Hundreds of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines stolen at French port / Hundreds of bottles of some of the world's most expensive wine, belonging to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, have disappeared at Le Havre port in northern France just before being shipped to Canada, prompting French police to launch a theft investigation.
French police investigating after 31 cases of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines disappear, believed stolen.
Mostly DRC Echezeaux and Romanée-Conti, 2012 vintage
DRC co-owner says ‘first time I’ve witnessed a theft of this size’
The missing wines were ‘principally DRC Echezeaux and Romanée-Conti‘, according to Aubert de Villaine, co-owner of the renowned Burgundy domaine.
An estimated market value of the cache of wines has not been given, but Romanée-Conti 2012 was this week on sale for between £8,000 and £9,000 per bottle. DRC Echezeaux from the same vintage was around £500 per bottle.
DRC’s status means that its wines have become a target for both wine counterfeiters and thieves.
DRC wines supposed to arrive in Canada
On the 12 of October, dozens of cases of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2012 wines left their prestigious cellars for a new destination: the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) in Canada.
On the 14 October, the wines were in-bond at Le Havre, the French maritime hub. But, in November, the LCBO warned DRC that only a part of the order was in the container. Thirty-one cases had disappeared.
DRC co-owner Aubert de Villaine warned the authorities and lodged a complaint.
French police hunt
French police uncovered a lead in December when a fine wine collector became suspicious after seeing two magnums of Romanée-Conti 2012 for sale for €48,000 online.
Police from Versailles and Dijon posed as buyers and arrested two people in the Paris region. During the interrogation, one of them put investigators on the trail of a man from Bordeaux, who previously held the two magnums in question.
This man was an acquaintance of a dock worker from Le Havre, according to initial police inquiries. No names have been given.
‘The investigation is ongoing and I hope the police can find these bottles because we cannot replace them,’ Aubert de Villaine told Decanter.com.
Any unusual parcel of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2012 wines on sale may be reported to the domaine with ‘batch numbers for authentification’, he said. ‘
‘This is the first time in my life I have witnessed a theft of this size,’ de Villaine said.
The wine-growing village of Flagey-Échezeaux lies in the " Plain ", so-called, between Vougeot and Vosne-Romanée in the Côte de Nuits. Facing east, the Grands-Échezeaux vines are a prolongation of Musigny following the North-South axis of the Côte, but more regular and less broken in their layout. At the bottom end, the " Climat " known as La Combe d'Orveau separates them from Musigny. The Échezeaux vineyards, for their part, divide the Clos de Vougeot from the Premier Cru vines of Vosne-Romanée.
Grands-Échezeaux and Échezeaux both date their Grands Crus AOCs from July 31, 1937. Like the Clos de Vougeot (from which they are separated only by a wall), they were founded by the monks of the abbey of Cîteaux and date from the 12th and 13th centuries. Their name derives from chesaux, a word of Gallo-Roman origin meaning a group of dwellings, presumably referring to an ancient hamlet.
Belonging geologically to the Jurassic (175 million years BC), the GrandsÉchezeaux vineyards are fairly homogeneous and lie close to the upper part of the Clos de Vougeot. Gradient: 3-4%. Soil: clay-limestone overlying Bajocien limestone. Altitudes: 250 metres. The Échezeaux Climats have more diverse soils (largely bajocien marls with pebbly overlay). Altitudes vary from 230 to a little over 300 metres (13% gradient at mid-slope). Up-slope, the soil is deep (70-80 cm). Gravels, red alluvium, yellowish marl, etc., make up quite a complex mosaic.
Red: its colour is ruby, shading towards the darker tones of magenta and purple. Its bouquet is redolent of animal, spice notes, underbrush, and prune, evolving with age towards musk, leather, fur and mushroom. When young, its aromas suggest rose, violet and fresh cherry. On the palate, there is a heightened attack and an agreeable balance between supple tannins and fully-rounded flavour. The dense texture and tight grain of these wines fully open after 4-5 years in the cellar.
Wines so powerful and full demand to be matched with dishes of the same calibre. Virile, four-sided tannins cry out for roast lamb, rib steak, or joints of game. Autumn and winter dishes in the right setting match the profound and meaty personality of these great wines : braised beef or pork, for example, or any other good red meat. Fine, whole-milk, soft-centred cheeses will also do them proud.
Serving temperature : 15 to 16 °C.
Parker - The 2012 Echezeaux Grand Cru was picked on September 29 and 30 and blended with 70% stems. It is deep ruby in color. The nose is aromatic silk, sporting luscious red currant and wild strawberry fruit, subtle scents of dried flowers unfurling with modest encouragement. The palate is medium-bodied and extraordinary pure, an omen for the wines that followed. There is heavenly weightlessness to this grand cru, elegant and poised with superb persistency on the finish. As it grows in stature in the glass, you cannot but help conclude that this might well be one of the finest Echezeaux I have tasted from the domaine.
Aubert de Villaine was traveling the Far East when I visited the domaine’s relocated offices that lie in the shadow of the church in the main square in Vosne. And so cellar-master Bernard Noblet, distinctive with his hulking frame, escorted me through barrel samples of their 2012. Not everything was available for me to taste. Their Montrachet was damaged by hail and consequently there is less than half the usual crop, and Bernard was adamant that the Corton was not in representative condition. Incidentally, there is no Cuvee Duvault-Blochet in 2012, as one would expect in such a small volume crop. The domaine gave me a summary of this infamous growing season that essentially repeated the remarks of other growers, but expressed in Aubert’s poetic, allegorical fashion, my favorite sentence: “The vigneron’s intervention is quiet and rare, as that of the crew of a sailboat navigating calm weather.” Of course, the domaine, especially vineyard manager Nicolas Jacob, was not spared the choppy waters of the tumultuous season that threatened to capsize many of the region’s finest vignerons. The estate’s biodynamic principles meant that applying the preparations and treatments proved challenging when one day out of every three was rainy. The harvest commenced on September 21 in Corton and finished nine days later in Echezeaux, the secateurs put back into their sheaths when the heavens opened on September 25 and 26. Yields are recorded at 20 hectoliters per hectare, which is approximately 25% less than usual. That said, upon entering the reception area I was confronted with what appeared to be the entire allocation for the United States shrink-wrapped on towering pallets. You have to remember that this is for one of the largest countries in the world. These barrel samples are rather academic. These wines are not available for another year and readers will find bottled reviews, which I have written every February since 1998, more relevant since the wines will be finished and ready for sale. However, I decided to publish these notes so that they can be juxtaposed against their peers and my remarks in 12 months time. One point that I found interesting was the more prudent use of stems, logical when you consider that the lack of sunshine in the early part of the season would mean not all stems would have been fully lignified. Therefore, the pickers had to patiently wait until the berries were fully ripe. You do not need me to tell you that their 2012s are variations upon “spellbinding” and will doubtless cost a pretty penny. Truth is, there are cheaper alternatives out there, many of which I have praised in my recent report. There is only one thing – they are not Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.