Sales of Brunello di Montalcino wine rose strongly in the first half of this year, despite a fraud investigation against some of the region's best-known producers, the local wine union has said.

Sales of Brunello 2003, the recently released vintage caught up in the scandal, rose 47% for the first six months of 2008, the Consorzio Brunello di Montalcino told just-drinks today (8 August).

The figure suggests consumers continue to have confidence in Brunello, despite allegations earlier this year that some producers were illegally adding grape varieties other than the designated Sangiovese to their wines.

Police have recently begun releasing stocks of several well-known producers, including Frescobaldi and Antinori. A new quality guarantee board established jointly by the Consorzio and the Italian government has also ended the threat of an import ban on Brunello in the US, which accounts for a quarter of sales.

"The situation with the United States is sorted and we are happy to be able to keep distributing and selling our wine on the US market, one of our strongest partners and biggest fans," new Consorzio chairman Patrizio Cencioni told just-drinks.

His predecessor, Francesco Cinzano, admitted earlier this year that there were "a few bad apples in the basket" in Brunello, following the wine's rise to international acclaim.