent of wine each year after reports that hundreds of thousands of top Brunello were impounded and sale of the 2003 vintage suspended.

"We will be a lot more severe in our controls to guarantee and certify the good work of the majority," he told reporters for the wine magazine during a conversation at the Vinitaly trade fair in Verona, Italy.

Major producers including Castello Banfi, Antinori, Frescobaldi and Argiano were being investigated after it was alleged they had mixed small amounts of other grapes with the Brunello, a violation of commercial law.

Elsewhere in the wine world:

• A trio of wineries earned a pair of double gold medals each in the recent Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in Rochester, N.Y. Panels of 45 judges had to consider 2,350 wines entered from 39 states and 14 different countries.

The double gold status, which means a unanimous vote of the judges sampling the particular wine, went to two entries each from Penguin Bay Winery of Hector, N.Y., in the Finger Lakes, Adobe Road Winery of Petaluma, Calif., and Hagafen Cellars of Napa, Calif.

Adobe Road got its double golds for a 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2005

Zinfandel; Hagafen Cellars got its for a 2007 Riesling and a Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, and Penguin Bay for a semi-sweet Riesling non-vintage and a 2006 Valvin/Muscat.

• Sometimes it’s difficult to juggle wine glasses when you’re being spontaneous and, perhaps, hoping to share a touch of the grape with a significant other while out on a stroll through a meadow.

If you have a bottle of the Vinho Verde created by Viktor Pucsek for the PapaMama Design Competition, no problem. Simply slip off the label, which converts to a couple of paper drinking vessels.

You’ll have to figure out for yourself how to open the bottle, although a screwtop would come in handy for anyone who decides to seriously manufacture what currently is a prototype design.


(Dowd covers the adult beverage field online at

(c) 2008 Hearst News Papers