Wine Thieves in the Dock

Another busy week in the world of wine, with theft, death and Vladimir Putin in the spotlight.

© | Winemaker Alain Brumont had more than 55,000 bottles of wine stolen from his property.

What do you get if you systematically scam a French winery in the space of two years? Well, a day in court, for starters.

This is what happened to 13 people involved in a spectacular scam that saw them steal and sell 55,000 bottles of wine from a single producer. It’s good to see that crime doesn’t always pay. In other news this week, we have fashionistas moving to Sicily, while things are boiling over in Spain’s Toro region. Continue reading…

The thieves of Brumont will be judged

Thirteen people were on the dock in Auch this week, accused of having participated in the theft and resale of 55,000 bottles of wine from the famous regional producer Alain Brumont, between 2014 and 2015. According to the prosecution, the wines stolen, including the major labels Château de Bouscassé and Château Montus (as well as the latter’s top cuvée La Tire), amounted to 1.2 million euros ($1.2 million).

The theft was allegedly carried out by three employees (including Brumont’s expedition leader), the partner and nephew of one of the three, and eight local retailers (including bars and restaurants) who resold the stolen bottles.

“Based initially on an estimated disappearance of 12,000 bottles at the start of 2015 (a complaint was filed on January 20), the estate now estimates that 55,041 bottles have been stolen”, indicates the wine information site Vitisphere. .com.

According to the AFP news agency, Brumont himself caught the main suspect’s partner (then chief dispatcher) in the act as they left the estate “with the trunk of the car full of boxes of wine bottles. “. It is understood the couple were able to purchase a Porsche 986, home cinema, electric massage chair, electric fireplace and pool table with the proceeds of crime.

The public prosecutor is asking for a series of prison sentences, ranging from six months to three years for the main perpetrators and their accomplices, and between four and six months for those who resell the wine.

According to, Brumont’s defense is also seeking €150,000 (US$145,000) in moral damages, with the theft by employees “being perceived as a stab in the back”, in particular due to the fact that Vignobles Brumont – a major player in the region – was emerging from receivership, having apparently finished repaying 12 million euros ($12 million) in loans in 2012.

Arguments for the defense include that the bottles taken would not have been commercially viable because they had low fill levels in the bottles.

“It’s not theft, it’s like going to the recycling center – picking it up before it’s thrown away,” said one of the lawyers.

This claim is disputed by the prosecution, as is the claim that the vendors did not know they were handling stolen goods, with one bar owner claiming he did not know the wines were stolen because the crates box were not marked.

Judgment is due on December 8.

The owner of the Diesel brand invests in a Sicilian winery

Italian fashion entrepreneur and Diesel brand founder Renzo Rosso has taken a 40% stake in Etna-based Benanti. According to leading regional newspaper Corriere del Veneto, the fashion mogul acquired the Sicilian winery through its branch Red Circle Investments.

The investment follows Rosso’s recent 10% stake in renowned Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella producer, Masi Agricola, announced late last year. Rosso also owns and manages the Veneto-based diesel farm in Breganze, which produces both wine and olive oil.

“Etna was one of the areas that interested me,” Rosso told the newspaper. “I spent a few days there, visited many wineries and Benanti was on my priority list […] they were looking for a partner to grow the business. We chose a top of the class: the father is a special person, the two children have lived abroad and have an international culture, they are very close to my mentality.”

When asked if his stake could become a majority stake, Rosso dismissed the idea saying he intended his contributions to be limited to those of the board and its marketing. The 67-year-old would also not be attracted to future wine investments, but hinted at a large personal cellar.

“I have all the coolest wines from Chile to Oregon, from France to Tuscany,” he said.

Toro adopts the sparkling wine method

Spain’s Toro wine region, famous for its robust, tannin- and alcohol-rich Tempranillo wines, is set to allow the production of Traditional Method sparkling wines under its appellation. According to regional newspaper La Opinion de Zamora, officials have given the go-ahead for the adoption of bubbles in the regional winemaking plan, the Pliego de Condiciones.

