Thursday, December 9

José Polo, sommelier at Atrio, on the theft of his 45 “jewel” bottles: “They can hardly be sold in the market” | People


Last Tuesday night, the Atrio restaurant from Cáceres, recognized with two Michelin stars, closed its doors like every day after giving its last service. However, the next morning, the establishment run by chef Toño Pérez and his partner, José Polo, had been raided. Someone had entered his cellar – which houses one of the best wine collections in Spain – and had stolen “45 jewels” from the more than 40,000 bottles that are stored in the cellar of the two Michelin stars. This is confirmed by Polo himself, co-owner and sommelier, who for 35 years has built one of the best wineries in Spain. Among the stolen bottles, a unique one, a Chateau d’Yquem from 1806 that on the menu had a price of 150,000 euros, but whose value, says Polo, is “incalculable.”

At the top, the original bottle of Chateau d'Yquem from 1806, broken after an incident in storage in 2001. In the middle, the bottle containing the contents that were recovered after the incident.
At the top, the original bottle of Chateau d’Yquem from 1806, broken after an incident in storage in 2001. In the middle, the bottle containing the contents that were recovered after the incident. Ivan Paniagua

“That bottle was part of my personal history, almost part of me, of the history of Atrio, but also of Cáceres, of its citizens, of all lovers of the world of wine; she is the bottle, impossible to substitute for what effort, sacrifice and love for a profession and wine have entailed. 215 years of the history of Spain, of wars, of peacetime and of the construction of a united Europe ”, stated Polo himself, in a letter signed by him and by Pérez that was disseminated to the press. The bottle in question was in the most cared and revered place in the winery, a small room in which 80 vintages of Chateau d’Yquem are displayed.

In addition to the aforementioned bottle – acquired in 2000 at auction and whose contents had to be recovered in 2001 after the original bottle broke – Polo confirms that among the other 44 there are six from the 19th century. “They can hardly be sold on the market. Those of Romanée Conti – one of the most valued wines in the world -, for example, are numbered ”. EL PAÍS has also contacted Toño Pérez, chef of the restaurant, who although he preferred that Polo explain what happened, has stated that he is “fatal, very sad”, because it is not a “question of money”, rather, it is part of their “history” and their “life.”

The provincial brigade of the Judicial and Scientific Police investigates the events, but Polo recounts on the phone what he remembers from the previous hours. That night at the restaurant, which is also a hotel belonging to the Relais & Châteaux chain, they only had a reservation from a lady whom they called to confirm their attendance, but they were unable to speak with her. The lady arrived at the hotel establishment as planned and announced that she would be coming to dinner with a friend. “They spoke English,” recalls Polo, who says that lately he is a regular for filming in the area of ​​the series Game of Thrones. When the meal was over, the couple visited the bodeja, something that is routinely offered to diners as part of the experience. Then they went to the bedroom “although he was not registered.” “At one and something in the morning they called the night shift, which is the one who is watching, and asked if they could make them something to eat. In his spirit of satisfying the customer, the boy said that the kitchen was closed, but that he was going to try to bring even a salad. We think that at that moment they went down, opened two doors with electronic locks, with the lights off and took 45 jewels ”. Later, Polo explains, “at five in the morning, the same couple came down with bags, paid and went through the door.” “It was a clean robbery,” he says.

José Polo with the bottle of Chateau d`Yquem of the Denomination of Origin Sauternes de Bordeaux (France) from the vintage of 1806.
José Polo with the bottle of Chateau d`Yquem of the Denomination of Origin Sauternes de Bordeaux (France) from the vintage of 1806. Juanjo Molina (EFE)

The 4,500 references that, according to Polo, the restaurant’s winery are the result of effort and “35 years of work” and, as they recall in the statement sent, sometimes the result of their own history as a couple: “They were 45 very special bottles bought for decades with a lot of effort and affection, and with the annoyance of Toño, who reprimanded me when he found out about my follies of wanting to do in Cáceres, a city that we deeply love, one of the best wineries in the world ”. An objective from which, according to him, he does not intend to give up: “What happened is not a matter of money, but of pride, effort and work to leave all this legacy to the city.”

Polo says that, despite the pain, they have been overwhelmed by the love and support received, something that has encouraged them to tell what happened and try to make the mourning pass soon. Among the calls received is that of the sommelier Josep Pitu Roca, from El Celler de Can Roca, who told him that he understood him: “Because it’s as if they ripped off part of your body.” In an attempt to move forward, Polo says that he has already given an order to “fill in the gaps” free of the stolen bottles. Except for one. “I have asked that in that [el de Chateau d’Yquem de 1806] do not put anything. The object has been stolen from me, but its history belongs to us ”.


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