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Bonhams withdraws suspect lots

Several hundred lots of fine wine had to be removed from a sale Bonhams was due to host in Hong Kong last weekend, when doubts were raised about the authenticity of a substantial part of the consignment.

A picture of 1947 L’Eglise-Clinet pictured in the catalogue, however pre-1954 labels from the estate were labelled as ‘Clos’ not ‘Château’

The 607 lots, dubbed the ‘A1 Collection’, were removed from a fine wine sale held last weekend (21 November) with the consent of the consignor, after concerns surfaced regarding the authenticity of a large number of bottles.

The issues were raised by Don Cornwell, a well known figure in tracking counterfeit wines, who helped compile a report detailing the clear problems with numerous lots being offered.

Cornwell wrote on the Wine Berserkers forum that the 17 lots were ‘Seeing Eye Dogs’, “wines supposedly from the same producer, same vineyard and same vintage which any human being with normal eye sight who knew nothing about wine could look at and tell you in in seconds that there was a problem because the bottles were different colors, different shapes, different heights or otherwise obviously didn’t match.”

In addition there were wines from Henri Jayer spanning 1959-1971 all of which pre-date the start of his domaine bottlings (these were actually pulled from the sale before the rest of the collection) as well as other bogus old Burgundies from various domaines, including labels that never existed (a 1964 Echézeaux from Georges Jayer and 1990 Musigny from Maison Leroy for example) and apparently bottles from estates that are rarely counterfeited such as négociant house Pierre Ponnelle.

There were also issues with some older Bordeaux, with some 1961 Lafleur bearing vintage neck tags where they shouldn’t and pre-1954 L’Eglise Clinet being referred to as ‘Château’ when in fact it was ‘Clos l’Eglise-Clinet’ from 1884 to 1954.

Cornwell said he and others “flagged approximately 100 lots of the 607 contained in the consignment”.

Having presented their findings and concerns to Bonhams, stressing that many more lots in the collection might be counterfeit, Bonhams began pulling lots from the sale and eventually gained the consent of the owner to pull the entire consignment.

Bonhams said in a statement to the drinks business that: “In consultation with the consignor, the lots were withdrawn for further investigation”.

Cornwell said he was grateful to the Bonhams management and Wine Department for “doing the right thing” but the wished the consignment had been “properly vetted” to begin with.

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