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Stealing Wine? Please, Steal It With Class

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By Brian Kumnick on August 07, 2009 6:50 AM

Amateur Shoplifting Effort Leaves a Bad Taste

Three thieves with expensive taste in wine are still at large, but their most expensive take is safely back in a cooler in a Hopkinton, Mass., wine store today, according to the MetroWest Daily News.

The perps had made off with four bottles of wine last week, among them a 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild -- a bottle worth an estimated $20,000 after esteemed wine critic Robert Parker scored the vintage a perfect 100, while lamenting that he couldn't go any higher.

The Mouton Rothschild made it back into the hands of police after an anonymous tipster recognized one of the thieves in a security video, though no arrests have yet been made.

So who were these dastardly wine purloiners?
Impoverished oenophiles desperate for an unaffordable  sip of some of France's best red? Hired hands doing the dirty work for an unscrupulous black-market wine dealer? Opportunistic kids who figured a cooler labeled "Rare Wines" probably had some serious cash potential sitting inside? It's hard to say, although descriptions and video images paint them as unassuming twentysomethings with a simple and effective scheme: one woman distracted the counter clerk, while two men raided the cooler, stuffed bottles under their shirts, and ran.

This strategy may have gotten the job done (you know, apart from the three perpetrators showing up all over the video footage), but aesthetically, such a tactic does not satisfy our need to see high-culture heists executed with Thomas Crown-level sophistication. No night-vision goggles, no security-camera hacking, no laser motion detectors -- the Hopkinton scam has about as much intrigue as the inelegant 2004 Munch paintings theft, wherein two guys marched into a Norwegian museum in broad daylight, brandished weapons, and literally tore paintings off the wall.

No doubt the Mouton Rothschild will eventually find a happy, overprivileged owner/drinker. But we must all be concerned that thefts of art and wine might in the future be carried out using methods best suited to boosting a Slim Jim or a pack of smokes.

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