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Barolo Burglars Steal Thousands of Bottles of Wines

Thieves broke into two wineries in the past three weeks, swiping wine worth more than $200,000
Thieves robbed Fontanafredda in December, but it's unclear if it was the same gang behind recent thefts.

Robert Camuto
Posted: July 19, 2016

Two of Barolo's wineries have been robbed of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of wine in less than three weeks, and the evidence suggests the same thieves are behind both crimes.

Methodical teams wearing laboratory-style cleanroom suits that hid their identities from security cameras broke into the Armando Parusso winery in Monforte d'Alba in the middle of the night on July 13 and took roughly 120 cases of some of Parusso's best wines, worth about $112,000. That followed a similar burglary on June 25 at the Cordero di Montezemolo winery in La Morra, during which 250 cases, also worth more than $100,000, were stolen.

"They took about three hours and they did their work very calmly," Marco Parusso, who owns Armando Parusso winery with his sister Tiziana, told Wine Spectator.

Both wineries are located in the quiet country landscape of Barolo; Parusso's cellars are built into the hillside below the family house. His mother lives there and slept through the theft. "Our winery is built into the hillside, so it's very hard to see or hear anything below," said Parusso. He arrived early on the morning of July 14 to find a cellar door had been pried open and that an order he had prepared in wooden boxes for shipment to Germany was missing. "They took some of our best wines."

Outdoor security cameras showed three thieves—their faces, bodies and hands covered—carrying the wine, case by case, to Parusso's own winery truck. They took the keys from an office. "The truck had no gas in it, so they took the gas from a tractor," said Parusso. Police have no suspects and have not found the truck, he added.

But he is hoping that the rarity of the wines will lead to their recovery. Among the loot were bottles of his Barolo Riserva 2006 Gold Label, of which he only made 200 cases. Bottles of Barolo Bussia 2011 and 2012 were also stolen, including the first bottles of an exclusive vinification of the 2011 made for his German importer labeled "speciale."

Alberto Cordero di Montezemolo said that the wines stolen from his winery—cases of 2012 Barolos and 2013 Barbera d'Alba Superiore Funtanì—would be harder to track. Cordero said that security cameras at his wineries filmed six men who parked their vehicles in the vineyards around midnight, cut through a fence, and entered the winery by forcing open a high window not connected to the security system. The men then passed cases through the window.

Both vintners say they hope that Italian wine merchants and restaurants will report any suspicious sales offers. Both said they have updated their security systems. "We live in the country," said Parusso, explaining that he hadn't given security much thought before. "We never have this. It's quiet here."

The thefts are unwelcome proof of Barolo's growing status as one of the world's elite wines. Bordeaux and Burgundy have seen several similar thefts in recent years, as growing global demand for collectible wines makes them attractive items on the gray market.

In December 2015, thieves broke into a warehouse of Fontanafredda, the large and historic Seralunga d'Alba producer owned by Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti, stealing about 170 cases of Barolo and Barbera. (It is unclear if that burglary and the recent thefts are related.)

Farinetti told Wine Spectator that after the theft, Fontanafredda hired a security guard for nights. "Barolos are easy to resell," said Farinetti. "They don't do this in areas where wines cost little."

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