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£1.8m of Bordeaux disappears

£1.8m worth of 2000 Bordeaux has gone missing leaving the director of a UK fine wine broking company with massive debts.

Nigel O’Mara, who is now a director of brokers In Vino Veritas, ordered and paid for the 2000s, including a substantial amount of first growths, from two French companies. These were LCDV, based in Troyes and run by Jean-Marc Grybowsky, and La Companie des Châteaux based in St Tropez and run by Jean-Marie Bellew.

The wines should have been delivered last June but it looks increasingly likely that they will never appear. This has forced O’Mara, who has more than 20 years experience in fine wine broking, into IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) – a formal arrangement whereby an individual or company agrees to pay creditors a specified sum in instalments.

Major creditors – who are owed a total of £1.3m – include merchants John Armit Wines and brokers L’Assemblage, and two private customers. All are UK-based. Both companies have met their customers’ orders in full by sourcing wines from elsewhere.

’I have been fighting to get the wines since June, when they should have been delivered,’ O’Mara told decanter.com. ‘I’m just as much a victim as anyone else. It has become increasingly difficult to contact Grybowsky and Bellew has disappeared.’

decanter.com has not been able to contact either LCDV or La Companie des Châteaux . Other UK companies have had problems with Bellew, md of the latter.

In 2001 one company thought it had bought a quantity of Romanée-Conti from Bellew but discovered he had disappeared from St Tropez, resurfaced briefly in Beaune where his office was found to be full of unpaid bills, before vanishing.

With the start of the Bordeaux 2003 en primeur season just two months away, this could not have come at a worse time for the fine wine trade. It underscores the potential risks involved in buying en primeur for both individuals and the trade.

‘It’s been an expensive lesson to learn,’ Amanda Skinner of John Armit Wines said. ‘We will be much more rigorous in our checks in future.’

Dylan Paris, a director of UK fine wine merchant Bordeaux Index, says ‘Certificates should be issued by the Bordeaux châteaux to cover en primeur stock.’

Another UK wine trade insider said, ‘Clearly anyone contemplating buying 2003 en primeur should check out the company they are buying from as well as the prices.’

Written by Jim Budd

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