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Premier Cru liquidation: empty bottles of fine wine among lots

Hundreds of empty bottles and thousands of empty cases of fine wine were among the lots recently sold-off from closed US merchant Premier Cru.

Some of the 2,500 wooden cases sold off at the liquidation auction

Over 2,500 empty wooden cases and more than 200 empty bottles of fine wine – including display bottles of 1872 Lafite and 1865 Latour – were auctioned off last weekend when the California-based business’ remaining assets were liquidated by the landlord.

According to the Daily Californian, the sale was held by Daniel Clar Auctioneers, a commercial liquidating business, on Saturday 3 December.

The sale included everything from the forklift truck in the warehouse, metal racking, warehouse ladders, to chairs, computers, printers, a punch bag and even a ‘Protee Golf 2.0’ virtual golf simulator.

More wine-focused lots included display racks and cabinets, bottle openers, ice buckets and hundreds of Riedel stemware and a few decanters (the full list of items sold can be viewed here).

The 221 empty bottles of fine wine were sold in six lots for $20 to $50 apiece and the 2,500 cases were sold over 20 lots.

Empty bottles and cases are of course potential tools in the arsenal of fine wine counterfeiters, who are able to fill up and seal either container with fake wine and attempt to sell it on.

Objections to the sale of the bottles and cases were raised by local wine trade figures and journalists including David Netzer of The Wine House San Francisco, Frances Dinkelspiel who writes for local Bay Area newspapers Berkeleyside and the SFGate Chronicle and anti-fraud lawyer Don Cornwell.

Attempts by Cornwell and Dinkelspiel to persuade the US Trustees Office and the landlord to have at least the bottles removed from the sale ultimately proved unsuccessful.

One positive however is that the sale was not widely publiscised outside of Berkelely and no internet or remote bidding was allowed so all buyers had to be there in person.

It is of course possible that some of these bottles and cases might be sold on through sites such as eBay at a later date.

Premier Cru was closed earlier this year and investigated by the FBI after it was discovered the owner and co-founder, John Fox, had been running a Ponzi scheme. The business closed with debts of over US$70 million.

Some 65,000 bottles of wine in the warehouse were sold on 30 September to Spectrum Wine Auctions for $3.6m, with former customers and investors receiving pennies on the dollar.

As reported by the Daily Californian, Spectrum’s president, Jason Boland, has said a “significant portion” of the wine is due to be sold by the auctioneer in Los Angeles this Friday (9 December).

Fox, who has pleaded guilty to fraud, is now in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday 13 December.

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