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Wine is a terrible thing to waste.

Mike Pomranz
Updated August 21, 2017

Making wine isn’t easy. You have to tend to your grapes to assure they’re harvested at the perfect time. You have to carefully monitor fermentation to assure the final product comes out tasting its best. And, of course, you have to make sure a rival winemaker doesn’t break into your winery and maliciously drain your storage tanks to assure all that work wasn’t for naught. As unlikely as it sounds, those last unsavory business tactics were at the center of a recent legal battle in Australia.

In an intriguing end to an already intriguing story, Australian winemaker Trevor Jones pled guilty to two counts of damaging property at Kellermeister Wines, a business previously owned by his father. In February 2015, four vats containing nearly 25,000 liters of Shiraz and Chardonnay worth more than AUD$60,000 were opened and allowed to drain in the middle of the night. Until today’s plea, Jones had repeatedly denied accusations that he was the perpetrator—even once having the charges against him thrown out. However, after two years of legal wrangling, Jones admitted defeat the day he was supposed to begin standing trial. As a result, three other charges against him were dropped.

Kellermeister, a winery in Australia’s Borossa Valley known for its acclaimed Wild Witch Shiraz, was originally owned by Jones’ father, Ralph, who employed his son for nearly three decades. According to The Drinks Business, Trevor left in 2010 to start his own winery, Trevor Jones Fine Wines, nearby. In 2012, Ralph retired, and Kellermeister was sold to current owner Mark Pearce. When Trevor was originally accused of the crime, his lawyer Mark Griffin stated, “It’s alleged that Jones bears animosity toward Mr. Pearce as a result of his employment as a winemaker at Kellermeister coming to an end in 2010.”

Jones will return to court for sentencing on October 16. He has promised full restitution for the lost wine and plans to present a number of character references in hopes of further leniency. “He has an exemplary personal history,” Griffin was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, according to Adelaide’s The Advertiser, Pearce said, “It’s good that we can finally put the matter behind us, and we’ll continue to focus on making the best wines we possibly can in the beautiful Barossa Valley.” Maybe they could focus on making an even better reality TV series as well?