Aldi has risen to become Germany's largest wine retailer by the trading principle of the lowest price. Around twenty percent of all wines sold in Germany go over the counter there.
Right behind the Empoli exit on the roaring Pisa-Firenze super highway, the heavily armed officers of the Corpo Forestale delle Stato are lurking. But the Italian forest police don't wave out traffic offenders, they check tankers and grape transporters to put a stop to wine counterfeiters. Commissario Luigi Bartolozzi is sweating under his beret in the midday heat: "At harvest time, wine counterfeiters get grapes or wine from outside - especially if the harvest is bad." These controls, which are rigid by Italian standards, are to stem the unchecked flow of cheap wines from southern Italy, which are pouring into the northern wine-growing areas.
2002 is a catastrophic vintage in Italy, weeks of rain caused large harvest failures. So the prices for grapes, must and wine will rise and make life difficult for those bottlers who have already concluded fixed supply contracts with German discounters. They only have the choice to deliver at a loss, to pay contractual penalties, or to "correct the papers", as the process of wine falsification is called in Italy. Thus, the 2002 vintage will be a great year after all - but only for the fakers.