Wine Thieves Target DRC in Restaurant Raids – Wine-Searcher

Restaurant News

Who’d be a restaurateur? If people aren’t complaining about the beef, they’re trying to get free wine from their server in recompense for an entirely imagined fault.

The idea of scamming free wine has certainly been raised to a new level in Europe, where a series of top restaurants have been hit by thieves targeting top-end wines once the eatery had closed for the night.

The largest theft, from Michelin-starred Danish restaurant Formel B in Copenhagen last week, saw the culprits get away with an enviable haul, including some of the world’s rarest – and most expensive – wines. Various wines from Burgundy superstar Domaine de la Romanée-Conti were among the bottles stolen, including the Romanée-Conti Grand Cru, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Richebourg and La Tache. The restaurant held several vintages of each.

The thieves were clearly aware of the wines the restaurant held, and their value. They broke into a neighboring wine merchant and broke through a wall into Formel B’s cellar to access the wine. They took nothing from the wine merchant, according to the Ritzau news agency.

Formel B’s operators, Rune Jochumsen and Kristian Arpe-Møller were understandably distraught.

“The thieves specifically searched for rare wines with very high market value. It is a collection of wines close to irreplaceable, that we have built up over many years and it all disappeared in one night.”

The loot is estimated to be worth around €200,000 ($218,000). While it is unclear how many individual bottles were stolen – the owners reckon at least 50 to 60 – it wouldn’t need to be many to add up to that value estimate. DRC’s Romanée-Conti cuvée has an average retail price of $20,154 per bottle across all vintages; the 2015, which was on Formel B’s wine list, has an average retail price of more than $23,000.

The La Tache has a global average all-vintage price of $4740 a bottle, but the most expensive vintages (1945 and 1949) can reach $14,000 a bottle. Richebourg averages $3200 at retail, with the 1929 nudging $20,000. The Romanée-Saint-Vivant’s all-time average price is $2555, spiking at $3800 for the 1990 vintage.

The owners are appealing to collectors to keep an eye out for wines offered from unusual sources and Danish police are also investigating.

The Formel B heist was followed five days later by another restaurant robbery, this time at an establishment called Sushi Anaba in the Nordhavn district of the city. A large quantity of wine was taken again, with owner Mads Battefeld lamenting that the theft was the work of “someone who unfortunately knows about wine, and knew what to take”. He estimated the value of the stolen wines at around $9000.

The Burgundian job

And it isn’t just Denmark where the thirsty thieves are operating. Over the New Year period, a wine merchant and a restaurant just south of Beaune were turned over on consecutive nights. On the night of December 30-31, wine merchant Phillippe Gaulthier had $109,000 worth of wine stolen from premises in the village of Cuisery. The next night, the Michelin-starred Hotel Restaurant Georges Blanc, 22 miles away in the village of Vonnas, was targeted, although the thieves were unsuccessful in that instance.

A third attempt in the village of Changy, roughly halfway between Meursault and Mercurey, was more successful. Overnight on January 5-6, several thousands of dollars’ worth of wine was taken from the Michelin-starred restaurant Maison Lameloise.

French police have made the usual warnings to the trade to be careful of any wines being offered via unlikely sources, however, given the number of collectors in Europe and the quality of the wines involved, it shouldn’t be much of a chore for the thieves to offload them.

The most famous US case of a restaurant being robbed for its wine came in late 2014, when Napa’s famous French Laundry was broken into and more than $300,000 worth of wine – including DRC and Screaming Eagle – vanished into the night. They turned up a month later in North Carolina and were repatriated by Napa sheriffs.

Coincidentally, North Carolina was also the destination for wines stolen from Goldman-Sachs CEO David Solomon by his PA Nicolas De-Meyer, who sold $1.2 million worth of wine Goldman had bought, and funded a lavish lifestyle until he was caught. De-Meyer took his own life before his trial began.

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