Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of a Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine
By Maximillian Potter
We know from prison movies that inmates who really ought to be spending their time hatching plots to amend their lives are more likely to use their enforced leisure to meditate new and better crimes.
So it was with Jacques Soltys, aged 57, a second-generation French citizen of Polish descent and career lowlife who, jailed for nine years after conviction for a botched kidnapping scheme, decided that he had aimed rather too low in seizing the aristocratic wife of a well-to-do Bordeaux winemaker and holding her, unsuccessfully, for ransom. How much cleverer – and more remunerative – to take hostage vines planted in the most famous and cherished vineyard in all of France and reap a million euro payday for not poisoning every last one of them?
It’s a bit hard to communicate to those who aren’t lovers of red Burgundy the reverence, even awe, in which Romanée-Conti, the vineyard that was Soltys’s target, is held. A bit less than 2 hectares (about 4 acres) in area, it annually produces a few thousand cases of some of the most sought-after wine in the world. Prices in the Boston area for the current release start at around $5,000 per bottle but some vintages sell for much more. The Domaine de la Romanée-Conti owns this vineyard outright and portions of other grand cru vineyards nearby. If you were looking to shake down people who could afford to pay you real money, you could scarcely do better than this, and Soltys, once released, lost little time in putting his plan into action.