It took years for Nazmul Haque Helal to amass the assortment of bottles at Lincoln Fine Wines in Los Angeles. But it took just a few hours for thieves to make off with hundreds of the store’s prized labels.
Earlier this summer, someone broke into the Venice wine shop and stole 800 bottles, worth about $600,000 in total. Now more details of the heist have come to light, as police and investigators search for the people who robbed the business, the Los Angeles Times reported recently.
“The blood, sweat and tears that went into these bottles. . .to see them taken, for us at the store, it was a violation,” Nick Martinelle, the manager of Lincoln Fine Wines, told the newspaper. “Inside that bottle is a work of art, a unique thing that will never be replicated because wine is a living, breathing thing.”
In the early-morning hours of June 30, an unidentified person entered the store’s cellar by cutting a hole through the roof. Over the course of three and a half hours, the thief grabbed an enormous amount of wine, passing it off to someone else on the rooftop, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Detectives believe that another two people could have been involved: someone receiving the wine on the ground and a getaway driver.
The wines stolen included about 75 bottles worth more than $1,000 each and about 400 bottles from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Helal and the LAPD believe that the thieves knew what inventory they wanted to take, and Helal thinks they were aided in their quest by a true oenophile. For example, the thief passed over expensive California wines in favor of those from France, and instead of grabbing pricey bottles of Krug Champagne, he went for an $800 bottle of Guillaume S. Selosse Champagne, which “not that many people know—only wine people would,” Helal said.
Particularly notable is that the suspects ran off with a Nebuchadnezzar of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne, an extremely rare, 15-liter format. A spokesperson for the label told the L.A. Times that only eight to 10 of those bottles are sent to California each year. If that bottle were to show up for resale, it would be suspicious, so industry insiders believe the thieves may opt to simply pop it themselves.
Otherwise, it’s likely that the stolen bottles will be sold overseas or doled out slowly to retail stores and auction houses. Stolen wine can be difficult to track, given that many bottles don’t include serial numbers or other means of identification. Still, the LAPD is working to identify the suspects, and Helal is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
While the wine thieves may one day be found, the wine itself may be uncorked before anyone’s able to retrieve it.