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Bottle of DRC withdrawn from auction after authenticity concerns

A bottle adorned with a self-adhesive label bearing the words ‘Romanée Conti 1924’, with a guide price of HK$160,000-$220,000, has been withdrawn from an auction after concerns were raised about its authenticity.

Image: Acker Wines

Members of the forum first drew attention to the bottle, which was due to be auctioned by Acker Merrall & Condit in Hong Kong today (11 June).

The bottle was given a guide price of between HK$160,000 and $220,000 (£16,237-£22,326) and in the catalogue entry, which has now been removed, was stated to be a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Romanée Conti 1924 from the cellar of Aziz Khan with “partially visible vintage branding”.

US-based lawyer, Don Cornwell, later published a post on the forum detailing his concerns about the wine. He particularly highlighted the bottle’s “non-original wax capsule”, the nature of the glass used, and the absence of any labeling.

He stated: “This bottle has no labeling of any kind and a completely incorrect, non-original wax capsule which is approximately ¼ inch thick. The glass on the bottle shown in the photograph in the catalog, which is highly wrinkled and irregularly shaped, is absolutely not a bottle utilized by DRC in that era.

“In short, this bottle is, in my opinion, unquestionably counterfeit. I have sent a total of three emails to John Kapon and Acker (on May 28, June 1 and June 2) notifying them that I believe the bottle to be counterfeit and requesting high resolution photographs of the glass bottle, the punt, the capsule and the top of the bottle. I have received no response of any kind.”

Cornwell stressed that the glass used in other bottles of officially verified DRC from the 1920s were made from smooth glass in a classic Burgundy shape. He also noted that the wax seal on authentic bottles was “very thin” and had turned “orange/almost beige from oxidation”. This is in contrast to the relatively thick wax of the Acker bottle, which Cornwell said had been “artificially weathered” as it “clearly shows the bright red wax peeking out from where the wax was removed at the bottom of the bottle”.

In a statement from Acker Merrall & Condit Asia given to the drinks business, it was stated that the unnamed consignor had obtained the bottle from a Zachys auction in September 2012.

The auction house reiterated its belief that the bottle came from the cellar of collector Aziz Khan. It said that the bottle had been imported to the US by Collectors’ Cellar, a company owned by Bipin Desai.

The full statement, attributed to chairman John Kapon, said: “Lot 710 in our upcoming June Hong Kong auction had been acquired by our consignor at a Zachys auction in September 2012. As noted in our auction catalog, it was and remains our understanding that this bottle had been from the cellar of Aziz Khan, an extremely prominent and well known collector. Moreover, it was and remains our understanding that this bottle had originally been imported into the United States many years ago by Collectors’ Cellar – a company owned by Bipin Desai, a legendary figure in the fine and rare wine world and a person of impeccable credibility. Notwithstanding the bottle’s provenance, we determined that the most prudent and appropriate course of action under the circumstances was to withdraw Lot 710 from the sale and that is what we did.”

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