Italian authorities have broken up an organization that was selling fake bottles of wine passed off as the prized DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, a wine that can be worth hundreds of euros a bottle.
The ring was producing counterfeit vintages from between 2010 and 2015, the latter particularly prestigious and rare. The real Bolgheri Sassicaia is produced in Tuscany and is considered one of the world’s finest wines. In 2018, the US magazine Wine Spectator named the 2015 vintage “the best wine in the world”.
Italy’s Guardia di Finanza succeeded in breaking up the complex operation which involved disguising a much lesser quality Sicilian wine in Bolgheri Sassicaia bottles. In a warehouse outside Milan, the group bottled and labeled the wine to create exact replicas of the original. According to reports, the bottles came from Turkey and the production of labels, corks, cases and tissue paper was centered in Bulgaria. They used perfect copies of the labels including original holograms and distinctive features. “The bottles and the packaging were perfectly identical to the originals,” reported Dario Sopranzetti, a member of Italy’s finance police. “Even the weight of the tissue paper was the same.”
The investigations into the counterfeit operation began last year when one of the fake cases was discovered by a roadside after falling from a lorry. At the end of September, Italian police seized 80 thousand items from the group including counterfeit labels, bottles, caps, and wooden crates. These were intended for the packaging of about 1,100 cases of “Sassicaia 2015” wine, for a total of 6,600 bottles, whose market value, if the product had been original, would have been close to €2 million.
Two men have been arrested who were found to be in charge of the bottling, labeling and subsequent assembly of the cases. A further 11 people are under investigation in conjunction with the operation. The intervention by authorities also happened just in time to intercept the delivery of 41 cases of “Sassicaia 2015” that were already packaged and ready to be sold.
Authorities say the group had been producing and selling around 700 cases of the counterfeit wine a month. Amounting to 4,200 bottles, the production was earning the organization around €400,000 monthly. According to reports, several customers, including in China and Russia, had already placed orders for a thousand cases while a small part would have been destined for the national territory.
Italy’s luxury goods market is frequently infiltrated by fake products. A 2018 report by Italy’s Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that counterfeit food and drinks forced producers of the original products to lose an estimated €4.2 billion worth of sales.
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