The criminal enterprise behind an island’s vintage crop

The crisp white wine smells of Mediterranean brush and its golden shimmer recalls the sun. Lamberto Frescobaldi, vice president of the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi winemaker, shed a tear when he first tasted it. “It’s complex, profound and not easy to understand,” he says, referring to the product but also the project and people behind it.

The grapes used to produce the wine, called Gorgona, come from a unique estate. This small one-hectare vineyard faces the sea on an island of the same name and functions as a penal colony for men serving long crime sentences. “This wine is made by hands that want to have a new future,” says Mr Frescobaldi.

The collaboration between Frescobaldi, a 700-year-old producer, and Gorgona started in August last year, to allow inmates to learn winemaking techniques. It has just released 2,700 bottles from the first vintage, all of which are being sold to top cellars and restaurants in Italy and abroad.

The island’s vines were planted in 1999 but later abandoned. Then, from 2009 they were cleaned up by Salvatore, a Sicilian prisoner who has now finished serving his sentence.

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