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Vandals Drained $500,000 Worth Of Wine From an Italian Estate

The vandals who broke into the Conte Vistarino vineyard in the dead of night last week dumped wine from a variety of white grapes, including pinot grigio, riesling, and chardonnay.

Wyatt Marshall

Photo via Flickr user Casey Hugelfink

Some crimes are crimes of passion, while others are for profit, but some are so senseless that they leave you reeling, grasping for meaning amidst the madness of this crazy world. Alas, last week a crime of the latter variety occurred in northern Italy, when ne'er-do-wells emptied hundreds of thousands of bottles-worth of aging wine from their tanks, spilling the gifts of Dionysus into the manicured grounds of a centuries-old estate nestled amidst the hills of Lombardy.

The vandals who broke into the Conte Vistarino vineyard in the dead of night last week dumped wine from a variety of white grapes, including pinot grigio, riesling, and chardonnay, according to the UK's Telegraph via Italian paper Corriere Della Sera. When workers arrived the next morning, they found that refrigerated steel tanks containing about 400,000 bottles worth of wine from the 2016 harvest had been drained, and the earth was damp with wine and littered with grape skins.

The value of the lost wine, which would have been sold to third-party winemakers to make into sparkling wine, is estimated at 500,000, or about $531,000. Police say a motive is unclear, but the vandals didn't steal anything else or otherwise damage the property, suggesting that the act may have been vindictive.

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The region has been hit by scandal in recent years, according to the Telegraph, with investigations into whether winemakers have been cutting wines, like pinot grigio, with cheaper grapes to boost production. Increasing exports have led to fears that organized crime is trying to move into the industry, and a $21 million fraud investigation is examining nearly 300 people for possible involvement.

The Conte Vistarino family, which paid farmers in full for the grapes, isn't a suspect and is in shock, and said they hadn't received any threats prior to the dreadful dumping. The family has called the estate, which is 70 miles from Milan and has hosted British royalty, home for centuries.

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But in the world of winemaking, enemies can sprout in unsuspected places. In 2012, nearly $13 million of Brunello di Montalcino was dumped in a "Mafia-style" attack in Tuscany, and in France, French wine producers have been known to attack trucks full of foreign wine. Winemakers in Lombardy are undoubtedly on high alert, now, and their mission is critical—supplying bubbly to the rest of us. Godspeed.