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Protecting Your Italian Wines From Theft – The Key Tips

You’ve finally taken the plunge and decided to invest in some Italian wine. We’re not talking about the “regular” stuff here either. This is a special vintage that you know is going to increase in value over time.

You get it back home and you put it in storage.

Your wine investing career has just begun. Maybe you add a couple more bottles to the collection in the months that follow.

But about a year later, word starts to get out that you’re collecting. You tell a few friends during a conversation at a pub and the wrong person just so happens to overhear. A few nights later and there’s a break-in.

Somebody’s stolen the Italian wines that you invested in!

Does that sound like a far-fetched scenario to you? If it does, then we have a little bit of bad news that affects wine collectors.

Thievery is Rife in Italian Wine

There is a thriving black market for wines of all shapes and sizes. We’ve talked before about how many counterfeiters get away with essentially stealing money from unwitting buyers. That’s thievery in a different way as it involves misrepresenting a product in an attempt to make some cash.

More direct thievery often involves stealing valuable bottles of wine that investors have put their hard-earned money into. And it’s a practice that’s more common than you might think.

And if you happen to run a business that trades in fine wines, you’re at even more risk. Just ask Michel Rostang. He runs one of Paris’ most prestigious restaurants, which is well-known for having an invaluable collection of French and Italian wines in its cellars. Rumour goes that there are 50,000 wines down there, with the oldest being from the 1890s.

In 2019, thieves struck.

Under the cover of night, the thieves carved a 50cm hold directly into the cellar. They simply had to reach through and grab as many bottles as they could get their hands on. Eventually, they walked away with a haul of 150 vintage bottles.

Their value of the haul?

A cool $1 million!

The thieves would have used a black market fence to sell the goods. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Wherever there are collections of valuable wines, there are thieves who are looking to steal and sell them to the less reputable collectors out there.

So, what can you do to protect yourself and your wine collection? Follow these tips and you’ll at least ensure you don’t lose too much money if you are the victim of thievery.

Insure Your Valuable Wines

This is the first thing that you should look into before you buy any valuable wine vintage. These are extremely collectible items that can grow to massive value over time. It’s imperative that you insure them, not just from thievery but also from fires and other issues that could cause the loss of value.

Think about it like this.

If you have a house, you’re going to get it insured. You’ll protect the building and the contents from everything that you can.

Apply that same mentality to your wine collection.

As we saw from Michel Rostang example, talented wine thieves could cost a collector millions of dollars. Insurance will at least cover part of the cost, even if it doesn’t get you the wine back.

Keep All Of Your Receipts

You’ll need them should you ever need to make a claim on your insurance.

But your receipts could prove valuable in other areas. For example, let’s say a thief steals a bottle of wine, which then finds its way into the hands of a merchant. 

That merchant sells the bottle to you, perhaps without even knowing that it’s stolen. You certainly don’t know that it’s stolen when you buy it! A few months later, you get a knock on the door. It’s the police and they’ve tracked the stolen bottle to your location.

And for a moment, you’re under suspicion!

If you can produce your receipts and any other paperwork, you can prove that you bought the bottle in good faith. Plus, you can get a refund when the bottle gets sent back to its original owner.

Keep Checking Your Cellar

Thieves can get very creative when they want to break into something like a wine cellar. That means you need to protect yours as much as you can.

A big secure door is the first step. Ideally, that door will protect the only entrance to the cellar. More access points means more chances for a thief to get inside. From there, install CCTV cameras and any other security measures that you can think of. The extent of your security will depend on your budget and the size of your collection. As your investments grow in value, that little extra spend on security could save you thousands, if not millions, in the future.

Don’t Brag About Your Collection

That scenario we shared at the top of the article doesn’t seem so far-fetched now, does it?

You’ve heard the saying that loose lips sink ships. This means that a collector who’s a little too talkative about their wines, and particularly their value, puts themselves at risk.

Watch your tongue when you’re out in public. If you do talk about your collection with somebody that you don’t know, be as vague as possible to avoid clueing anybody into what you have hidden away in your cellar.

You don’t want thieves getting wind of your collection because you’re bragging about it, do you?

The Final Word

It may seem strange to think that there’s an entire black market for French and Italian wines. But when you realise that some wines can end up being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, it starts to make some sense. In fact, there are certain vintages that cost more than a house.

And they’re a lot easier to steal!

With these tips, you protect yourself and your wine collection.

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