RUDY KURNIAWAN & GLOBAL WINE AUCTION FRAUD THREAD (MERGED)

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Re: URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #61  Postby Don Cornwell » February 5th 2012, 11:46am

jasonboland wrote:All the wine in this auction went through an elevated inspection process by our experts before being placed into the sale.


Here are some of the more obvious issues that are raised by the pictures in the catalog, but which are not addressed anywhere in the text of the auction catalog:

(1) Condition of the capsules vs. fills and labels. The biggest red flag to me is the condition of the capsules as compared to the fills/labels. Many of the wines on this list have very clean labels and excellent fills, but ratty capsules. This makes no sense at all and the reverse is much more common with old wines from damp cellars. Spectrum has done nothing to explain this.

(2) No provenance information of any kind vs. an exceptional number of cut capsules. I do not ever recall seeing an auction catalog before where there wasn’t a single comment about provenance. Usually, at a minimum, there is some type of description of the storage conditions for the wine. But here there is absolutely nothing. Is that because Spectrum thought they would be taking a risk by making any statement whatsoever about how or where these wines were stored before the sale? With that alarm already sounding, the huge number of capsules that were cut or trimmed -- apparently before the wines ever reached Spectrum – again raises major questions that call for serious disclosure. Ordinarily, wines that come out of the cellars of original owners don’t have T-cuts and capsule trims unless the owner has already tried unsuccessfully to sell the wines and had them rejected by an auction house. I can’t remember seeing DRC capsules where somebody cut off the printed band that surrounds the bottom of the capsule as an alleged means of providing assurance of proper provenance. Instead this raises the potential for fraud and certainly cries out for complete disclosure about where these wines came from, what other experts/auction houses rejected them and why. See lots: 37, 88, 89, 90, 93, 95, 96, 98, and 131. Lot 132 has perfect conditions except for an excessively abraded capsule. Spectrum: what is the explanation for zero provenance disclosure and yet clear indicia that a number of these wines appear to have been evaluated and possibly rejected by other auction houses previously?

(3) Missing Accent Marks on Romanée in the Appellation Controlée Line. Several lots of the DRC Romanée Conti are missing the accent on the first Ė (accent Aigu) on the green-colored Appellation Romanée Conti line. This is something that DRC has always used. The following lots of Romanée Conti appear to be missing the é in “Appellation Romanée Conti” and thus would appear to be questionable.

-Lot No.99: 12 bottles of 1971
-Lot No 101: 3 jeroboams of 1971 (but this is slightly unclear in the photo)
-Lot No 118: 12 bottles of 1966
-Lot No 121: 12 bottles of 1964
-Lot No 124: 3 magnums of 1962
-Lot No 127: 12 bottles of 1959

Was any attempt made by the “experts” to verify the authenticity of these anomalous labels with the Domaine?

(4) Missing Accent Marks on Post-77 La Tâche in the Appellation Controlée Line. Today’s modern La Tâche label contains an accent (circumflex) over the second A in La Tâche – both on the main block lettering of the vineyard name, and the green appellation controlée line. The circumflex was not included above the second A in La Tâche until the 1978 vintage and it appears on all La Tâche bottles from 1978 on. (The one exception to this that I’m aware of is that Wilson-Daniels has released some bottles of 1971 La Tache with new labels which contain the circumflex over the A in both places and Wilson-Daniels strip labels. It is possible that there may have been some other pre-78 vintages where Wilson-Daniels or the DRC importers in other countries have issued late releases with the new label, but I haven’t seen any to date.) . Lot 11, a magnum of 1985 La Tache, is missing the circumflex over the A on the green appellation controlee line, and thus the label appears to be a potential counterfeit. Again, was the authenticity of these labels confirmed with the Domaine?

(5) Incorrect Accent Marks on Propriétaire on the second printed line on the label. Another little-noticed change in DRC’s labels over time is that the modern label has an accent (Aigu) on the first E in the word propriétaire which appears on the left side of the second printed line on the label. DRC first began using the Aigu in the word propriétaire sometime after 1975 and the Aigu definitely appears in Proprietaire on line 2 on all DRC bottles from the 1978 vintage onward. It is not properly there however on bottles issued before 1976. (This is once again subject to the same exception for late release bottles of 1971 through Wilson-Daniels, which do bear the Aigu in Proprietaire.) In the case of the Spectrum wines, it would appear that someone copied the modern DRC label in attempting to fake older bottles of DRC, because the following lots contain an Aigu in Propriétaire but should not for the vintage in question:

-Lot 17: 2 magnums of 1959 Romanée Conti
-Lot 65: 7 bottles of 1966 DRC Montrachet
-Lot 66: 7 bottles of 1966 DRC Montrachet
-Lot 99: 12 bottles of 1999 Romanée Conti
-Lot 118: 12 bottles of 1966 Romanée Conti
-Lot 121: 12 bottles of 1964 Romanée Conti

Once again, if you have information from the Domaine that the labels on these bottles are correct, would you please share it.

