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Spectrum and Vanquish withdraw DRC lots from auction

Spectrum and Vanquish have withdrawn 13 lots worth hundreds of thousands of pounds from tonight's London auction because of 'apparent label discrepancies'.

Montrachet 1966: wrong capsule?

The move follows three days of intense internet activity and a public statement from London wine merchant Corney & Barrow voicing ‘concerns’ about Domaine de la Romanée-Conti lots in the auction.

Vanquish, the UK merchant partnering US auction house Spectrum, has just put out a statement saying, ‘Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, through its UK agent Corney & Barrow, has brought to our attention some apparent label discrepancies in this evening’s auction.

‘Through an abundance of caution, and in line with our commitment to excellence in due-diligence and verification, we have withdrawn 13 lots, in order that the issues can be properly investigated, in collaboration with the Domaine and its agent.’

The withdrawn lots – all except one of which are from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the thirteenth being a magnum of Chateau Latour à Pomerol 1961 – include such rareties as a case of Romanée-Conti 1971 with an estimate of £80,000, three jeroboams of the same vintage estimated at £65,000, and six magnums of La Tâche 1971 at £30,000.

Writing on Corney & Barrow’s website, Corneys managing director Adam Brett-Smith had commented on ‘the very significant amount of concern being expressed in the public domain’ about the lots.

Brett-Smith had joined a growing chorus of online comment, including from Jancis Robinson, reacting to an extraordinary list published at the weekend on the website wineberserkers.com by California lawyer and wine collector Don Cornwell, and republished on jancisrobinson.com, consisting of 15 detailed points covering dozens of DRC lots in the auction.

These include the mis-spelling of Sackville on a slip label as detailed in yesterday’s article on Decanter.com, missing and incorrect accents, missing digits in bottle numbers, discrepancies in the condition of capsules and labels, lack of detail on provenance and many other points.

Cornwell had noted that two seven-bottle lots of DRC Montrachet 1966 with estimates of £37,000 – both now withdrawn – had ‘incorrect’ capsules.

‘Lots 65 and 66 (1966 DRC Montrachet) have plain white capsules. That is incorrect. DRC utilizes a white capsule with a black printed band on it, which is similar to the branded capsules used on the red wines.’

Of another withdrawn lot he said, ‘Lot 94: a magnum of 1978 Romanée Conti (alleged bottle No. 0027). I personally owned a magnum of 1978 La Tache, which I sold at auction on December 10, 2005. My magnum had a six digit bottle number.’

Brett-Smith said in his statement, ‘Corney & Barrow believes, on behalf of its UK customers, that it has a responsibility to make public its concerns about Mr Cornwell’s comprehensive critique of a significant number of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti lots in this forthcoming auction.’

Brett-Smith made clear Corney & Barrow is ‘not an official authenticator’ of DRC wines, and the Domaine will only authenticate wines that have come ‘directly from itself via its authorised agents’.

He added, ‘There are no plans in place at this time to conduct an investigation. This is a matter we would obviously want to discuss with the Domaine.’

The sale, An Auction of Rareties, takes place at the Mandarin Oriental, London, tonight 8 February

Written by Adam Lechmere

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