Acker faces fake wine accusation over DRC lots

12th April, 2017 by Natalie Wang

American auction house Acker Merrall & Condit is facing a new accusation regarding the sale of supposedly counterfeit Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) La Tâche 1967 and 1960 at its March 25 auction held at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong, after fine wine authentication expert Maureen Downey posted a comment alerting dbHK about the authenticity concerns surrounding some lots.

Lot 72-78 in Acker’s March 25 Hong Kong auction. The 1967 La Tâche on the bottom left has a capsule that says ‘La Tâche’ whereas Wineberserker users argued the capsule should have ‘Mise du Domaine’ written there instead. The 1960 next to the 1967 bottle is alleged to have an unusually long capsule and white print.

In the catalogue photos for lots 72-78, the 1967 DRC La Tâche has a capsule that reads “La Tache”. Soren R Nielsen, a user on wineberserkers.com, flagged up the bottle first, claiming that the capsule should have written “Mise du Domaine” instead, adding that the wine label also has the dark green, non-centred “Appellation La Tâche Controlée” drifting to the right (see picture above).

American lawyer Don Cornwell in a reply to Nielsen, agreed that the capsule was wrong and said the only way a vineyard branded capsule is used is if, “it was recorked at the domaine after 1977 or was a late release from the domaine” while noting that it shouldn’t have the low-fill level as the catalogue photo shows and it would also have the neck label that is missing in the photo above.

In addition, Cornwell pointed out the shade of green allegedly did not match others that he’s seen. Judging by these suspected mismatches, Cornwell concluded that the 1967 La Tâche, “is clearly presumptively fake”.

The wine description found in Acker’s catalogue simply reads “illegible vintage branding, believed to be 1967”. Its price was estimated between HK$7,200 and HK$9,600 (US$900 to US$1,200).

Regarding the 1960 La Tâche, Cornwell also noted the unusually long capsule and its white print, saying that the print should be a white-grey colour instead. The 1960 La Tâche lot is also branded by the lawyer as “presumptively fake”.

In the same catalogue, Nielsen also queried lot 207 on the basis that the 2009 Roumier’s initial letter ‘R’ in “Domaine G. Roumier” is written above letter ‘G’ in Musigny, while noting in most cases ‘R’ is above the letter ‘N’ in Musigny.

Comparing 2009 Roumier sold in Spectrum and Hart Davis Hart auctions with the one found in Acker, Cornwell agreed and said “2009 Roumier Bonnes Mares from Acker would appear to be counterfeit”.

In addition, Cornwell went on to flag up more dubious lots including 1959 Latour, 2002 D’Angerville Clos de Ducs, 1966 Vogüé Bonnes Mares, 1996 Leoville Les Cases Imperial and 1996 Rousseau Beze magnum from the March Hong Kong auction.

dbHK has contacted Acker for comments regarding the accusations, but as yet, there has been no response.

 

UPDATE (19/04/2017): Don Cornwell has revised his opinion on the 2009 Roumier Bonnes Mares and stated the following on wineberserkers.com:

“I spent some time yesterday in my commercial storage digging out my 2009 Roumier bottles for examination. I own 2009 Roumier Bonnes Mares that was purchased in the US and came from the Diageo release in New York and bottles that were purchased from one of the Domaine’s authorized distributors in Europe. Yes, the Diageo bottles offered for sale in the US have “Product of France” on the label and the alignment of the text below “Domaine G. Roumier” is different on the Diageo label. The labels on the 2009 Roumier Bonnes Mares in the Acker auction appear to match my Diageo bottles, so it does not appear that the 2009 Roumier Bonnes Mares bottles in the Acker auction are counterfeit.”

2 Responses to “Acker faces fake wine accusation over DRC lots”

  1. jordan says:

    Don Cornwell and others have determined the 09 Roumier Bonnes Mares as authentic.

  2. I have read this article a couple of times, and I am still left scratching my head. I am very familiar with Don Cornwell’s respected efforts at exposing those who commit wine fraud. I have great respect for Don. Mr. Cornwell exposed Marc Lazar, formerly of cellar Advisors, and the current owner of Domaine Storage.

    I respect Maureen Downey as a peer and fellow professional. I don’t ant to jump to false conclusions as opening text of this article is quite nebulous. This article does NOT mention or reference which auction lots Maureen Downey actually commented upon. I also find it humorous that the press and journalists appear to focus almost exclusively on her as a counterfeit wine identification specialist. There are certainly a hand full of us out there who are quite expert in counterfeit wine identification.

    As a certified sommelier, wine appraiser, counterfeit wine identification specialist, and wine expert I can tell you that delving into the area of potential “counterfeit wines” is a like stepping into the proverbial hornets nest. Ask Michael Broadbent (Christies former Wine Auction Director) who positively identified the Thomas Jefferson Chateau Haut Brion bottle, which was ultimately was revealed as a counterfeit wine. Even the wine experts make mistakes.

    I was an expert for the defense in the Bill Koch counterfeit wine case against Royal Wine Merchants Ltd. Thankfully, Royal Wine merchants settled, and that was a truly smart decision on their part.

    What most puzzle’s me about this Acker Merrall & Condit situation and the unanswered questions of this article, is why is an attorney (i.e. Don Cornwell) getting involved in counterfeit wine identification? While I have no doubt that Mr. Cornwell is incredibly knowledgeable about wines, I believe that he should stick with the practice of law, and NOT get involved as a would-be wine expert. The area of counterfeit wine identification and wine expertise should be left to the actual wine experts.

    Sincerely,

    Tom DiNardo – sommelier, wine expert, and CEO of Winery & Wine Appraisals
    http://WineryandWineAppraisals.com

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