We all love a good heist story, with all the suspense, drama, the plotting & planning of the heist and everything else that goes wrong along with it! However when you google the word “Heist” the popular hits are either top movies or jewels & high value artefacts heist with almost close to nothing about wine heists. This makes one wonder why so! Well matured wines are considered to be of top value being collectibles, thus making them target for professional thieves. Here are our top wine heists stories of all time that we have chosen to share with you.
The Great Wine Wizard
One of the world’s greatest wine heist started small. In early 2000s, a young Indonesian, Rudy Kurniawan made a name for himself in the Los Angeles social scene. He was known to have a palate for rare and fine wines. He became a major player at wine auctions, buying and selling some of 20th century’s greatest wines. Shortly after, bottles starting appearing at auctions with vintages that didn’t even exist. A famous case to this was the Clos St Denis from Domaine Ponsot bottles where vintages between 1945 and 1971 turned up. This came as a surprise to the head of the house, as they started wine making only after 1982. Such disparities created hesitation in the market, followed by complaints about fake bottles, private detectives were hired and lawsuits were filed. Soon it was realised that Kurniawan had swindled out nearly $30 million by repackaging wine in his basement and sold it for thousands of dollars per bottle to restaurants and private buyers. In 2014, Kurniawan was sentenced 10 years in prison.
Merry Christmas, California 2014
A particular twist to a well done wine heist takes us all the way California. In this story, the thieves decided to burglar a well-known restaurant on 25th December 2014. The burglars gifted the restaurant by stealing invaluable, prized wines such as the Screaming Eagle first vintage bottles, several cases of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and plenty other rare wines. The total value of the bottles stolen was estimate at $300K. The twist to the story comes in a few weeks later, where most of the stolen wines were recovered in North Carolina. Till date there are speculations as to why this heist was conducted!
CellarHand’s big $300K move
From one $300K burglary to another $300,000 (AUD) felony but this time we travel all the way to Melbourne, Victoria. Lak Quach who is a renowned wine expert, vintner and reviewer for the prestigious Halliday Wine Companion was convicted in 2017 to pilfer up to $300,000 worth of wine from Melbourne wholesaler CellarHand. Quach had been praised by many wine professionals with whom he had worked during his career. He was employed by CellarHand’s proprietor Mr. Patrick Walsh as a specialist buyer. Quach had sold the stock online or offloaded it at discounted prices to more than a dozen of Melbourne’s most exclusive restaurants and retailers. Further reports show that a deal was signed between the two parties; Quach turned over his personal wine cellar to his former employer and agreed to not be involved in the wine industry for at least five years.
The Great South Australian Heist
Another story adding to the top wine heists in Australia is the McLaren Vale robbery. In March 2013, a group of skilled thieves stole a staggering amount of 60,000 bottles of wine, while being transported from McLaren Vale in two containers. The wine bottles were unlabelled and came from 12 different wineries in South Australia. It is believed that the two trucks containing the wine were to be shipped to overseas. The 72 pallets of wines were estimated to value at $500K. Investigation is on-going to find the culprits.
The Swedish Mafia
In 2016, 600 bottles of wine including 100 vintages of Château d’Yquem were stolen from an upscale restaurant in Stockholm. The restaurant was supposed to have a special wine cellar where bottle of first-growth Bordeauxs and Château d’Yquem wine were kept. The burglary took place when restaurant was closed; they disabled the alarm system taking out the security cameras and pushed the doors open. The thieves managed to steal a bottle of every vintage from 1900 through 2000 of Château d’Yquem with a staggering estimated value of $485,000
Berry Bros & Rudd‘s Royal Raid
When speaking about the greatest wine heist in history, how can one leave out the great Royal Wine Robbery. In July 2015, a bunch of bold thieves broke into Berry Bros & Rudd’s warehouse and stole wines worth a total of £1.5m. Berry Bros & Rudd are the wine suppliers to the Royal Family. Among the wines stolen there were bottle from Chateau Latour and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Experts believe this to be an inside job as the thieves had complete knowledge of the warehouse and its security systems. Unbelievably, what makes this story further special is that the criminals had time to celebrate their big robbery as several magnums of Moet & Chandon were opened and drunk during the heist.
Source: The Guardian; palatexposure.com; bordermail.com.au; Daily Mail; The Age