Two employees of the Penfolds winery in Nuriootpa have been arrested over the theft of an estimated AU$1million worth of premium wine.

A 39-year-old man and 30-year-old woman were arrested on Monday and charged with larceny and receiving AU$1m (€563,992) in premium table wines. It is understood the alleged thefts started in March 2000.

Southcorp are working with the police to establish exactly which wines were stolen. They are understood to include bottles of Penfolds Grange, and bottles from the Grandfather and Great Grandfather port range.

‘This is a police matter and is obviously a very serious one. The police will be conducting a full investigation and Southcorp will be cooperating fully with that process,’ Southcorp’s communications director, Michelle Lawlor said in a press release yesterday, adding it was ‘an enormous disappointment’ to the company to have wine stolen on such a scale.

Police seized AU$250,000 (€140,997) of wine – allegedly stolen from the Penfolds Barossa Valley property – during a raid on the defendants’ Barossa Valley home. A further AU$50,000 (€28,197) of wine at Broadmeadows in Melbourne was also recovered by police.

Chief Inspector Kym Zander of the Barossa-Yorke police said they had no idea how the wines were stolen, but it is believed the wines were disposed of across state borders.

‘We believe the thefts from the winery go back to March 2000. The company has established that since that time about AU$1million worth of wine has been stolen. They gradually began to steal more valuable wines, such as the Grange range,’ he said, adding they didn’t believe an organised crime ring was involved.

The case will be heard in the Tanunda Magistrates Court on 30 June.

Written by Tracey Barker16 April 2003