Bizarre twist in $5million missing wine investigation

June 13, 2019
By Alana House

Furious investors say police have misled them about the condition of missing wine recovered from the Hunter Valley’s Wine Investment Services.

Dozens of prestige wine collections were reported missing from a specialist wine storage unit in the Hunter Valley after Wine Investment Services went into receivership in 2013.

Wine Investment Services was one of a number of companies that was part of the failed empire of former James Estate Wines owner David James.

It held wine collections in trust for more than 300 owners, with more than 30,000 collectable and vintage wines including Penfolds Grange, Henschke and Torbreck. The combined value of the wine was more than $5million.

Among the rare assets was a 1951 Penfold’s Grange – a bottle from the same vintage sold for a record $80,386 at an auction last year.

Penfolds Grange

The Newcastle Herald reported in April that Strike Force Farrington recovered a large amount of the missing wine, but it has not been returned to its owners due to advice from “industry and legal experts”.

“When the wine was located, it was inspected by cellaring experts, who deemed the conditions were sub-standard and the wine would no longer be of value,” NSW Police said in a statement.

However, when the Herald requested a copy of the cellaring experts’ report under freedom of information laws, police conceded this month that “there was no cellaring expert engaged and no reports exist”.

Retiree Eric Schick, who lost 1394 bottles of wine worth more than $110,000, said it was a “bizarre” turn in the case.

“I would think that you can’t tell until you open it if the wine is no good,” Schick said.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me that the police would claim that it had no value.

“This investigation, for some unknown reason, has just been written off as a bad cause but I have no idea how they thought they could write the wine off as well.”

Another wine owner said it appeared that people wanting to recover wine would have to do so through the liquidator of Wine Investment Services.

“If that is the outcome then we will be charged another fee for the service of returning what we own,” he said.

In response to the freedom of information request, police said Strike Force Farrington recovered 2395 bottles of the missing wine from a storage facility in Waterloo Rd, Chullora, on July 4, 2016. It remained there until March 2017 and was then moved by police to an undisclosed location.

“The wine has been stored in the optimum recommended climate-controlled conditions,” the report states.

“The cost for storing the seized wine is calculated to date at $36,951.25.”

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