Paris’ ‘Ratatouille restaurant’ loses £1.3m-worth of wine

Paris' 'Ratatouille restaurant' loses £1.3m-worth of wine
The front of La Tour d'Argent in ParisGetty Images

Wine worth more than €1.5m (£1.3m) has vanished from La Tour d’Argent, one of Paris’ most famous restaurants and the inspiration for the film Ratatouille.

Romanée Conti, one of the most expensive wines in the world, is among the bottles taken from the 442-year-old restaurant.

The wine could have gone missing any time since January 2020.

A complaint was filed to French police last week, but no evidence of a robbery has been found.

The loss was discovered during a routine inventory of the 300,000 bottles at the “largest cellar in Paris,” a sommelier told Le Parisien.

An estimated 83 bottles are thought to be missing, according to the last inventory, which was taken in 2020.

But as the bottles are numbered, it would be difficult for a thief to sell them discreetly, the sommelier said.

Among the missing bottles are wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti a Burgundy estate famed for producing expensive vintages.

Individual bottles can sell for five-figure sums, with a 1966 Grands Échézeaux Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Grand Cru Nicolas priced at £4,057, according to latest estimates.

A bottle of Romanée-Conti from 1945 was sold for €482,000 (£410,905) in 2018, becoming the most expensive bottle in the world at the time.

The Third Division of the Paris Judicial Police have been put in charge of the investigation

On a number of occasions, La Tour d’Argent has found itself caught up in historical events.

During the Nazi invasion of Paris in 1940, the restaurant’s owner Claude Terrail concealed his most prized bottles behind a fake wall in the cellar, after Hitler’s troops took over the premises.

Located in the 5th arrondissement, the restaurant overlooks the River Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral, and is often described as “the oldest restaurant in Paris” with a history that dates to 1582 – though this is disputed by historians.

Speaking to the BBC, Patrick Rambourg, a researcher at the Université Paris Cité and author of the book History of Gastronomic Paris, from the Middle Ages to the Present Day, said its claim to be the city’s oldest restaurant was a “tall tale” – adding that “the notion of a restaurant as an establishment in the 16th Century doesn’t work”.

La Tour d’Argent rose to fame in the 19th Century and gained notoriety for its signature duck dish, canard au sang, which translates to bloody duck and uses the bird’s juices to make a sauce.

Following an extensive renovation in 2022, the restaurant reopened in August last year and now includes a ground-floor bar, luxury hotel suite, rooftop terrace and an open kitchen in the dining room.

A sommelier of Paris restaurant La Tour d'Argent holds a bottle of wine in the restaurant's cellar in central Paris on September 2, 2020.

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To celebrate its reopening, a list cataloguing the contents of its cellars was compiled.

The wine list weighs around 8kg and has to be wheeled out to diners on a trolley.

The restaurant has hosted a number of heads of state and monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth II, who dined there in 1948.

Its famous customers have included Charlie Chaplin, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Salvador Dalí, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

The restaurant also inspired the 2007 animated movie Ratatouille, which tells the story of young rat who dreams of becoming a chef at a famous eatery.

A small illustration of the eponymous rat hangs in the restaurant, signed by director Brad Bird, who spent days sketching the dining room, capturing the lamps, cheese trolley and maitre d’s outfit.

The BBC has contacted Le Tour D’Argent for comment.

Character of Remy in Ratatouille holding a carrot

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By David Ryckman