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Spectrum & Vanquish ‘happy’ despite withdrawn lots at London auction

Spectrum and Vanquish's first London auction took place on Wednesday - with barely a mention of the near-scandal that saw more than a dozen lots withdrawn at the eleventh hour.

Auctioneer Richard Brierley of Vanquish

Spectrum and Vanquish’s sale at the Mandarin Oriental might have damaged the reputation of the auction world, as one expert said, but there was still a vibrant atmosphere in the packed auction room.

Spectrum was ‘incredibly happy with the results’, Jason Boland, president of the California-based house said.

Bidding was dynamic, with many of the 160-plus lots going for above or on the estimate. Lots of Domaine de la Romanee Conti – 12 of which had been removed hours before the sale in highly-controversial circumstances – went for healthy sums.

A magnum of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 1962 went for £10,925, just below its estimate, while a magnum of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée Conti 1990 fetched £17,250, above its estimate of £15,000.

Six bottles of Le Pin 2007 fetched £4,312, above the estimate of £3,750; a jeroboam of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée Conti 1990, with an estimate of £30,000, fetched £40,250.

Some lots – half-cases of Petrus 2005 for example estimated at £14,000 – failed to find bidders while others went for bargain prices: a 1995-2008 vertical of fetched £13,800, far below its £22,000 estimate.

Spectrum has not yet announced the final tally of lots sold nor the total taken.

The serious questions about dozens of DRC lots published at the weekend on the website wineberserkers.com by California lawyer and wine collector Don Cornwell, that led to the withdrawal of more than 13 lots, did not seem to bother many bidders or consignors.

Matt Harris, a Napa-based collector who buys frequently at auction and who this evening was selling an 1881 Latour, a 1909 Latour, an 1893 Yquem, and ‘many bottles’ of Le Pin said he was unaware of any problems, and was happy with the way Spectrum handled his consignment.

‘There is always controversy surrounding wine auctions and provenance,’ he told Decanter.com. ‘Spectrum came to my cellar many times, they’ve asked for receipts and I am guessing they do that with everybody. I’m hoping they do.’

At the beginning of the sale auctioneer Richard Brierley, of Spectrum’s auction partner, London-based Vanquish Wines, drew the room’s attention to the printed addenda showing lots that had been withrdrawn, but gave no explanation.

Richard Harvey MW, global head of wine for auctioneers Bonhams – a major competitor to Spectrum – suggested the controversy was ‘damaging, whatever happens, for all auction houses.’

He also conceded that authentification was difficult: ‘it’s hard to get producers to authenticate bottles, and they are not always helpful.’

Ronnie Cutmore of Essex fine wine merchant Bordeaux Vintners said there were some bargains to be had at the sale. ‘The publicity may have frightened people away,’ he suggested.

Jimmy Metta, co-founder of London merchant Vanquish Wines, told Decanter.com all wines had been available for inspection for two months.

‘Integrity for us is our number one priority. If there is a shadow of a doubt about a wine, we pull it from the sale.’

Additional reporting by John Stimpfig

Written by Adam Lechmere, and Maggie Rosen

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