Tuesday 12 October 2010

Stolen grapes make the Press

The recent theft of 30 tonnes of Cabernet grapes from a vineyard near Villeneuve de Beziers has certainly made the headlines.

A quick Google search finds the story reported internationally, from, amongst others, the BBC,
British broadsheets the Telegraph and Guardian as well as ABC news in Australia and NZ radio. More obscure websites that have picked up on the story include theirishemigrant.com silobreaker.com and the spooky Forteantimes. (I'll spare you the links to these sites).

Apart from the opportunity to churn out bad puns (grape escape etc), the reason for this frenzy of press attention is that it is such a rare occurrence. It is so specialised. I have never heard of it before and in terms of risk/reward it is not the most lucrative crime.

It isn't easy to discreetly harvest grapes - even with a harvesting machine it would take at least a couple of hours and machines are not the quietest of beasts. The absolute maximum price for Cabernet Sauvignon at the moment is 60€ a hectolitre. 30 tonnes would yield say 210 hectolitres giving a maximum gain of 12,600€. Alot of money for the poor vineyard owner, Roland Cavaillé. But not a fortune considering the risk involved. Take off the cost of harvesting and vinifying. And who do you sell the grapes to after such a publicised crime?

So is this some sort of professional grape mafia at work? Theft to order for a negociant? Revenge from vindictive neighbours? An opportunity to make a fast buck for dispossessed grape farmers? Who knows? Well somebody does but it is doubtful that the crime will be solved. Lets hope it's a one-off.

By the way, in case any amateur sleuths out there are looking for clues, the harvester in the photo is NOT the one used in the heist. Library photo.


  1. I read in the Midi Libre the other day (but can't find the report on-line) that arrests had been made on this, just in case any readers get the idea that this sort of activity might pay........