Allegrini 2018

Barolo bottled outside the area, Orlando Pecchenino fully acquitted: “the alleged fact does not exist”

The Turin Court of Appeal’s verdict on a 2016 complaint. The producer: “satisfied, but the damage will never be restored”
Il produttore Orlando Pecchenino, alla guida della storica cantina delle Langhe

It is always very good news when someone has been fully acquitted "because the alleged fact does not exist". Even though the sentence, the hypothesis of a crime, or a plea bargain, which often the accused accepts not so much to obtain a lesser sentence because he is guilty, but innocent, instead, as negotiating is often the shortest way to limit the damage and unblock the situation against delays in our justice system. This is true whether it is a strictly personal or corporate matter, as one suffers enormous material and moral damage, which even a full acquittal, in the end, cannot repair. This is what happened to Orlando Pecchenino, at the helm of one of the historical family-run wine companies in the Langhe, founded at the end of the 18th century. In 2016, he was accused of a serious offense in the wine world; that is, bottling a prestigious DOCG like Barolo outside the area. More so, especially for someone who, like Pecchenino himself, was president of the Consortium of Barolo and Barbaresco at the time.
The story involved Orlando Pecchenino, his brother and the company, and “yesterday, October 26, 2021, the Turin Court of Appeal’s sentence ended, acknowledging our motivations with a full acquittal, "because the alleged fact does not exist"”, the wine producer explained, in a letter he sent to WineNews. It is very important news, for the man, for the company and for the prestige of one of the most famous wine territories in the world.
“The story began in 2016, on an unfounded complaint, which hypothesized – and I repeat, hypothesized - vinifying our Barolo wines outside the area. There was an inspection by the fraud and adulteration protection inspectorates, ICQRF and NAS”, said Pecchenino, “which resulted in the immediate seizure of 12 vintages of Barolo. Eight vintages (from 2005 to 2012) were in bottles stored in the Dogliani winery representing our historical reserve, as well as selections of prestigious value, and three vintages stored in barrels in Monforte d'Alba winery: 2013, 2014 and 2015. The latter were in the aging phase, awaiting certification for Nebbiolo da Barolo with mention of Bussia and Le Coste di Monforte. The situation”, the wine producer wrote, “immediately revealed its dramatic nature. All the Barolo wines in our production had been subjected to criminal seizure (it should be noted that, in addition to the criminal case, another large quantity of wine to become Nebbiolo was also placed under administrative seizure, and even though the Court seized in opposition, it did accept of our motivations, and subsequently revoked the seizure and administrative sanctions)”.
Obviously, our first thought was how to run a company that had suddenly seen virtually all of its available production blocked. “Upon consulting my lawyers and requesting advice from consultants, producers in the various Italian wine-growing areas, we decided to ask to release from seizure the vintages stored in the barrels. In order to save the wine and my work, I reluctantly had to resort to a plea bargain with the Asti Court, conditional to the release of the product. We could not wait because the wine could not be stored in barrels, without the necessary controls, waiting however many years it would take before the outcome of the trial. We would have lost all of the production. Even an eventual acquittal became useless in the face of the loss of the wine itself, caused by deterioration”. Therefore, continued Orlando Pecchenino, the company obtained the release of the wine, partly in Barolo, and partly reclassified in Langhe Nebbiolo. “As far as the bottles were concerned, we chose to not give up and to discuss the case in court, in Cuneo. We wanted and had to get to the bottom of the issue and show that in recent years we have always worked seriously and honestly. We were able to make this choice because of the non-perishable nature of the bottles (stored in the winery at controlled temperatures and humidity), and therefore a circumstance that would have allowed us to demonstrate our total non-involvement to the facts attributed to us”.
Clearly, and it could not have been otherwise, the facts had a great media echo, in specialized press, as well as all others. “At the time, I was president of the Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe Dogliani Protection Consortium, which further aggravated the impact on the media. I was elected in May 2016 by a broad consensus. I think I fulfilled my mandate in the best possible way. I carried out my assignment with great passion and commitment without receiving any compensation. In February 2018, I decided to resign as president because I did not want to involve the Consortium in my personal affairs. I thank those who encouraged and supported me, inviting me not to resign and to move forward. However, I considered it appropriate to safeguard the Consortium institution and dedicate myself to my personal affairs to prove my, and our innocence, as well as to my company which was risking not being able to move forward”.
Pecchenino made a difficult but winning choice, in light of the facts and the full acquittal, which arrived yesterday, but, as often happens in these cases, not without consequences. “I will let you imagine the troubles that this affair has caused me, my family and my parents”, wrote Orlando Pecchenino, “whose serenity in these last years of their life was heavily damaged. My father died in June 2019. I'm deeply sorry every day when I think that he left with a broken heart. This affair has produced inestimable damage to my company image as well as economic damage. It has caused immense physical and psychological difficulties for my wife, my daughters, me and the whole family. Justice has finally been served: we were fully acquitted "because the alleged fact does not exist". The satisfaction of seeing our motives recognized is immense, even though we are well aware that no one will ever be able to repay us for the enormous damage it has caused. Considering that it all originated from the complaint of a private individual, I am left with a taste of bitterness. I wonder what drives people to harm a family's life. Time, in these cases, is a great ally and perhaps it will succeed, if not to make people forget, to attenuate this bad experience”.
The producer continued by thanking “my consultants, Paolo Terzolo, Vittorio Portinari and Piero Cane for their efficient and competent contribution, the lawyers Luisa Pesce and Fabrizio Mignano, the lawyers who accompanied me during the various developments of this painful affair with high professionalism, competence and humanity, and the councilors and director of the Consortium for the protection of Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba, Langhe and Dogliani and my fellow producers who have been close to me throughout it all”. It was a bad story, but at least it had a happy ending.

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