The discovery of liquid cocaine in bottles of Bodegas Kohlberg wine has shocked the owners of the 40-year-old winery in southern Bolivia.
The narcotic was found during a drugs inspection by customs officers in Bulgaria, at the port of Varna-West.
Wines from Vinos Kohlberg are normally exported from Bolivia via the Chilean port of Arica. No Kohlberg wine is currently exported to Chile.
‘We export about 10% of our production to the Czech Republic and China, via Chile, but those shipments have not even left yet,’ said Herbert Kohlberg, marketing manager at the winery.
The Kohlbergs condemned the adulteration of their wines. ‘This illegal action is absolutely not what we stand for,’ said Lisette Kohlberg.
Of the 1020 bottles of Kohlberg wine – 765 litres – discovered by Bulgarian authorities, news agencies reported 714 litres was liquid cocaine. The rest – 68 bottles – was reported to be real wine.
The Kohlberg winery is a leading Bolivan brand, producing about 2.7m litres a year. Wholesale prices range from US$1.85- $14.85 per bottle.
Principal varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec.
Bolivia has a cult reputation for its ‘high altitude’ wines. The country is also the world’s third-largest producer of cocaine, and the third biggest supplier to the US after Colombia and Venezuela.
Last week a former Bolivian cabinet minister, Colonel Luis Arce Gomez was deported from prison in Miami after serving almost 20 years for cocaine smuggling.
Smuggling cocaine in liquid form is not uncommon. Earlier this year a London cab driver died after drinking the drug from a rum bottle which had been innocently given him.
Written by Sophie Kevany in Lima, Peru