How One Restaurant Lost $1.6 Million In Wine From Dine-And-Dashers

Spain has experienced a rise in dining and dashing — colloquially known there as "simpa" — in recent years. This problem goes beyond just the common-yet-unfortunate instances of patrons skipping out on the bill for a meal or two. In March 2017, The Guardian reported that an organized gang of 120 people racked up a bill of €2,200 (nearly $2,000) at the Carmen Hotel in Bembibre, Spain before fleeing the scene. That same month, Time reported that the very same group was said to have repeated their first success at another restaurant nearby, bringing 160 people and racking up a bill of $10,500.

It's easy to see how a feast of food and wine for over 100 people amounted to thousands of dollars. But last October, one acclaimed Spanish restaurant reportedly lost $1.6 million in wine from just one couple dining and dashing (via Food & Wine). The couple was just recently caught red (wine) handed nine months later.

You must be thinking, "That's a lot of wine!" But the couple didn't just guzzle all that wine at the table; they robbed the wine cellar by strategically selecting 45 of the restaurant's most valuable wine bottles from their award-winning collection.

Wine and dine (and dash)

Most grand theft robberies depicted in movies or reported in the news detail elaborate bank or jewelry store heists involving masks and a getaway car. However, one Spanish couple had their eyes on a boozier target: the stacked wine cellar at two Michelin Star restaurant and hotel Atrio in Cáceres, Spain.

According to The Guardian, the couple had checked into the hotel in October 2021 under a fake name and dined at the restaurant that night, after which they took a tour of the wine cellar. After a brief return to their room, the man sneaked back to the cellar using a "previously purloined master key," while the woman distracted the restaurant staff by asking for more food after the kitchen had closed. The Policia Nacíonal stated the couple carried out the heist with a "high degree of professionalism, specialization and perfect planning."

The most notable bottles stolen were 10 vintages from 1806-1901 of Chateau d'Yquem, the oldest being priced at $350,000, and 24 bottles of Romanée Conti Burgundy, the most expensive wine label in the world. In this video posted by the Policia Nacíonal, you can see the man entering the cellar and leaving with three large bags. The couple successfully escaped and weren't caught until this past July.

Though the culprits have been arrested, Atrio has not received its stolen bottles yet. "We don't know anything officially. I hope they have recovered the bottles," José Polo, part owner of the restaurant, told El Mundo newspaper (via Food & Wine). "Hopefully we can get our most valuable bottles back."