Ex-employee arrested after red wine to value of €6m goes down drain

Thu, Dec 20, 2012, 00:00

The great mystery of what may go down in wine annals as the crime of the century – the destruction of the equivalent of 80,000 bottles of choice Brunello di Montalcino – may have been solved.

Italian police have named a disgruntled former employee of the exclusive Soldera label at the Case Basse vineyard and estate in Tuscany as the suspected cantina culprit who dumped tens of thousands of litres of fine red wine down the drain.

Police in the small Tuscan town said Andrea di Gisi (39) broke into the Soldera family estate in the night between December 2nd and 3rd.

He is accused of opening the taps of 10 huge barrels containing of the produce of the last six years and literally letting the wine pour down the drain.

The total amount lost, according to a Soldera family statement, was 62,600 litres (16,400 gallons), or the equivalent of some 80,000 bottles.

Since a bottle of Soldera starts at about €110 and the bottles are numbered as if they were gold bars, the act of vandalism travelled around the world wine community like news of an untimely frost or an unknown pestilence. The damage done was estimated to be more than €6 million.

So what was the motive?

Police say di Gisi, who had worked at the Soldera estate for five years, had had several tiffs with the family patriarch, Gianfranco Soldera, who had chastised him for allegedly not taking care of the wine machinery properly.

Last September, di Gisi felt slighted when the family gave an apartment on the estate to another employee, according to an investigating magistrate.

Investigators said that after di Gisi came under suspicion, they tapped his phone and heard him speaking about washing wine out of his clothes.

A pair of washed jeans have been sent to a police lab in Rome to check for traces of polyphenols, which are found in red wines. – (Reuters)