Fraudsters Arrested For Counterfeiting 1 Million Liters Of Italian Wine

Posted: Jan 29, 2020

A co-op in Oltrepò Pavese used sugar, artificial flavors, and non-organic grapes to fool unsuspecting customers.

Several years ago, a wealthy young wine collector was the subject of a documentary, one that showcased his expansive collection of rare vintages, his impressive knowledge of the winemaking process, and ultimately, his arrest and conviction for wine fraud.

Sour Grapes tells the story of Rudy Kurniawan—or at least it tells what the filmmakers were able to find out about him. Although parts of his background and his motivations are still a mystery, they did learn about some of his techniques, about his fake aged labels and corks, and his ability to blend cheap wines into an approximation of what some of these holy grail bottles should've tasted like.

We're not saying that a group of Italian wine insiders took their inspiration from Kurniawan, but they did try to pull off a familiar-sounding fraud. Il Giorno reports that the men were arrested in the Italian winemaking region of Oltrepò Pavese, and they have been accused of making and trying to sell their faux reds.

Investigators allege that the men marked their wine as DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin) or IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), despite the fact that it was produced with sugar, artificial flavors, and carbon dioxide in order to approximate what authentic Oltrepò Pavese wine should taste like. (It was also marked organic, even though decidedly non-organic grapes were used.)

The idea was apparently to quickly increase the inventory at the Cantina Sociale di Canneto Pavese co-op, because more wine leads to more sales, and that leads to more money. According to The Drinks Business, this fraud ring created more than one million liters (219,969 gallons) of counterfeit booze.

By Jelisa Castrodale
January 27, 2020
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