After the breakout success of HBO’s The Jinx, FX’s The People v. O. J. Simpson and even Netflix’s tongue-in-cheek American Vandal, the public’s true-crime obsession shows no signs of slowing. And there’s no shortage of it in the wine world, either.
Case in point: 19 Crimes, a wine brand that uses augmented-reality labels on their bottles to tell true crime stories. Using their phone’s camera and a smartphone app to view the label, consumers can make the characters on each bottle come to life and tell the real-life story of an 18th-century British prisoner shipped to Australia as a sentence for their crimes.
However, as the true crime genre has shown us, truth is sometimes more interesting than fiction. Here’s a look at five of the most interesting wine heists in recent times.
The Catacombs of Paris
This robbery has all the hallmarks of a big-budget Hollywood heist. A network of hidden tunnels beneath the streets of a major city? Bandits who drill through basement walls under the cover of night to break into a wealthy wine collector’s private cellar? This actually happened last summer, when thieves in Paris absconded with more than 300 bottles of rare wine valued at approximately $300,000.
The sprawling subterranean web of catacombs extend for more than 150 miles below the streets of Paris, and criminals used them to raid the cellar of a private collector. The catacombs are so vast that in June of last year, two teenagers became lost underground for three days until rescuers were able to locate them. Authorities believe that the heist’s masterminds had specialized knowledge of the location that helped them figure out exactly which wall to penetrate in the dark caves in order to gain access to the collector’s stash.
Think crime doesn’t pay? Police have yet to apprehend anyone, and no suspects have been named.
The Italian Job
What’s the point of pulling off a wine heist if you don’t have something delicious to pair with your loot? The result is the most comically stereotypical Italian robbery ever: nearly $200,000 worth of cheese and wine.
I’ll Take That Bottle to Go
While it may pale in comparison to some of the bigger heists in terms of payoff, this thief earns his place on the list for knowing how to make an entrance.
We all know what it’s like. You get off a long day at work, and all you want is to have a glass of wine and relax. But you’ve killed your last bottle and no shops are open. That didn’t stop one man in Apatity, Russia (inside the Arctic Circle, near Finland’s border), from coming up with a creative solution.
Desperate for a nightcap, this anonymous hero broke into a nearby motorsports training facility and hijacked a military-style armored personnel carrier. He flattened an innocent Daewoo before smashing through the front of a local liquor store to steal his bounty.
The total haul for this modern-day Thomas Crown? One single bottle of wine, which the perpetrator was found with when apprehended.
The Grape Escape
Most of these heists involve finished bottles of rare, high-end wine (along with whatever the guy stole from that shop in Russia). But last fall, thieves in Bordeaux decided to go straight to the source, as they pilfered at least seven metric tons of grapes from vineyards around the region under the cover of night.
Perhaps the theft isn’t all that surprising. Grape yields were terrible last year, caused by months of bad weather. The grapes that survived, however, are expected by many to create a fantastic vintage. What’s unique is that the thieves are suspected to be professional vintners.
Of the 6.5 metric tons stolen from a vineyard in Génissac, near St-Émilion, owner Denis Barraud told The Telegraph, “The grapes were picked by hand in an isolated part of our land. There’s nothing left. It’s been stripped bare.” Meanwhile, in Montagne, thieves dug up 500 vines, stealing whole plants right down to the rootstock.
According to Philippe Bardet of the Bordeaux Wine Council, “The harvest is dire…so given the shortage of grapes, the temptation to help yourself from the vineyard next door is very strong. Everyone’s in distress and in some places, there’s a poisonous atmosphere of envy and jealousy.”