Friday, June 6, 2008

U.S. threatens to ban premium Italian wine

ROME, June 5 (UPI) -- Italy's most expensive wine may be banned from the United States because of claims that some of it is made with cheaper grapes mixed in.

Brunello di Montalcino is made with Sangiovese grapes from the town of Montalcino in Tuscany. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department says that some makers have blended in Sangiovese grapes from southern Italy, the Italian news agency ANSA reports.

The Montalcino vineyards occupy the most expensive grape-growing land in the world.

A U.S. ban would remove a large part of the wine's market, since 25 percent of Brunello is drunk in the United States.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia were to discuss Brunello at a meeting Thursday in Rome, where both are attending the world food conference. U.S. officials have postponed a ban from June 9 to June 23.

''The Brunello problem is not about health, it's about labeling," Schafer said. "Let's hope we can resolve this quickly.''