Wake Up Call

Gorgona: Wine Produced at Italian Island Jail Destined for Tables at High-End Restaurants

If we had to go to jail, we'd definitely want it to be the one located on the Italian island of Gorgona, the smallest in a chain that includes both Elba (where Napoleon was incarcerated) and the setting for The Count of Monte Cristo.

That's because at this jail, convicts recently produced 2,700 bottles of white wine that's headed for some top-notch restaurants around the world -- including the three-star Michelin restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence.

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The wine is a product of a partnership with one of Italy's (specifically, Tuscany's) most prestigious wine producers, Marchesi de' Frescobaldi. The Frescobaldi family has been making wine for more than 700 years and recently purchased a hectacre of vineyards on the island, with plans to expand in the future.

Fifty inmates worked to produce the first vintage of Gorgona, doing everything from driving tractors in the field to producing cheese. (In addition to the wine, the jail also makes cow's and ewe's cheese and maintains a nursery with more than 1,000 tomato, courgette, aubergine, and pepper plants.) It's described as a crisp white wine made of Vermentino and Ansonica grapes.

This fall, a thousand bottles of the wine, expected to cost about $66 each, will reach the U.S. market through Frescobaldi importer Folio Fine Wine Partners, according to PR Web.

Both the Frescobaldi family and the governor of Gorgona, Maria Grazia Giampiccolo, believe strongly in progressive methods of rehabilitation. Giampiccolo also oversees a prison inside a Medici fortress where inmates produce a dinner every year with the help of local chefs.

But what's most shocking is that these makeshift winemakers don't end up on the island for minor offenses. One of the two jailbirds most involved with the "Frescobaldi per Gorgona" wine project, Umberto Prinzi, is a convicted murderer serving a 22-year sentence.

Of course, it's not easy to win a spot at this prison, where inmates are locked up only at night. Otherwise, they're left to roam freely and say they feel peaceful, happy -- even hopeful, according to Reuters. Of course, escape from the island prison is considered impossible. Only one person has tried and he disappeared.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria