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US collector sues Antique Wine Co over alleged fakes

A fine wine collector has filed a lawsuit against Antique Wine Co (AWC) in the US city of Atlanta, alleging that two bottles of Chateau d'Yquem, 12 bottles of Lafite Rothschild and one six-litre methuselah of Chateau Margaux that he bought from the firm are all counterfeit.

Maureen Downey of Chai Consulting was employed by LeCraw to investigate the wines

London-based Antique Wine Co has strongly denied knowingly selling counterfeit fine wines to US-based collector Julian LeCraw, who is seeking at least $25m in damages from the merchant.

The case is the latest in a string of court hearings over alleged counterfeit wine. In December last year, Rudy Kurniawan was found guilty in a New York of producing and selling more than $1m-worth of counterfeit wines at his Los Angeles home, including rare Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Burgundies.

Among the wine named in the LeCraw action is a 1787 vintage Yquem that LeCraw said he bought from AWC in 2006 for $91,400, including insurance. At the time, AWC claimed it was the most expensive bottle of white wine sold globally.

Other wines involved in the case include one bottles of Yquem from the 1847 vintage, Lafite-Rothschild stretching from 1784 to the 1906 vintages and a 1908 vintage Margaux.

‘The Antique Wine Company strongly denies all the allegations made against it by Julian LeCraw,’ AWC’s managing director, Stephen Williams, said in a statement issued today (22 April). He said the lawsuit would be vigorously defended.

‘Our lawyers have been in correspondence with Mr LeCraw’s lawyers over these allegations for some months and have provided them with evidence to prove that the allegations made by them are unfounded.

‘This evidence includes extensive information provided at the time of the sales to show the authenticity of the wines and subsequent documents verifying the original information.’

Lecraw hired authenticity expert Maureen Downey, of Chai Consulting in California, to examine the wines. She concluded that the wines were fakes, and her opinion was backed up in the case of Yquem and Lafite by the chateaux themselves, according to the lawsuit document filed with the US district court for the northern district of Georgia.

In light of this, LeCraw said the wines are ‘completely worthless and unmarketable’. The court document specifies that the Atlanta-based collector is seeking at least $25m in damages from AWC.

Written by Chris Mercer

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