Thursday, 6 June 2013

Jailhouse hock: Frescobaldi releases prison wine

Prisoners tend to their vines on the tiny Italian island of Gorgona

Revered Italian wine producer Frescobaldi has partnered with a group of inmates on a tiny island in the Tuscan Archipelago on a white wine project. Having planted vines a few years ago, prisoners on the remote penal colony of Gorgona have made 2,700 bottles of Frescobaldi per Gorgona DOC, a Vermentino and Ansonica blend.  

Despite their hard graft, the prisoners will not be allowed to drink the wine, which will instead be sold to restaurants and bars around Italy. Thirteenth generation family member and the company’s vice president Lamberto Frescobaldi, who worked on the project, describes the wine as "intense, with a marvellous character.”
Lamberto Frescobaldi with the blend

One of Italy's oldest and most respected wine dynasties, the Frescobaldi family were hands on throughout the project, offering the island’s 50 inmates advice on planting, picking and winemaking techniques. Marchesi de’Frescobaldi is the first company take part in a scheme launched last year in which businesses invest in the island to give prisoners skills that will help them get a job after they’re released.

The project was welcomed by Anna Maria Cancellieri, the Italian minister for justice, who said it could be replicated at other prisons: "Initiatives like this have a constructive effect on inmates, allowing them to specialise in an area of work that will be useful to them once they leave prison. For prisoners who do not find work, the rate of repeat offending is 80%,” she said.

Italian prisons are the third most overcrowded in Europe after Serbia and Greece. "We need to go ahead with this model because we want to show the world that Italy's prisons are worthy of a civilised country," Cancellieri added. Many Italian islands have been used as prisons in the past, both for political prisoners and common criminals. Gorgona is one of the few still in operation.

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