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Antique Wine Co defends record over alleged fake Yquem, Lafite

The Antique Wine Co has issued a second riposte to Atlanta-based wine collector Julian LeCraw Jr, who is seeking $25m in damages from the UK-based merchant over the sale of allegedly fake bottles of Chateaux Yquem, Lafite and Margaux.

Maureen Downey of Chai Consulting inspecting wines. She was employed by LeCraw to examine wines he bought from AWC.

Several months of behind-the-scenes wrangling spilled into the public sphere after it emerged that LeCraw has filed a lawsuit in the US accusing Antique Wine Co (AWC) of knowingly selling fake wines – a charge that AWC has strongly denied.

The cache of bottles in question includes a 1787 vintage Yquem, which LeCraw bought from the merchant for $90,000 plus insurance in 2006 and which was claimed to be the most expensive bottle of white wine in the world at the time.

Other wines named in the lawsuit are an 1847 bottle of Yquem, 12 bottles of Lafite-Rothschild spanning vintages from 1784 to 1906, and a 1908 vintage Margaux.

In an increasingly bitter war of words between the two parties involved, AWC said on Friday (25 April) it was necessary to release more details of how ‘it duly researched the provenance of the wines it supplied and fully disclosed that information to Julian LeCraw Jr at the time of his various purchases’.

For the 1787 Yquem, AWC said it had given LeCraw’s lawyer a letter issued by the Chateau in 1995, which exactly described the bottle and confirmed that cellarmaster had recorked and relabelled it.

The merchant also directly challenged two specific points in LeCraw’s lawsuit.

LeCraw claimed that Comte Alexandre Lur Saluces at Yquem could not have checked the 1847 Yquem in 2007 – as claimed on the bottle’s back label – because he left the Sauternes estate in 2004. But, AWC said that Lur Saluces did check the bottle in 2007, only at his home Chateau De Fargues in Bordeaux rather than at Yquem.

Secondly, LeCraw’s lawsuit said that counterfeiters had made a ‘sloppy mistake’ with several of the Lafites that AWC should have been aware of. Tags on some of the bottles show re-corking took place between 1979 and 1983. But, the tags show a logo with five arrows and LeCraw’s suit attests that the five arrows were first used by Lafite owner Domaines Barons de Rothschild in 1988.

AWC said Lafite-Rothschild’s management ‘have confirmed to AWC that the five arrows logo was used by Domaines Barons de Rothschild at that time (prior to 1988)’. The merchant said it also has a Domaines Rothschild letter dated 1983 and containing the five arrows logo.

LeCraw, though, said he commissioned independent expert Maureen Downey, of California-based Chai Consulting, to examine the wines. She concluded they were fakes and this assessment was backed up for the Yquem and several Lafites by the chateaux themselves, after Downey flew several bottles to Bordeaux in March.

John O’Shea Sullivan, lawyer for LeCraw, told Decanter.com earlier this week that AWC had ‘offered nothing of substance’ to authenticate the wines prior to the lawsuit filing.

No date has yet been set for a court hearing, but AWC said it would defend itself vigorously.

Written by Chris Mercer

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