Update on the Cantele heist

Above: I took this photo of Paolo Cantele when we first met in Austin, Texas, back in 2009.

Tracie P and I are still reeling from the news that the winery of our friends (and my client), the Cantele family, was robbed of 30,000 bottles of wine.

“It’s very strange,” said Paolo Cantele, when he and I spoke by phone yesterday. “I’ve never seen anything like this. There have been cases where thieves steal bulk wine: it’s easy to bottle and sell without being traceable. But I’d never heard of anyone stealing bottled wine” at a winery like Cantele.

I asked Paolo why the wine wasn’t insured, as his brother Umberto wrote in a letter published on their English-language blog (translated by me).

“Wineries that sell high-end wines regularly insure their wines in storage,” he told me. “But at wineries like ours, where the wines are relatively inexpensive, it doesn’t make sense since no one would ever steal [our] bottled wine.”

The 30,000 bottles were worth Euro 160,000, he said.

Where are they destined?

“They could be heading to the Balkans,” he speculated. Remember: on a clear day in Lecce, you can see Albania across the Adriatic.

“But the thieves could also sell them to an unscrupulous distributor here in Europe.”

Cantele’s wines earmarked for the U.S. market are stored in a warehouse in Genoa, he told me. Thus, it’s unlikely that the wines could make it to the U.S. “They were all labeled for sale in Europe and so you wouldn’t be able to bring them to the U.S. anyway.”

Will the Cantele winery be alright?

“We make 2 million bottles of wine every year. This was a huge setback for us but we won’t have any problems fulfilling orders. We’re about to bottle our red wines and they will ship in September.”

On his English-language blog, Paolo posted a message (translated by me): “I’m happy to inform you,” he wrote, “that Cantele’s soul is intact and perfectly healthy. The thieves gave us something that money can’t buy: the will to work harder and better.”

Thieves steal Cantele’s current vintage

Not only is the Cantele family a client of mine, they are also my close friends. It is with great sadness that I share the following message (which I translated for them this morning). Tracie P and I are keeping their families in our hearts, thoughts, and prayers. We’ll be visiting them early next month and will report back on this tragic story. That’s Cantele Chardonnay, from a past vintage, in the image above.

Dear Friends,

I’m writing you to let you know that on August 2, 2012, our winery was the victim of a robbery. An enormous quantity of bottled wine was stolen by a large and very well organized group of thieves (numbering at least 12-15 persons).

A detailed list of the stolen wines follows:

2,052 bottles Chardonnay Igt Salento 2011
174 bottles Verdeca Igt Puglia 2011
4,242 bottles Negroamaro Rosso Igt Salento 2010
4,746 bottles Primitivo Igt Salento 2009
2,640 bottles Salice Salentino Doc Rosso Riserva 2008
3,576 bottles Varius Syrah Igt Puglia 2010
3,972 bottles Varius Merlot Igt Puglia 2010
66 bottles Alticelli Aglianico Igt Puglia 2008
168 bottles Alticelli Fiano Igt Salento 2011
78 bottles Teresa Manara Chardonnay Igt Salento 2011
2,028 bottles Teresa Manara Negroamaro Igt Salento 2009
5,082 bottles Amativo Igt Salento 2009
12 bottles Le Passanti Fiano Passito Igt Salento 2007

Needless to say, we reported the crime the next day, August 3, 2012, to the Carabinieri stationed at Gaugnano.

In order to avoid any misinformation and/or to preclude idle gossip, I would like to confirm the following:

1) The stolen property was not covered by insurance.

2) Our storage of market-ready products was not protected by an alarm system; it was monitored solely by a video camera system.

In the wake of the theft, our initial sense of powerless disappointment was quickly overcome by our shared resolve, making us even stronger and more determined than before.

The only way to react to incidents like this is to get back to work. And in this spirit, I can confirm the following:

1) Tomorrow we will begin to harvest our 2012 crop, starting, as usual, with our Chardonnay.

2) The new 2010 vintage of Primitivo, Teresa Manara Negroamaro, and Amativo has been aging in bottle for a number of months and in the next few days, we will proceed to label the bottles so that the wines can be released onto the market by early September.

3) None of our winery’s projects has been or will be hindered by this deplorable event.

Lastly, I’m hoping that you will take note of any anomalies that might occur in the market in coming months.

It’s vital that we maintain and protect the supply chain, positioning, and correct pricing of each of our wines.

Thank you in advance for your much appreciated help in this matter.


Umberto Cantele