Hong Kong Wine

Bonhams withdrew A-1 sale due to overwhelming fake allegations

Auction house Bonhams has pulled out the entire A-1 Fine Wines Sale of 607 lots, which was touted as "one of Asia's most encyclopedic wine collections," from last Saturday's auction, due to overwhelming allegations of fake wines.

Auction house Bonhams has pulled out the entire A-1 Fine Wines Sale of 607 lots, which was touted as “one of Asia’s most encyclopedic wine collections,” from last Saturday’s auction, due to overwhelming allegations of fake wines, avoiding what could be “the most counterfeit-filled auction sale since the Cellar I and Cellar II auctions in 2006.”

The entire collection from A-1 sale was consigned by Singaporean collector William Giauw and consists of more than 600 lots. The sale was expected to achieve over HK$20 million for the auction house.

But allegations of fake wines concerning not just one lot but about 100 different lots including what’s believed to be counterfeits from infamous fraudster Rudy Kurniawan raised alarm in fine wine community, following a detailed post by American lawyer and long-time fake wine vigilante Don Cornwell on wineberserkers.com.

When reached by Vino Joy News, both Daniel Lam, Bonhams Director of Wine and Spirits, Asia, and Bonhams have confirmed that the sale was indeed pulled out before scheduled auction on November 21. “In consultation with the consignor, the lots were withdrawn for further investigation,” a Bonhams spokesperson replied without giving further details on how the wines were inspected.

“My kudos to Bonhams’ management and the consignor for belatedly doing the right thing here and avoiding the most counterfeit-filled auction sale since the Cellar I and Cellar II auctions in 2006,” Cornwell exalted.

Writing in Wine Berserkers, Cornwell singled out 17 lots that are believed to be what he calls “Seeing Eye Dog” lots for their obvious inconsistencies. “Wines supposedly from the same producer, same vineyard and same vintage which any human being with normal eye sight who knew nothing about wine could look at and tell you in in seconds that there was a problem because the bottles were different colors, different shapes, different heights or otherwise obviously didn’t match,” he wrote.

Cornwell went on and listed a few lots with images in the auction catalog that showed different bottle colors and shapes such as 1950 Chateau Lafleur, 1949 Jules Belin Musigny, 1959 Felix Clerget Beaune Greves and 1949 Charles Noellat Richebourg.

Beyond the 17 patently obvious “Seeing Eye Dog” lots, there were what he and his team believed to be “massive numbers of other counterfeits”, he continued, including 12 bottles of Henri Jayer that pre-date the winery’s estate bottling.

There were unicorn bottles that did not exit appearing in the auction, according to Cornwell, such as 1964 Georges Jayer Échézeaux (Lot 820), 1990 Maison Leroy Musigny (Lot 694) [Note: there was Domaine Leroy 1990 Musigny, but not Maison Leroy Musigny], and 1999 Frederic Mugnier Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Beze and Chappelle Chambertin (Lot 722). 

Other dubious lots such as old Clos de Lambrays and bottles from Burgundy 1940s and 1950s were also flagged by the American lawyer.

The suspicious 1947 Chateau L’Eglise Cllinet in the auction catalog is allegedly from Rudy Kurniawan

A trove of Chateau Lafleur also raised questions particularly the 1961 vintage as Lafleur never had neck label from 1945 vintage onwards.

More alarmingly, the lawyer also called 1947 Chateau L’Eglise Cllinet’s authenticity into question, having found labeling inconsistency and tempering signs that were believed to be Rudy Kurniawan’s MO. The fraudster himself has been released from jail just this month and could be extradited to Hong Kong where his brother is believed to be living.

“The counterfeiter also tried to scratch out or obscure the 73CL appearing on the lower left side of the label. We believe this wine came from Rudy Kurniawan, because he had a template for it among the records that the FBI seized,” he explained.

Although the A-1 collection from its Fine and Rare Wine and Whisky Sale was pulled, the rest of sale still went ahead.

The Hanyu Ichiro ‘Full Card Series’ whisky of 54 bottles from Club Qing were sold for a combined total of HK$11,890,360 (US$1,520,000), setting a new world auction record for a whisky series, the auction house announced.

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