Winery cleared of mafia money laundering

New names, more pressure on Russia and the fight against the smell of smoke – it’s been another busy week.

© HBO
| Tony Soprano toasts the news that an Italian wine company has been cleared of any connection to the Sicilian Mafia.

The war in Ukraine continues to rock the wine world, with the EU unveiling a new round of sanctions – this time, luxury goods – aimed at hitting bagpipe-loving Russian oligarchs where it hurts.

Also, as San Luis Obispo prepared for the creation of a fifth AVA that emerged this week (San Luis Obispo Coast will join Paso Robles, Arroyo Grande, Edna Valley and York Mountain), northern Médoc and Haut-Médoc Bordeaux could also soon welcome a new title of appellation…

Here are some of the news from this week that you may have missed:

Mezzacorona acquitted of money laundering

The Mezzacorona wine group, based in Trentino, was acquitted this week of money laundering, after two years of investigation and accusations of links with the Sicilian mafia. As part of the investigation, Mezzacorona had 70 million euros ($76 million) in assets seized in 2020, mostly related to its Scilian winery, Feudo Arancio.

At the time, the Guardia di Finanza fraud police were investigating possible links between the wine group’s location of operations in western (and southern) Sicily and money laundering. Reports have linked the alleged laundering to the Cosa Nostra.

The alleged money laundering allegedly took place between 2000 and 2003, when the Trentino company was investing in its operations in Sicily. Feudo Arancio was created by Mezzacorona in 2001.

Mezzacorona is one of Italy’s largest wine groups and, according to Italian wine news site WineNews.it, posted year-end profits of 3.2 million euros in 2021.

For its part, the company categorically denied the charges and, on Wednesday, the judge presiding over the preliminary hearing of the case in the Trento court agreed, ruling that the charges had “no basis in fact”.

“The Mezzacorona Group is fully satisfied with this decision,” the company said in a statement, “convinced, as it has always been, of the absolute transparency, fairness and honesty of its actions.”

New appellation for the Médoc?

The winemakers of Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne, the commune immediately north of Saint-Estèphe in the Haut-Médoc wine region north of Bordeaux, have taken the first step towards establishing the Saint-Seurin appellation title. -de-Cadourne, he emerged this week.

According to the French wine information site Terre de Vins, local winegrowers have begun the process of designating their commune as an “Appellation Géographique Complémentaire”. This allows local producers to put the name of the town on the label next to the title “Haut-Médoc”.

This approach is the first step towards the possible establishment of an AOC title (or AOP for the European Union).

The application is supported by the local mayor and follows discussions with the French appellation body (INAO) and the regional body for the promotion of Médoc and Haut-Médoc. Talks had begun in 2019, although the move was put on hold due to the effects of the global pandemic.

Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne is home to many chateaux, including the famous Cru Bourgeois Chateau Sociando-Mallet as well as Chateau Coufran and Chateau Doyac, among others. The current appellations in the Médoc and Haut-Médoc regions are limited to six: Listrac-Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe.

Wines affected by the embargo on Russia

Brussels announced on Friday that the EU would freeze luxury goods exports to Russia as part of ongoing sanctions following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine. While the move will no doubt prompt many affluent Russians to review the drinking windows for grand cru wines in their cellars, the ban doesn’t really cover what exactly most wine lovers would consider luxury labels.

According to French wine news site Vitisphere.com, “luxury products” are likely to be defined by Annex Eight of EU Regulation 2017/1509, which applies to EU sanctions against South Korea. North. This indeed includes racehorses, champagne, spirits, gold, silver, diamonds, pearls, truffles and caviar (although the latter is probably not a major concern on either side). other from the Urals).

When it comes to wine, however, the extensive list is unlikely to rattle your average oligarch. Excluding Champagne, the regulations define luxury wines as IGP wines, Asti Spumante, varietal wines and crémants. Vermouth and infused wines are also blocked, surely dealing another unexpected – and perhaps unfair – blow to the CBD-infused wine category.

However, as pointed out by Vitisphere.com, the majority of French wine exports to Russia are already de facto embargoed given the uncertainty surrounding trade routes and exchange rates (and credit guarantees).

Other things not on their way to Russia include: cricket balls, bagpipes, kites, ferryboats, mirrors, deckchairs, sewing machines, bayonets, carpets coconut, canes, handkerchiefs, false beards and cider (perry and mead too).

Castel cuts Jurançon contracts

In what is expected to have serious effects on the local economy, French drinks giant Castel has announced that it is losing 40% of its contract grape harvest in the Juraçon region of south-west France. According to the new regional outlet France Bleu, the Castel group, whose activities in the region account for around 10% of its entire grape harvest, said the cut would be made after the 2022 harvest.

The drinks giant, which sparked controversy last year after a subsidiary was found guilty of funding an armed group accused of war crimes in central Africa, is based in the commune of Monein alongside a number of leading regional producers. It generally engages local winegrowers on three-year contracts representing a total of 140 hectares () of vineyard.

It is understood that the local cooperative will not be able to accommodate producers affected by the cut.

According to France Bleu, Castel did not respond to requests for comment. Meanwhile, the local communist party is calling for action and the region’s independent winemakers were due to meet on Thursday evening to discuss the case. No other announcement has been made so far.

Tie bags around grapes to combat smoke smell – university

Researchers at the University of Adelaide have taken a major step in tackling the smell of smoke in grapes and wine, it revealed this week. Published in the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research last month and as reported on Australian wine news site WineTitles, boffins found that tying bags of activated carbon (AC) around bunches of grapes individual cells prevented the smell of smoke from affecting the resulting wine.

However, as most non-oenophiles will quickly notice, the viability of this approach is not without its flaws.

“[The] labor cost [of] application of AC fabric bags to individual bunches of grapes on a commercial scale is prohibitively expensive and probably only viable for ultra-premium grapes at this stage,” said Professor Kerry Wilkinson from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine from the University of Adelaide.

Wilkinson also added that the bags themselves were “susceptible to tearing and should be handled with care to avoid damage”, and that the implications of the damaged activated carbon bags themselves contaminating the vineyard or the resulting wines should also be assessed.

While Wilkinson added that the longer-term effects of bags tied around fruit (particularly on ripeness and disease pressure) “should be investigated”, other ideas are being explored. This includes Grape Nets made with a sturdier activated carbon material.

“The use of AC fabric offers the most promising vineyard-based strategy to date for overcoming the smoke odor problem,” Wilkinson said.

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