5. Henry Tang’s collection
Hong Kong’s former chief secretary Henry Tang is known a oenophile, but some of his most prized collections raised concerns of authenticity by Don Cornwell. In March 2013 at his own wine auction sale organized by Christie’s, a few DRC offers were alleged by the LA lawyer as counterfeited wine.
Cornwell wrote to Christie’s and the FBI that three lots in Tang’s collection were problematic, including a methuselah of 1971 La Tâche, a three-bottle lot of 1959 Romanée-Conti and a 12-bottle case of 1978 Montrachet.
He noted that Tang’s 1971 La Tache bears two signature labels, meaning it is a later released version as the initial release bears a single signature label.
However, Tang’s bottle also bears the number 0001, which Cornwell suspected and wrote, “There is no logical explanation for how a bottle labelled and issued at least a year after the initial release of the 1971 vintage could have Methuselah No0001 on it.”
He also raised concerns over the other two lots regarding their bottles and wax. Eventually, the La Tâche was withdrawn as a precautionary measure but the other two lots went under hammer.
Lot 256 with 12-bottle case 1978 Montrachet was sold for HK$847,000 (US$108,715), surpassing its estimated value of HK$400,000 to HK$600,000 (US$51,341 to US$77,012). It was the second most expensive lot out of all 809 lots sold by Christies from the sale.
Lot 165 consisting of a three-bottle 1959 Romanée-Conti was sold for HK$242,000 (US$31,061).
Cornwell alleged that Tang bought a number of the bottles from Richard Torin, the largest customer of Antonio Castanos, who acted as the wholesaler for wines supplied by Rudy Kurniawan. But a person close to Tang said he got his wine from a reliable supplier in Britain two decades ago when Kurniawan had not started selling wines.
Later, both Tang and Christie’s said they have confirmation from DRC that it has no concerns over the three lots’ authenticity.