Come Monday, the spigot that allows the esteemed wine Brunello di Montalcino to flow from Italy to the United States will be back on, officials of the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau decreed today. It's been off the past few months as federal authorities impounded shipments of the wine after Italian officials accused some producers of using unauthorized varieties of grape in Brunello di Montalcino. Under Italian law, only the black grape sangiovese is to go into Brunello di Montalcino.
Now, U.S. officials have determined that Brunello di Montalcino can be released from the custody of customs agents and resume its journey to American wine shops and restaurants - provided that importers secure a declaration from Italian authorities that the wine is acceptable for sale in Italy and that the wine's vintage date and brand name meet the requirements of the Brunello di Montalcino Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).
Though Italian winemaking standards are more rigorous than American, U.S. law stipulates that it is illegal to market mislabeled wine here, and any wine labeled Brunello di Montalcino would be misleadingly labeled if the wine didn't adhere to Italian laws. For a more extensive report on the Brunello di Montalcino scandal, see Eric Asimov's wine column in Wednesday's New York Times.