WineChap: Crooks are the new connoisseurs

WineChap had his Champagne stash robbed in the middle of the night. What did they take? And more importantly what didn’t they take?

My flat got burgled the other day - laptops, camera equipment and a number of bottles of premium cuvee Champagne from the wine rack were taken.  Once I’d got the anger, feeling of violation and daydream revenge fantasies out of the way the thought that remained uppermost was their choice of fizz - for they appeared to have made a specific selection, choosing some bottles and leaving others. Always looking for a silver lining I think the burglary has provided illuminating market research about those brands which are currently most appealing to the criminal underclass and one major surprise. 

The wines taken were: Piper Heidsieck Rare 2002, Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvee 225 2004, Dom Perignon 1996, Dom Perignon 2002, Luxor Brut NVand Moet et Chandon 2002

The Heidsieck, NF and Dom ‘96 were all in presentation boxes which must have enhanced their luxury status in the eyes of the pilferers, although the latter hardly needs augmentation on that front, as was apparent from the theft of the unboxed ‘02. 

In fact, alongside Krug and Louis Roederer’s Cristal , DP is the most requested Champagne in the obviously fraudulent emails from spurious gmail accounts offering credit card details followed by collection (never a delivery address of course).  

Although such attempted thefts are cretinous, and only attempted half-heartedly by cretins, it must be a reassuring compliment to the positioning of all three brands.  NB - I have noticed recently that Armand de Brignac ‘Ace of Spades’ has started to feature in the same emails. 

This will delight their marketing teams, making a change as it does from the stories of it being the preferred tipple of fraudulent traders or sprayed around nightclubs by Tottenham footballers.

The Luxor, while virtually unknown, sounds a bit like luxury, has gold lettering and foil and actually has gold flakes floating about in it.  

Such flagrant efforts to catapult this wine in to the premium category can be clearly appreciated by even the most crack-addled thief. It had been sat in the rack for a while as I couldn’t think of an occasion ridiculous enough to consume it or any acquaintance vulgar enough to give it to. 

I am very glad the last Champagne to make the list was the Moet.  I say glad, but only in the sense that I feel the brand made a very creditable wine in the excellent 2002 vintage and I’m happy for Benoit Gouez, the maitre du cave, that his efforts are being recognised, even in the wrong’un quarters.  

The wines left were: Chapel Down English Rose, Dal Bello Prosecco (2 bottles), E Barnaut Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs, a bottle of Asti (ex Laithwaites) and the big surprise of the day that perplexed me sufficiently to inspire this article, Veuve Clicquot 2004

The robbers’ disinterest in the Chapel Down and Prosecco will be disappointing to supporters of English and Italian sparkling wines, but comforting to the CIVC (the Champagne region’s regulatory body) who watch closely any perceived threats to their market share. 

It comes as little surprise that the crooks failed to spot the gem of the collection, the Barnaut.  Grower Champagne remains the preserve of the cognoscenti, and even if they flipped through the pages of their Michael Broadbent pocket guide, they may have missed that the wine was 100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir from the esteemed vineyards of Bouzy.  

They may also have considered the Blanc de Noirs style a little too vinous and meaty for pre-dinner soirees in the crack den.  Even then they might have reconsidered had they been able to recognise that the older label denoted several year’s extra bottle age. 

Given the impressive boost in US sales of Moscato wines (up by 80% last year) – courtesy of being name-checked in the ditties of Messrs Kanye West and Waka Floka and their peers – it’s rather a shame this has yet to translate in to an appreciably higher profile here in the UK. 

Certainly no blame can be laid at the door of my Asti purveyor Laithwaites, whose own profile has been successfully raised from budget mixed case mail order specialists to a solid alternative to Majestic (whose site they took over in Borough Market’s Vinopolis). 

Let’s not forget they have recently been revealed as the preferred upmarket supplier to former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone.  

Despite such varied champions, the criminals were not interested in my Moscato. 

Finally then we come to the Veuve.  Is there a more immediately attention-grabbing Champagne brand?  

The distinctive orange motif that runs through their ever-innovative seasonal packaging (cooler bags, attaché cases, neoprene bottle suits etc); their sponsorship of glamorous polo and art events ensuring their status as the global elite’s chosen flute-full… 

How could such an icon escape the attention of the robbers? 

I wrestled with this baffling mystery but can only conclude that, flicking through their guide – which could have been Hugh Johnson’s or Oz Clarke’s – the effusive praise for 2002 in Champagne (and Moet’s best vintage since 1990) was the more compelling.

Especially given that ‘04 was a Chardonnay year in the region and Veuve’s signature blend favours Pinot Noir. 

The bottle had been partially pulled from the rack, which means it had either been considered and found wanting, or to save much soul-searching and campaign re-assessment on the part of Veuve’s PR and marketing division, the crooks were disturbed by the upstairs wailing of my infant daughter and scuppered before completing their haul. 

The latter is an explanation that must be preferable to all when faced with the alternative, for surely there can be no better indicator of a product’s brand recognition than a thieving urchin’s desire to pilfer it?



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