Chateau Razorwire? Grape thefts in three countries

Vineyards have their pests: consider the baboons, rattlesnakes and bears we have discussed before as well as birds, deer and other vermin. But the latest threat is a human one: roving bandits.

Across three countries in recent weeks, grapes have been illicitly picked off the vines. In Washington State, 2,000 pounds of mourvedre grapes were stolen in what the vineyard manager described as “a professional job – a complete and clean illegal harvest.” In Germany, grapes destined for a small production wine called Sintfang-Cuvée were found missing a day before the scheduled harvest. And in the Languedoc, according to the Telegraph, one farmer had 35 tons picked clean, wiping out his annual crop.

Are these incidents related? It seems a far-fetched that there’s an international grape heist gang in operation. But that’s what an unnamed French detective told the Telegraph that “a wine mafia gang” targeting “some of the best grapes.” He elaborated: “We are undoubtedly dealing with the kind of upmarket criminals who steal old master paintings and antiques to order.”

Really? There was the attempted vine poisoning/extortion at Domaine de la Romanée Conti earlier this year and that surely qualifies as one of the best vineyards in the world. But 35 tons of grape with a value of $20,000 as was the case in Languedoc? A German wine that is not even commercially available but rather given to the town councillors? These hardly sound like “some of the best grapes” in the world. At any rate, it is sad to see the fruit illegally plucked from the vine.

Will this outburst lead to the rise of Chateau Razorwire, a fenced vineyard with a panopticon in the center? Of course, back in the day, some of the best vineyards in Burgundy were “clos,” or walled vineyards. Chateau Razorwire would have a tad less charm.

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11 Responses to “Chateau Razorwire? Grape thefts in three countries”

  1. I cannot believe that the grapes were stolen OFF THE VINE!!! Imagine the coordination that would have to go into something like that. How would you explain yourself if the nosey neighbor happened to catch you? “No sir, wearing black clothing in the middle of the night is the way you are supposed to pick mourvedre…” You’d think that they would just steal the truck after it had been loaded with the freshly picked grapes… Not a bad premise for a movie btw, maybe call it ‘the grape escape’?


  2. Caught red handed?

  3. I’m having a lot of trouble at the idea of a comparison to “upmarket” antique/art thieves. In the absence of a provable source, they can’t be bottled as anything other than VdT or the equivalent, right? If I wanted to steal a few rows of Musigny, I couldn’t label it as Musigny. One might find an eccentric millionaire to buy a Vermeer for his hidden private collection, but no one is going to buy Languedoc CS for their own use.

  4. @Jarrod – sounds like Peter Mayle material.

    @Mark – nice!

    @Dale – yes, that’s just it–who would the thief sell the grapes to especially in the absence of paperwork? If I were on the case, I’d look to local vignerons who had the equipment to harvest that many grapes that quickly and the scale to pass it off as their own production.

    Here’s a brief video from the BBC:

  5. I’ve been passing this post around, online and in conversation, and the consensus seems to be what @Dale brought up and Dr. Vee seconded. Its not very likely that the grapes are going to travel very far for vinification.

    That said, what about the possibility that the grapes aren’t being stolen to make wine at all? Is it possible that the vignerons are simply reporting the grapes stolen and collecting crop insurance? Something equally machevellian would be the possibility that it was simply vandalism. Some pickers from a competitor simply stealing the grapes to prevent competition?

    Regardless, if I were on the case I’d check the local ravines and pig farms…

  6. Jarrod – thanks for passing around the post–it is an interesting, if bizarre, series of heists. And don’t rule out crimes of passion!

    Too funny with the Dr. Vee! Vee-no-chuk?

  7. PS – maybe they are selling the grapes for $2.49/lb at Whole Foods?

  8. Hahaha shout out to Vayner-nation!!!

    ‘Episode #771 – Dr. Vino visits WLTV’ is definitely how I was introduced to this site, but maybe Dr. Vee is too much…

  9. Jarrod – glad you came aboard then and have stuck with SS Vino!

  10. Twitter Comment

    Mobsters,Grapes & Bears, Oh My! RT @WineLibrary: Grape thefts from vineyards on the rise.Interesting post by @drvino – [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  11. Twitter Comment

    Grape thefts from vineyards on the rise. Interesting post by @drvino – [link to post] ^JP

    Posted using Chat Catcher


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