The head of Brunello di Montalcino's ruling council has told just-drinks that a strong vintage for the wine region is helping it to erase the memory of last year's fraud scandal and survive the recession.

Expectations are high for this year's newly released 2004 vintage, according to Patrizio Cencioni, president of the Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino.

It is a year since Italian fraud police confiscated stocks of Brunello 2003, amid allegations that some producers had illegally bulked up their wines with grape varieties other than the designated Sangiovese.

All stocks have since been released, including some owned by large producers.

Cencioni told just-drinks today (30 April) that the strong 2004 vintage will help the region, which is recognised as one of the world's best wine denominations, to bounce back.

"2004 is a high level vintage and was classified with the maximum rating of five stars: which has not been the case since the year 1997. The wine was put on the market on 1 January of this year and the first comments of the press and the operators have been very good," said Cencioni, who took up his role in ther aftermath of last year's fraud crisis.

On the US market, which accounts for a quarter of Brunello di Montalcino's annual volume sales, he added: "So far the feedback from the USA is extremely good, so we expect to confront the market in the best way possible, knowing that we are operating in a difficult macroeconomic and financial framework."

Italy's Public Prosecutor's Office has yet to deliver a final ruling on last year's fraud scandal.

Cencioni said that the Consorzio last year began working with scientists to explore the unique characteristics of Sangiovese. Research has focused on anthocyans in the grapes.

"In a few years it will be possible to use this data on anthocyans to check in the tests whether the production rules have been followed," he said.

Cencioni's predecessor as Consorzio president, Francesco Cinzano, said last spring that there were "a few bad apples in the basket" in Brunello di Montalcino. He said that a handful of producers became "greedy" following the wine region's rise to international acclaim over the previous decade.

Critics of the investigation said that the fraud inquiry was politically motivated and driven by warring factions in Italy's wine industry. 

A new quality guarantee board established jointly by the Consorzio and the Italian government in the summer of 2008 has significantly tightened fraud controls on Brunello di Montalcino, according to the Consorzio.