Italian police bust fake Tuscan wine ring, seizing 4,200 bottles

Italian police have broken up a network producing counterfeit Bolgheri Sassicaia, a Tuscan red wine which can sell for hundreds of euros a bottle.

The Guardia di Finanz (GDF) have arrested two people and are investigating 11 other suspects in connection with the “sophisticated and accurate” falsification of bottles of Sassicaia wines, which come from the coastal region of Tuscany.

The bottles and labels were identical to genuine articles, according to GDF officer Fario Sopranzetto, who noted that even the weight of the tissue paper used to wrap them was the same. The scam only came to light when a case of the fake wine fell off a truck last year and was discovered lying on the roadside.

In the case was a note with two mobile phone numbers, the first tangible leads in an operation that came to be known as “Bad Tuscan”.

The investigation culminated in a raid on a warehouse near Milan, which uncovered some 4,200 bottles of wine – reportedly inferior produce from Sicily – in bottles sourced from Turkey and with labels and cases originating from Bulgaria.

Some of the bottles claimed to be a rare 2015 vintage that had been classified as one of the best in the world by Wine Spectator in 2018, with others claiming to be from various years from 2010.

The counterfeiters are thought to have been producing around 700 cases a month, which would have brought in around €400,000 in sales, according to the investigators. They were being sold at a 70% discount to genuine bottles, around €500, with customers already secured in China, South Korea and Russia.

A report published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2018 estimated that counterfeiting costs Italian food and drinks manufacturers €4.2bn euros in lost sales.

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