Wine company sued over ‘fake’ Yquem22nd April, 2014 by Rupert Millar
London-based fine wine merchant, the Antique Wine Company, is accused of selling an American wine collector thousands of dollars worth of fake Bordeaux.
Atlanta real-estate developer, Julian LeCraw, has filed a lawsuit against AWC, AWC Holdings, AWC Global and its owner Stephen Williams for 16 counts including, breach of contract, fraud, conspiracy to defraud and negligent representation among others.
LeCraw brought the complaint after, he claims, it emerged that a number of bottles the company sold him were found to be fakes and, he said, also because AWC has not paid him “millions of dollars” for wine he had consigned in 2010.
The most high-profile claimed forgery is a bottle of 1787 Yquem which LeCraw bought for nearly US$100,000 in 2006 amid much media coverage.
When the wine was sold, it was touted as “the most expensive bottle of white wine in the world” and “made with grapes picked before George Washington was president”.
It was reported at the time that Williams flew the bottle out to LeCraw’s house in a private jet saying he was delivering it to an “anonymous American billionaire” and also stayed at LeCraw’s house in Georgia – a claim denied by Williams.
According to the Courthouse News Service, LeCraw now adds that, “he is not and never has been a billionaire, and that Williams used hyperboles to ‘further the mystique of the 1787 d’Yquem sale’.”
In 2006 and 2007, however, LeCraw bought more wine from AWC, including a six-litre bottle of 1908 Margaux and numerous 18th and 19th century vintages of Lafite – which are also said to be fake.
LeCraw said he only discovered this last year when he tried to sell some of the wines and doubts about their authenticity were raised by the merchant.
He had the wine looked at by authentication consultant, Maureen Downey, who said she thought them fakes and the fact was settled when the châteaux themselves apparently looked at the bottles only last month and said they were, “faux”.
The director of Domaines Lafite Rothschild even emphatically declared them, “Faux, faux, faux”.
In the complaint LeCraw’s lawyers stated: “The Downey report explains why each bottle of fake wine is not what it purports to be.
“For instance, on some of the bottles that are supposedly centuries old, the labels were printed by computer. Others show excess glue around the labels which could not have been used by the chateaux.
“Other indicia of counterfeiting relates to the corks, the capsules, the sediment inside the bottle, the shape and colour of the bottle, and the colour of the liquid in the bottle, among other things.”
The prosecution has also brought forward what it calls “Exhibit B”, which is alleged to be a letter of “authentication” for the Yquem from the infamous Hardy Rodenstock, a now disgraced wine collector who is in hiding.
Some of the older vintages of Lafite even have the five arrow logo which the group did not begin using until 1988, a mistake the complaint called a “sloppy mistake” on the part of the counterfeiter.
According to the Courthouse News Service, Williams also apparently refused to buy back much of the wine, even though LeCraw offered to sell them at a loss, though the company did take a lot of wine on consignment in 2010 for which, LeCraw claims, he still owed millions of dollars.
The full, 59- page, complaint can be seen here.
No one from the AWC was immediately available for comment.