Santé! French chef toasts police after €400k of stolen fine wine is found

Hundreds of stolen bottles of fine wine worth hundreds of thousands of euros have been returned to a top French chef, police said on Thursday.

Santé! French chef toasts police after €400k of stolen fine wine is found
Photo: AFP

Thieves took 320 bottles of vintage wine from Jean Sulpice's restaurant by picturesque Lake Annecy in the French Alps in February — just two days after he was awarded two Michelin stars.

The wine, worth a total of 400,000 euros $490,000), was stolen from the cellar of the Auberge du Pere Bise, where clients pay up to 92 euros for a
starter, 84 euros for a main course and 210 euros for a tasting menu.

“We have arrested the perpetrators of the burglary, four in number, and their accomplices. Some 250 bottles out of the 320 stolen were found,” police told AFP. “The booty was estimated at 400,000 euros.”

Sulpice, who won 2018 “cook of the year” in the Gault Millau guide, said in a statement: “After two months of investigations, the cellar of the Auberge du Pere Bise has found part of its historical heritage.

“We would like to warmly thank the Annecy Gendarmerie and more particularly the Research Brigade for its professionalism.”

The chef added: “It is thanks to their determination that a century of work has been saved.”

The recovered wine included bottles of Chateau Yquem, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Petrus, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, and Chateau Margaux.

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Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts