$1 Million Wine Heist Nabs Rare Yquems and DRC Montrachets from Grand Award Winner Atrio

Dozens of bottles of the legendary Sauternes dessert wine and Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti go missing from the restaurant’s cellar in Spain

$1 Million Wine Heist Nabs Rare Yquems and DRC Montrachets from Grand Award Winner Atrio
Some of Atrio's extensive vertical of Bordeaux's famed Château d'Yquem are displayed in the restaurant's cellar. (Joaquin Cortés)
Nov 3, 2021

There are wine bottles in this world that simply cannot be replaced. One of those is the 1806 Château d'Yquem that was stolen, along with 44 other bottles, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Oct. 27, from Atrio, a Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurant and hotel in Cáceres, Spain.

Local authorities are investigating the robbery, but Atrio owner José Polo has a working theory of how the crime went down … 

He says that a young couple who spoke English had dinner at the restaurant at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night. At around 1 a.m., the couple wanted to order food, but the kitchen was closed and room service was unavailable. The woman, who had a Swiss passport that Polo now presumes to be fake, convinced an employee responsible for overseeing the security cameras to go to the kitchen and prepare a salad for her. Polo believes that at that moment, the young man accompanying her came downstairs and robbed the cellar.

Polo also says the bottles were specifically targeted, because they were spread out in different areas of the cellar. "What I think is that [the theft] was ordered by a private collector," Polo told Wine Spectator. "I think one of them was here before and knew what they wanted."

The next morning, one of the sommeliers realized 45 bottles were missing: seven bottles of Yquem—1806, 1883, 1884, 1891, 1899, 1900 and 1901—valued at $665,000, and 38 bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet dating back to the 1980s, including six magnums of the rare white Burgundy, estimated to be worth more than $500,000.

The 1806 Yquem was “priced” at €350,000 ($407,000), but Polo had no intention of selling it—it’s part of the Atrio story. He bought the bottle at a Christie's auction in 2000. But in 2001, a sommelier accidentally cracked the bottle, which sent Polo running to Bordeaux to get it re-bottled at the château in Sauternes. Yquem cellarmaster Sandrine Garbay poured the 1806 wine into a new bottle and topped it off with a younger vintage. Garbay then signed and dated (1/25/2001) the label and declared it an official 1806 bottling.

Atrio owner José Polo shows off his beloved bottle of 1806 Yquem Sauternes, which also had Swarovski crystals added to the bottle to make up for volume lost when the original bottle cracked.]
Atrio owner José Polo shows off his beloved bottle of 1806 Yquem Sauternes. Swarovski crystals were added to the bottle to make up for volume lost when the original bottle cracked. (Courtesy of José Polo)

"The bottle was much more special now,” Polo said. “This one has a story tied to Atrio. For us, it is a tremendous loss."

Polo is confident, however, that wine buyers will be skeptical about seeing any of these wines on the market, especially the 1806. "The majority of people in the world of wine know that bottle is ours," Polo said. "So in the formal market, it's complicated to sell it." But for Polo, it’s less about the monetary value and all about the story. "That's why that bottle is so important to us."


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