This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Last December, a 41-year-old Belgian woman finished work, uncorked a bottle of red wine, and planned to have a low-key evening with a colleague. But after just one drink from her glass, she realized that something was off with the wine, and she trashed the rest of the bottle.
She collapsed shortly after that, but was briefly revived by emergency services. The woman was transported to a nearby hospital, where she died five days later—allegedly from an overdose of MDMA.
According to Nieuwsblad, the original cork in the woman's bottle of 2016 Black & Bianco RED Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon had been removed and replaced, suggesting that the wine had been tampered with. "The judicial investigation showed that the victim had a deadly amount of MDMA and MDA in her blood," Lieselotte Claessens of the Antwerp public prosecutor's office told the outlet. "The researchers assume that the bottle was manipulated and that drugs were added to the wine."
Researchers in the country have suggested that drug smugglers may have used wine bottles to smuggle liquid MDMA or cocaine. Three years ago, three men from the Walloon region of Belgium were hospitalized after they bought discounted wine from a FIN Shop, a retailer run by the federal finance department (SPF) that resells confiscated goods. That bottle was later found to contain a blend of liquid MDMA and methanol.
"We are indeed seeing cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy being shipped in liquid form such as wine or other bottles," toxicologist Jan Tytgat said. "Afterwards, it's pure chemistry to turn the liquid drugs back into powders and tablets. If the dose of drugs in the bottle is very concentrated, hundreds of tablets can easily be produced."
Belgian newspaper Le Soir reports that the deceased woman worked at a FIN Shop, although the Ministry of Finance said that employees are not permitted to possess any of its products. "We no longer sell food and drink to individuals since [the 2017 incident]," Francis Adyns, a spokesperson for SPF Finances told the outlet. “We only sell large lots to buyers and only after the necessary tests have been carried out by the customs laboratory. Staff also cannot take confiscated goods home. "
Regardless, the woman's sister said that no one knows how or where she got that particular bottle of wine. "My sister was one hundred percent against drugs," she said. "She did not associate with people who used drugs or walked around under the influence. We also do not understand where that bottle came from." She added that the woman's glass is what tipped the family off that something wasn't right, because it had a "strange color" that didn't look like it had been used for red wine.
"Earlier this week, the Black & Bianco team was confronted with the fact that a Belgian woman died after drinking 'wine' from a bottle of our brand. First of all, we sympathize with the relatives of this woman," winemaker Black & Bianco said in a statement posted to its website. "Last week the Belgian police approached us in the context of a criminal investigation; at that time we did not know and we were not told that this was a situation where someone had died."
It noted that it had checked every bottle of RED Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 that it currently had in stock "as a precautionary measure," and none of them had been modified or tampered with. Officials in Antwerp have warned wine drinkers to ensure that any bottle of Black & Bianco they've purchased has a black cork with the Black & Bianco logo. If anyone finds a bottle with a different colored cork, or one that seems to have been tampered with, they're encouraged to turn it in to the police, unopened.