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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Suit Over Old Wine in Somewhat Less Old Bottles: In Vino Sales Veritas?

 

Chateau_Lafite
Chateau Lafite Rothschild

This just in from University of Minnesota Contracts Prof. Carol Chomsky:

The Antique Wine Company (AWC), a London-based wine dealer, is being sued for $25 million by Julian LeCraw Jr., an Atlanta real estate investor and wine collector, for allegedly selling 15 bottles of counterfeit rare old Bordeaux wine.  The suit claims fraud and breach of contract based on sales of a bottle of Château d’Yquem 1787, a Yquem 1847, a 6-liter bottle of Château Margaux 1908, and 12 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild ranging in vintage from 1784 to 1906. 

Stephen Williams, founder and managing director of AWC, says “it duly researched the provenance of the wines it supplied and fully disclosed that information” to the buyer at the time of the purchases, but some of those claims are contested by statements made the château merchants themselves. 

Wine grapesAn “authenticity ticket” relied upon by AWC for the 1787 Yquem  (purchased for $91,400, including insurance) was not an endorsement of the wine’s authenticity, according to those statements.  “I signed it the way people sometimes sign a menu or a post card,” said Count Alexandre de Lur Salces; “I simply put a signature on it.  It is out of the question that I could identify it as authentic.”   There is also dispute over whether the logo on some of the buyer’s bottles was registered after the date on which the wine was allegedly rebottled and whether two bottles of Yquem 1847 allegedly identical to those sold to LeCraw still exist in the cellars of the Cruse family in Bordaux. 

AWC’s lawyer suggests the issue is not whether the bottles are counterfeit, but whether the seller used a standard of care in keeping with the then-current industry practices in researching the provenance of the bottles.  For more information, see the article in The Wine Spectator here.  Makes me wonder if proving authenticity will include drinking one bottle of each!

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