The haul reportedly included whole cases of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

By Mike Pomranz
December 14, 2020
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Thieves often go through surprising extremes to steal wine: tunneling into high-end restaurants from the property next door or swooping in with an all-terrain vehicle in the middle of the night to grab grapes right off the vine. But authorities have also proven they’re willing to go the extra mile to prevent wine-related crimes, and in France, an armed task force was reportedly able to recover about $6 million worth of stolen bottles of wine—all 900 of them. (Feel free to take a second to do that math!)

The operation—known as “Magnum”—was a coordinated effort across three locations in Franc—Gironde, Dordogne, and Loire—with authorities recovering over 900 bottles and arresting about 25 people, according to The Drinks Business. The results of the yearlong operation were dubbed the “seizure of the century” by the site Franceinfo, which reported that police successfully saved wines made by plenty of top French producers—including whole cases of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (holder of the title of the most expensive wine ever) as well as bottles from Cheval Blanc, Petrus, and Yquem. The wines reportedly were stolen from warehouses, shops, and even acclaimed restaurants like the legendary three-Michelin-starred eatery Georges Blanc.

John Kapon, CEO of Acker Merrall & Condit Companies poses for photography with a full case of the legendary 1990 Romanee-Conti (estimate : HK$1,200,000-1,600,000/US$ 150,000-200,000), during a media briefing of Acker Merrall & Condit September HK Wine Auc
Bottles of Romanée-Conti seen at an auction in 2011.
| Credit: South China Morning Post / Contributor /Getty Images

Despite apprehending suspects in multiple parts of the country, French authorities apparently suspect that the thieves were all part of an organized crime group. “These are professionals who know how to foil security measures; from cameras to alarms or motion detectors,” Patrick Leonard, Bordeaux’s interregional chief of police, was quoted as saying.

Recovering fine wine isn’t unheard of. For instance, in 2018, a French chef had about 250 stolen bottles worth about half a million dollars returned to him by French police, according to the AFP. However, the size, scope, and value of this most recent seizure are what make it so incredible. Handling the math, the average price of each bottle easily eclipses $6,000. Hopefully, these criminals knew a thing or two about proper wine storage.