Burgundy grape wars: Harvest thefts hit new levels

There has been a sharp rise in grape thefts during the Burgundy 2016 harvest, say police and winemakers, with reports of extra surveillance being set up around vineyards.

A Beaune police source confirmed to Decanter.com on 7 October that there have been at least four separate complaints of stolen grapes from the Burgundy 2016 harvest. That’s a new record for the force.

Winemakers have also spoken of problems with thefts across the region and the issue has been widely reported in French media in recent weeks.

Burgundy is already facing a particularly tough vintage after heavy frost and hailstorms earlier in the year have seriously damaged yields.

Burgundy’s wine bureau, the BIVB, suggested that some of the supposed thefts might have been innocent mistakes.

The region’s patchwork of vineyard ownership means that accidentally picking someone else’s grapes is a hazard of harvest.

But, growing numbers of producers suspect a rise in more sinister acts.

One vintner in the Cote d’Or reported the equivalent of half a barrel of wine stolen.

‘This year was already difficult, as we lost half our potential harvest because of the devastating frost in April, so we did not need this,’ said owner Eric Boussey, of the five-hectare eponymous winery in Monthélie. ‘It is revolting.’

Boussey said representatives of domains in Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet and in Meursault have complained to police.

Meursault-based Domaine Latour-Giraud lost the equivalent of 1,200 bottles of wine. ‘It was the first time we have seen this happen,’ a representative of the winery confirmed to Decanter.com.

Boussey said that it appeared the number of thefts has risen in 2016. ‘I cannot tell you why, but there is more. I have never seen harvesting errors like this.’

BIVB vice chairman Claude Chevalier played down the problem at a press conference. ‘It is an unusual set of circumstances,’ he said. Media are making headlines because of very low yields in some vineyards, he said.

‘Really, we do not know. It could just be one person who is actually stealing the grapes,’ Chevalier said.

‘The problem is that everyone is scared about stolen grapes, so now you have surveillance being set up in some areas, which could give ideas to more people to steal grapes.’

More stories on the Burgundy 2016 harvest:

Burgundy 2016 harvest: ‘Every grape counts’

Growers prepare for 'tricky' Burgundy harvest...

DRC, Leflaive & Comtes Lafon join forces for Montrachet 2016

Dire grape shortage means prominent estates share harvest...

Burgundy hit by ‘worst frost since 1981’

Worst frost in 30 years may hit 2016 harvest.