NEARLY 2,000 bottles of exclusive wine have been stolen from a shop in an overnight heist.

Burglars forced their way into the wine merchants shortly after midnight on Tuesday, stealing an estimated 1,800 bottles worth around £20,000 – some unique to the store.

The wine, weighing approximately two tonnes, was in boxes and it is thought it would have taken more than one hour to make off with the booze from The Winehouse in Brighton Road, Shoreham.

Managing director Andy Wiseman said: “There was an alarm call out early that morning which one of the staff attended and did not find anything suspicious.

“Then in the morning around 6am they noticed there had been a burglary.

“We think they had set the alarm off and gone away and then after the member of staff came and dealt with the alarm, carried on.”

The thieves cut through the corrugated steel side of the building to get in but also damaging CCTV equipment.

He added: “Given the amount of work involved it must have taken about an hour. You are talking about probably two tonnes of stock.”

The business, which describes itself on its website as “an Aladdin’s cave of great wines”, also supplies wine to restaurants through its company Sheridan Cooper’s at the same premises.

Mr Wiseman said no–one would be let down as he had plenty more stock. He added: “We are very disappointed. We have been in business for more than 20 years and it is the first incident we have had.”

Among the wines were three for which the company is the sole importer – 2012 Chablis Cuvée André Dom Malandes, 2012 Fleurie Les Garants, and Saint-Bris Chablis Les Malandes.

Anyone offered any of those lines by a company other than Winehouse or Sheridan Cooper’s is asked to contact police.

Sussex Police also want to hear from anyone who may have any information, or may have seen or heard anything suspicious in the Brighton Road area in the early hours of Tuesday.

The burglary is thought to have happened at some point between 12.15am and 1.15am.

PC Sally Howarth said: "A number of people must have been involved to have removed so many bottles of wine in such a short period of time and they would have needed a van or a lorry to take them away.”

Anyone with information should email quoting serial 139 of August 26, call 101, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.