Diners distract staff to steal rare $ 407,000 bottle of wine from restaurant cellar
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VALBUENA, Spain (AP) – Two thieves have stolen 45 bottles of wine, including an extremely rare 215-year-old bottle worth 350,000 euros ($ 407,000), from a collection at a hotel and restaurant complex upscale from southwestern Spain, said the owner. Friday.
The theft took place in the early hours of Wednesday according to José Polo, one of the owners of Atrio, a complex comprising a two-Michelin-star hotel and restaurant with a cellar housing more than 40,000 bottles in the town of Caceres.
“They were professionals, they knew exactly what they were doing,” the collector who decided to publicize the theft in a letter to customers and friends told The Associated Press Polo.
The suspects are a man and woman who spoke English and made the staff feel like a sophisticated couple who checked into the hotel and had dinner in their restaurant. They then asked a hotel front desk worker to serve them more food and when he went into the kitchen – leaving the security camera monitors unattended – the man crept into the basement and stole the bottles, Polo said.
The couple left in the early hours of Wednesday, paying with a credit card and leaving with bags full of bottles.
Polo said no one noticed their loot, which included the precious Château d’Yquem from 1806 and at least six other 19th-century bottles from exclusive winemaker Romanée-Conti in the Burgundy region of France. He said he had not calculated the total value of the stolen bottles, which were insured, but that their symbolic value was even greater.
Polo said the couple could only work for a private wine collector, as they only took with them bottles that cannot be replaced, but also cannot be sold on the open market.
“These bottles are very numbered and controlled. This 1806 Yquen is unique; everyone knows it’s ours, ”he said, adding that industry connoisseurs would notice if they went on sale.
A spokeswoman for the Caceres National Police told AP that an investigation has been opened into the theft of wine. The officer, who was not authorized to be named in the media, declined to provide further details.
Like art, wine is associated with pleasure and luxury and can sometimes fetch irrational prices, said food and restaurant industry critic David Remartínez, who added that the collection bottles of several decades or centuries of wines are commodities.
“These are centiliters of a liquid that no one is sure can be consumed,” he said.
“These bottles cannot be sold in a public market, but there is a hidden market for their exchange,” said Remartínez, who added that Atrio’s theft should send a warning to private wine collectors about the tightening of the bottles. security measures in their cellars.
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