Spectrum auction “redefines” London scene

9th February, 2012 by Rupert Millar

The inaugural Spectrum wine auction in the UK was hailed as “redefining” London’s auction scene after last night’s sale, despite controversy surrounding certain lots.

The withdrawal of 13 lots prior to the auction due to suspicions over their authenticity cast a shadow over the event but it did not appear to deter punters.

It was standing room only apparently at the ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental as bidders competed for lots of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 1969 and Haut-Brion and Palmer 1961.

“It has been an honour for us at Spectrum Wine Auctions to work alongside Vanquish and enter the London wine scene with our inaugural London auction yesterday, and we are incredibly happy with the results,” said Jason Boland, president of Spectrum Wine Auctions.

“This was truly a global event with a packed auction room here in London, as well as buyers in the US and Hong Kong and all over the world placing their bids on a truly amazing selection of fine wine.

“We appreciate the hospitality and enthusiasm we have enjoyed here in London and we look forward to returning.”

Speaking yesterday to the drinks business before the auction, both Boland and Vanquish’s head of fine wines, Richard Brierley, explained that they wanted to instil a greater sense of theatre and energy to London auctions.

“In some cases it’s so easy to find that the room is no longer a player,” said Brierley, speaking of the large number of ways absent buyers were able to bid via phone or online.

He continued: “There’s a theatre to a packed room. It might be romantic but we’d like to preserve the best parts of what an auction is.”

Despite the success of the event, it has not been without controversy. In the run-up to the sale various concerns were raised online concerning the veracity of some of the lots.

Spectrum had to make it clear that Rudy Kurniawan, who has been accused in a number of fraud cases, was not a consignor of some of the wines in last night’s sale – a very rare move.

Nevertheless, 13 lots of DRC were removed from the sale after Californian lawyer and wine collector, Don Cornwell, raised his own concerns on jancisrobinson.com.

He stated that, among other things, the capsules on the DRC Montrchet 1966 were incorrect, that the bottle number of a magnum of Romanée-Conti was two digits short and that a slip label on a lot of DRC 1978 misspelled Percy Fox’s address as “Sackvilee” street, rather than “Sackville”.

DRC’s current UK distributor, Corney & Barrow, was dragged into the commentary, with managing director Adam Brett-Smith saying on the merchant’s blog: “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.”

However, he added that there are no plans to conduct an investigation at present but the matter would be discussed with the domaine.

4 Responses to “Spectrum auction “redefines” London scene”

  1. Apparently “redefining” means “opening the door to fraudulent property” in this context.

  2. Thomas Gadd says:

    This is an extremely irresponsible article. There is good evidence to suggest that many, if not most, of the lots in this auction were fakes. Spectrum went on with the auction despite being contacted by numerous wine experts, both the UK and US importer of DRC, and the Domaine itself. Yet the article reads like a press release by Spectrum.

  3. michael daymond-king says:

    Not one of the quotes in the article or any of the bold statements is verified by a source external to the PR machine of Spectrum/Vanquish. This is not an Auction report at all. It’s a complete sham. Come on db have a good look at yourself in the mirror, and if you didn’t send anyone down to verify what went on at this controversial auction for your readers you have failed in a major way. Just blithely printing their press release does you no favours.

  4. Rupert Millar says:

    The purpose of this article is not to put the populist boot into Spectrum/Vanquish for their, supposedly, fraudulent actions.

    Those who refer to this article as “irresponsible” or a “sham” would do well to read it in full. I have been impartial and considered the facts as were available to me at the time of writing and from following the story in between my other responsibilities here at db.

    Yes, there was controversy surrounding 13 lots of Burgundy, notably DRC, and these were withdrawn before the auction. Corney & Barrow expressed their concern but a look at Adam Brett-Smith’s entry on his website or a similar article on decanter.com will show that he is consulting the domaine but, and crucially, also says he will not be investigating at this time.

    If further lots beyond those withdrawn were fraudulent I have yet to hear about it and the truth of it, I have no doubt, will come out in due course.

    Until then I have presented the facts that were available to me. If Spectrum say the auction was a success I see no reason to disbelieve them, but I have tempered their understandable enthusiasm to put the fraud claims behind them with the facts as they stand, pertaining to the fears expressed by Corney & Barrow and Mr Cornwell on jancisrobinson.com and elsewhere.

    I will not accuse Spectrum of filling their auction with fake bottles or of accepting lots from dodgy consignors if it cannot be proven or it has not been reported to be so.

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