Thieves broke into Champagne producer Jacques Selosse on the night of March 21 and stole more than 300 cases of bubbly worth nearly $350,000. They also stole labels, leaving owner and chef de caves Anselme Selosse and his wife, Corinne, worried that they may be trying to produce counterfeits.
"They were pros," said Florence Thunevin, a representative for Jacques Selosse, of the thieves. The burglars broke into the cellars in the village of Avize, in the southern part of Champagne, late at night and the evidence suggests they knew what they were doing. "They erased traces of DNA with alcohol aerosols, removed fingerprints and palm prints with dishwashing fluid or car coolant, and systematically avoided the [security] sensors," she added.
Selosse has an almost-cult following—it's a darling of sommeliers and was one of the first small grower Champagnes (wines produced from vineyards owned entirely by the grower) to gain notice more than a decade ago. The wines are notable for their rich style and Selosse's solera-style blending of more than 20 vintages for the production of two of his cuvées, the Substance and the Contraste.
The thieves made off with eight pallets of Champagne, including cuvées of the Version Originale, Exquise, Substance and Rosé, destined for the U.S. and Japan. They also took approximately 16,000 front labels, 12,000 neck labels and 2,500 caps, which raises the possibility of counterfeits in the marketplace.
"Our biggest concern for consumers is that bottles of this sort may be offered [for sale]," said Thunevin. But she notes that buyers can look to the color of the Champagne bottle's glass as a potential indication of authenticity. "We are virtually the only ones to bottle Champagne with glass that is almost black. It is much darker than traditional bottles."
While 300 cases—3,700 bottles—sounds like a lot of Champagne, it's only about 0.9 percent of Selosse's total stock. Like most Champagne producers, Selosse stores a great deal of inventory, which means that the primary effect of the burglary is the reduction of reserves. As a result, Thunevin said, non-vintage bottlings released in 2013 will see about eight weeks less aging before disgorgement, while bottlings in 2014 will go down to six weeks, 2015 to 4 weeks and 2016 to 2 weeks, before returning to the estate's standard aging procedures in 2017.