The sedate vineyards of Lombardy in northern Italy are not usually the setting of scandal and intrigue. That is, until a stunning act of sabotage left one winery soaked in thousands of gallons of vino. The Telegraph reports that employees at Conte Vistarino arrived at work one morning last week to find a massive spill of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and other aging white wines. Vandals apparently broke into the 2,400-acre winery, opened the taps of refrigerated tanks, and drained the equivalent of 400,000 bottles, valued at $530,000. "It was a tremendous shock," the owner, Countess Ottavia Giorgi di Vistarino, tells the newspaper. The culprits didn't steal anything of value, suggesting the act was pure sabotage. "Lo Scandolo," writes the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.
It turns out a wide-ranging corruption probe is underway of wine-makers in the rolling hills around Pavia, who are suspected of cutting their quality wines with inferior grapes to increase production. While prosecutors say the centuries-old Conte Vistarino winery is not suspected of wrongdoing, they are investigating around 300 others for crimes including bribery and falsifying documents. An export boom in Italian wines has led to a spike in competition and fears that organized crime may be involved. The Vistarino family had received no threats before about 10% of the estate's maturing wine stocks were drained. A few days earlier, the estate had paid local farmers for the grapes, which were destined to be sold to third-party producers of sparking wine. (These parents were arrested for leaving their kids in a cold car to go wine tasting.)