Diners Arrested for Stealing $1.6 Million in Wine from a Spanish Restaurant's Cellar

·3 min read
Assorted red and white wines
Assorted red and white wines

Ken Redding / Getty Images

With the average dine-and-dashers, a restaurant may simply chalk the whole thing up as a loss. But for a couple that dined and then dashed with about $1.6 million worth of wine, well, it took nine months, but the police finally tracked them down.

Last October, a couple made international headlines after 45 bottles of wine worth a whopping €1.6 million (about $1.6 million) were stolen from the two-Michelin-starred Atrio restaurant and hotel in Caceres, Spain. The thieves, who reportedly booked into the hotel under a fake identity before dining at the restaurant, clearly knew what they were after. Among the bottles stolen were 10 vintages of Chateau d'Yquem dating from 1806 to 1901 and over 20 bottles of Romanée-Conti — the Burgundy producer that holds the record for most expensive bottle ever sold — with vintages ranging from 1990 to 2012, according to Decanter.

The 1806 Chateau d'Yquem bottle alone was priced by the restaurant at over $350,000, according to inews.

Upon apprehending the suspects, Spain's Policia Nacional detailed how the "meticulously planned" theft unfolded. After dining, the couple apparently took a tour of the wine cellar, then returned to their room before the man snuck back down to the cellar while the woman distracted staff by asking for more food after the kitchen had already closed, according to The Guardian. "After using a previously purloined master key to gain access, he emerged with three large rucksacks — one on his back and two in each hand — which held the bottles he had stashed, and which were stuffed with hotel towels to protect the bottles," the police were quoted as saying.

Following the arrest earlier this week, the Policia Nacional posted a video clip of the man's entrance and getaway to their official Twitter page.

The couple reportedly left the hotel early the next morning, at 5:30 a.m., and left Spain a few days later. "Following numerous inquiries, in both Spain and other countries, officers managed to identify the two suspects, noting the high degree of professionalism, specialization and perfect planning that had gone into the theft," the police statement continued. "They also discovered the couple had visited the restaurant three times to scout the location before they carried out the theft."

The pair were finally apprehended in Croatia after being spotted crossing into the country from Montenegro, and the suspects were arrested thanks to a continent-wide operation that included Interpol and Europol. The Telegraph reported that the male suspect was able to be identified in part because he had previously been arrested for attempting to steal high-end wine bottles in the past.

As for Atrio's wine, its current whereabouts were unclear. "We don't know anything officially. I hope they have recovered the bottles," Jose Polo, one of the restaurant's owners, reportedly told El Mundo newspaper. "Hopefully we can get our most valuable bottles back."