The world’s biggest deliberate wine destructions
From pouring Lafite down the loo to draining vats of Brunello, we round up some of the most destructive acts to be deliberately inflicted on the world of wine.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, and few acts of vengeance are more chilling than the destruction of someone’s prized wine collection, particularly if the victim is the person who worked so hard to make it in the first place.
Prompted by a tale in the Financial Times this weekend, which considered acts of retribution as marriages break up, including emptying first growth claret down the lavatory, we consider some of the most horrifying losses to affect wine, all of which were deliberate.
So, before we look at the most shocking examples, we should add that such acts don’t include the terrible losses due to natural disasters, from earthquakes to hurricanes and wildfires.
And, with that in mind, our thoughts go to the vintners and residents of Napa and Sonoma who are battling wildfires, which this week have caused so much devastation, and, tragically, the loss of human life.
Lafite down the lav
As quoted in the most recent FT Weekend (7/8 October), Sandra Davis, one of London’s top divorce lawyers, and head of Mishcon’s family law division, recalled how, in one of her cases, a woman emptied her husband’s entire wine collection down the loo.
When asked by the journalist to explain, she said that she wouldn’t divulge any detail, but admitted that a large and valuable cellar was lost in the act.
“Every bottle – Château Lafite, et cetera,” she said was drained – and not in the way the winemaker intended.
“It was becoming an issue in relation to how the assets were being divided and the wife just thought, ‘Sod it’ and poured the whole lot down the toilet,” she added.
When asked how many bottles, she answered, “Hundreds”.
The Brunello vandal
On 2 December 2012, 62,600 litres of Case Basse from top Brunello di Montalcino producer, Gianfranco Soldera, were lost after the taps to the barrels were opened by a former employee at the winery, who entered the cellar by breaking a window.
Andrea Di Gisi, 39, from Rome, dubbed “The Brunello Killer”, opened the valves of 10 barrels, allowing wine from the last six vintages: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 to flow down the drain.
The act of vandalism resulted in a commercial loss in the region of €10m.
Di Gisi allegedly carried out the attack out of revenge, and was said to have been angry that he hadn’t been given accommodation on the estate while working there.
In March 2013 he was sentenced to four years in prison.
Getting even in Barossa
In August this year a Barossa Valley winemaker confessed to destroying more than AUS$60,000 of Shiraz and Chardonnay by draining the tanks of a rival producer.
Trevor David Jones, 59, entered a plea of guilty to two counts of damaging property at Kellermeister Wines at Lyndoch in South Australia’s Barossa Valley in February 2015.
He was accused of opening the taps on four tanks of Chardonnay and Shiraz on Sunday, 22 February, at the winery, which Jones’ parents had founded in 1976.
Trevor Jones had previously worked at the winery but had left to start Trevor Jones Fine Wines, also in Lyndoch, in 2010.
Wine crime in Canada
Almost exactly one year ago, news broke of a CAN$3.3 million wine loss from the Pelee Island Winery in Kingsville, Ontario.
In November 2016, it was announced that the Ontario Provincial Police were investigating after tanks at a Canadian winery were “intentionally” tampered with causing the loss of around 250,000 litres of wine.
“We are extremely disgusted and appalled that someone would basically attack one of our local wineries,” said Stephen Mitchell, president of the Windsor Essex County Wineries & Vineyard (EPIC) Winegrowers’ Association.
“From an Ontario wine perspective, that’s a significant amount of wine,” he added.
Million-litre loss in Oz
Our biggest loss in terms of pure volume comes from Riverland Vintners in South Australia, where 1.2m litres of wine were drained after vandals deliberately opened the taps on four tanks.
As reported by the Adelaide Advertiser, the attack occurred at the winery in Monash on Monday 28 December 2015.
A fence had been cut at the back of the winery to gain access to the tanks. According to witnesses, pools of red wine could be seen at the entrance of the winery after the attack and a strong smell of fermented grapes hung in the air.
Owned by the SA Wine Group, Riverland Vintners provides contract winemaking services and has the capacity to crush 25,000 tonnes of fruit a year with 30 million litres of tank storage available.
French target Spanish tanks
The incident unfolded less that 10 miles from the Spanish border on April 4, when around 150 winegrowers from the southern departments of Aude and Pyrénées Orientales seized upon a number of tankers travelling into France, draining their loads onto the tarmac.
With five tankers targeted, some 70,000 litres of wine spilled onto the motorway.
Frédéric Rouanet, president of the winegrowers of Aude, claimed that 28,000 trucks filled with wine had arrived in France from Spain in 2015, with bulk shipping allowing the wine to be sold cheaper. Protesters also claimed the provenance of wines entering France in tankers are not being verified and that the Spanish wine is has not been produced in accordance with European regulations. Graffiti was scrawled on the side of Spanish trucks which read “wine not compliant”.
And finally… a drink-destroying Peacock
Ok, so this final act may not have been at the hands of a vengeful human, but it was nonetheless a wanton act of drinks destruction.
Having made its way through the door of the Royal Oaks Liquor Store in Arcadia, the flightless fowl managed to trash much of the shop’s stock as a 90-minute goose-chase ensued.
Finally, the persistent peacock was ensnared, unharmed, having destroyed $500 worth of wine and spirits, including some expensive Champagne.
Rani Ghanem, a 21-year-old San Bernardino resident whose family owns the store, commented after the incident, “He’s got expensive taste. I’m like, ‘You break, you buy, dude’. But clearly he did not. He got away with it.”