Thieves stole between 80 and 90 percent of the small crop of premium grapes destined to become this year's “Stintfang-Cuvée” wine on Tuesday evening, just one day ahead of the traditional harvest.
"I had hoped I could still save something," said Fritz Currle, the vintner who has guided the blend of red Regent and white Phoenix grapes for the last 15 years. "But I can't save anything if there's nothing there."
The name of the wine comes from the vineyard's location on the Stintfang, the hill above the landmark St. Pauli Landing Bridges over the Elbe River. In 1996 the organisers of the annual Stuttgart wine festival Stuttgarter Weindorf gave the vines to the city as a gift to celebrate their 10-year partnership with the city in staging a Hamburg version of the event in front of city hall each year.
But Stuttgarter Weindorf organiser Axel Grau discovered on Tuesday night that the thieves had left only enough of the grapes to fill a laundry basket.
Twenty-five new vines had been planted in early August on the south-facing slope, making a total of 100. The city had been optimistic about the 2010 harvest, which was expected to yield the yearly average of between 40 to 50 bottles of the highly-exclusive, not-for-sale wine. The grapes are usually transported to Stuttgart for pressing, then presented to Hamburg officials to celebrate the next wine festival. Bottles are often given to prominent visitors to the city.
But this year the pitifully few remaining grapes neglected by the unknown thieves will now be donated to a homeless shelter, vineyard organisers decided.
Although police have begun conducting interviews, they have no leads at present, they said.