Besides its flagship Tempranillo wines (known locally as Tinto de Toro) which make up the vast majority of production, the region already produces white and rosé wines, usually based around Tempranillo and Verdejo. Other varieties including Albillo, Garnacha and Malvasía Castellana (a variety of Malvasia) are also encountered.

These should be allowed in local sparkling production with Albillo and Muscat de Grano Menudo the main Toro sparkling wine varieties, alongside Verdejo, Malvasia, Garnacha and Tinta de Toro.

“The analysis carried out on the sparkling wines produced in the region also reveals that [the wines] have a powerful floral or fruity flavor and a strong personality and structure, characteristics to which is added the essence of the terroir,” said the regional newspaper.

Wineries in the area have produced sparkling wines with some success in the past, although these are currently made under the name Castilla y Leon. Additionally, the new sparkling Toro designation will require wines to undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle, in accordance with Method production.

Once approved by the local body, the proposed change will be forwarded to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture which, if the decision is approved, will go to the European Union’s Commission for Agriculture. The sparkling title would then join Toro’s blanco (white), rosado (rosé), tinto (red), dulce (sweet) and semidulce (semi-sweet) wines.

Funeral of the Hérault winegrower

Winegrowers and wine professionals from Pic Saint-Loup, Hérault and the wider Languedoc came to pay tribute on Thursday to the winemaker of the Domaine de l’Hortus, Marie Orliac-Seyller. Orliac-Seyller, who was 49, was found dead in the cellar the previous week after going to the estate to do a pigeage (pigeage) alone on vats of fermenting red wine.

Although the circumstances of her death have not been released, it is understood that Orliac-Seyller was overwhelmed by carbon dioxide from the fermentation tanks. She was found by her father in the cellars.

As well as looking after aspects of winemaking, Orliac-Seyller was the estate’s accountant, sharing management of the renowned 60-hectare (150-acre) estate with brothers François (viticulture), Martin (winemaking) and Yves (marketing). ). The tragedy occurs just a few weeks after the death of their mother, Marie-Thérèse Orliac, who, alongside her husband Jean, created the estate in 1978.

The service took place at the local church of Saint Pierre de Valflaunès.

“Married […] your early childhood followed the creation of the estate step by step,” says Yves Orliac in his eulogy, reported by the regional newspaper Midi Libre. “Your weekend hikes to discover this wild countryside, then the hinterland of Montpellier. Then your law studies in Toulouse and Bordeaux to study oenology and viticulture.”

“Marie,” he added, “what happened?” You slipped too soon, too fast.

The Ribera cellar chosen for the book fair

The Ribera del Duero Bodegas Protos winery has been chosen as Spain’s official wine for the Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse) which opens on Wednesday October 19 and runs through Sunday. According to the regional newspaper El Norte de Castilla, three wines (Protos Roble, Protos Verdejo and the rosé Aire de Protos) produced by the large cooperative will be presented at the fair.

The trio began their official duties at the welcome reception, held in the German city of Frankfurt, on Tuesday evening.

“All [book fair] attendees will be able to taste Protos wines in the pavilion that Spain, as guest of honor, has designed for the occasion,” the newspaper said.

DJ prescribes Rioja to Putin

Wishful thinking, perhaps, but Spanish journalist and radio personality Carles Francino says a bottle of Rioja could be the answer to peace in Ukraine. Recently interviewed by local newspaper El Día de la Rioja, Francino told the publication that, more than anything, the Rioja region inspired him with peace.

When asked who to give a glass of wine to in the interest of peace, Francino opted for Vladimir Putin.


Despite the physical difficulties surrounding such an endeavor (Europe has imposed major embargoes on the shipment of goods to Russia), Putin himself is rarely photographed with alcohol and, although he is not a teetotaler , it is understood that he avoids most forms of alcohol unless attending official events (an international book fair, for example).

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Elisha A. Tilghman