Auction house Acker Merrall & Conduit has been caught in another blunder over the authenticity of two bottles of large format Domaine de la Romanée-Conti that were offered in two separate auctions in Hong Kong, leading it to rescind the sale of a world record-breaking 6 liter 2002 DRC and withdraw another destined for November sale.
At its September 25 sale in Hong Kong, Acker sold a 6 liter DRC Romanee Conti 2002 for HK$3,087,600 (US$398,400), which set a new world record, the auction house announced at the time.
A month later, Acker was offering another 6 liter bottle of DRC 2000 for November 6 auction from the same consignor of the previous DRC 2002 Methuselah.
The problem is, as LA-based lawyer and wine fraud expert Don Cornwell wrote on Wine Berskers that both bottles are “clearly counterfeit”.
However, when approached by Vino Joy News, Acker maintained the 2002 DRC sale has been rescinded and the 2000 DRC has been withdrawn from auction, following detailed counterfeit allegations on the two bottles raised by Cornwell, on Wine Berserkers, an online forum for wine buffs.
Cornwell sounded the alarm on the wines’ authenticity after comparing Acker’s two bottles with Sotheby’s two offers of the same size and vintage in Joseph Lau’s sale in Hong Kong and another sale in France (see below).
“Both bottles had a series of identical defects – including a hugely oversized neck labels with the word MONOPOLE printed on a flat line instead of on a curved line on an offset printer,” the lawyer wrote on WineBerserkers.com.
“Both of the Acker 6 Liter bottles had short wax capsules of mixed brown and violet color (with obvious dark mottling from the mixed wax) with a flat finish instead of the 3 plus inch long violet colored glossy wax finish on the original DRC 6 liter bottles from the 2000 and 2002 vintages.
“Both of the Acker bottles had significant printing and printing alignment errors which should have been obvious to anyone who regularly inspects DRC bottles, and in other instances would have been revealed by comparing the Acker bottles with other known authentic bottles from the vintages in question, as I did,” he added.
In reply to Vino Joy News, Andrew Bigbee, CEO of Acker Asia, stated, “The 6L of 2000 DRC Romanee Conti was printed in the auction catalogue, but once our final inspection came through, we withdrew the lot prior to the auction. Regarding the 6L of 2002 DRC Romanee Conti recently sold in a prior auction, the sale had already been rescinded.”
“We have a longstanding practice that if we find a bottle to be inauthentic, we will refund the buyer. Acker is very confident in our authentication department and work with some of the best internal and external authenticators in the world. Clearly, our clients are confident in our processes, as we will have a record shattering $170 million in auction sales this year, representing 40% of the global auction market. We will continue to do our best to detect and prevent the bad actors in the fine and rare wine market.”
It’s not immediately clear when Acker rescinded the sale, but Cornwell suspects the sale cancellation happened sometime between his original of posting on Wine Berserkers on November 21 and Acker’s reply to Wine Searcher’s inquiry of the same day.
“Acker claims that they have ‘rescinded’ the September 25 sale for $398,400 because the bottle was ‘inauthentic,’ but they were deliberately ambiguous about when this occurred,” Cornwell questioned when replying to Vino Joy News.
DRC is undoubtedly the most sought-after and revered wine in the world, and has been a target of fraudsters for years for its astronomical price and rarity.
The two bottles of the 1945 vintage were sold by Sotheby’s in New York last week, one for US$496,000 (£377,000) and the other for $558,000 (£424,000). In 2018, two bottles of DRC from the private cellar of Robert Drouhin were sold for over US$1 million in New York, setting world record as the most expensive wine ever sold at auctions.
One bottle was sold for US$558,000 and the other US$496,000.