(6) Incorrect Number of Digits on Bottle Numbers. The following lots contain an incorrect number of digits on the bottle number when compared with other bottles of known provenance:

-Lot 12: six magnums of 1971 La Tâche (alleged bottle No. 0255). Compare, e.g., 1971 La Tâche magnum (bottle No. 01078) in “Wines from the Legendary Cellar of Wolfgang Grünewald” Acker Auction Oct 18, 2008 at page 174. See also Acker Hong Kong Auction No. 1, May 31, 2008 Lot 122 (1971 DRC La Tache Magnum No. 00327). Notably, the 1971 magnums that Mr. Kurniawan sold in the April 27, 2007 Christie’s Los Angeles auction had very similar four digit numbers. See the Christie’s April 27, 2007 auction catalog at page 85 (bottle numbers 0233, 0235 and 0236.)

-Lot 15: two magnums of 1962 La Tâche (alleged bottle Nos. 0306 and 0308.) Compare, e.g. 1971 La Tache magnum (bottle No. 00346) in “Wines from the Legendary Cellar of Wolfgang Grünewald,” Acker Auction Oct 18, 2008, Lot 646 at page 174.

-Lots 65 and 66: each lot consists of 7 bottles of 1966 DRC Montrachet. Note that the bottle numbers on Lot 65 are all four digit numbers, ranging from 0900 to 0906. However, Lot 66 is all five digit numbers, ranging from 00035 to 00041. DRC uses either five or six digit numbers on their Montrachet bottles and used five digit numbers for the Montrachet in the 1966 vintage. See the photo below of Bottle 00148.

-Lot 94: a magnum of 1978 Romanée Conti (alleged bottle No. 0027). I personally owned a magnum of 1978 La Tache, which I sold at auction on December 10, 2005. My magnum had a six digit bottle number. See also Lots 95-97 in this auction (1978 Romanée Contis in 750 ml bottles) which have six digit numbers.

-Lot 100: a magnum of 1971 Romanée Conti (alleged bottle No. 0048). Compare, e.g. 1971 Romanée Conti magnum (bottle No. 000355) in “The Don Stott Collection,” Acker Merrall 11/4/2011, at Lot 1246 (at page 435).

-Lot 101: 3 jeroboams of 1971 Romanée Conti (alleged bottle Nos 016, 017 and 018.) Compare, e.g. 1971 Romanée Conti Jeroboam (bottle No. 00014), in “Hong Kong XVI,” Acker Merrall 9/16-17/2011, Lot 811 at page 268 and related photo.

(7) Incorrect Capsules. Lots 65 and 66 (1966 DRC Montrachet) have plain white capsules. That is incorrect. DRC utilizes a white capsule with a black printed band on it, which is similar to the branded capsules used on the red wines. A photo showing the proper capsule and label is set forth below.
66 DRC Montrachet.jpg

The description on Lot 65 says five bottles have “nicked Establissements Nicolas” capsules and the labels have “Establissments Nicolas” stamped on them. I’ve never heard of any DRC Montrachett being capsuled with Nicolas capsules. Leaving aside the absence of the Domaine capsules, why would wines have Nicolas capsules and labels and Lebegue-Bichot import/export strips (see photo of Lot 65 on page 69) at the same time? That makes no sense. Lot 66 has plain white capsules for which no explanation is provided and the Lebegue-Bichot import/export strips on that set of bottles are quite different.

(8) Wrong glass Lots 65 and 66 (1966 Montrachet) have completely different glass, including one that is completely inappropriate for a bottle of 1966 wine. The photo of Lot 65 on page 71 shows modern “tire tread” glass near the punt. The photo of Lot 66 on page 73 shows flat glass on the punt appropriate for the era.

(9) Too many bottles. 1966 DRC Montrachet is an exceedingly rare wine at this point. A search of Wine Market Journal reveals that only 7 bottles of 1966 DRC Montrachet have come into the auction market since 1996. Spectrum purports to have 14 bottles in a single auction. Surely this requires, at a minimum, a detailed description of the provenance of these bottles.

(10) Crudely stamped bottle numbers vs Domaine’s printed numbers. Lot No. 94 (an alleged magnum of 78 Romanée Conti) has a crudely hand-stamped four digit number. However, for the 1978 vintage DRC had the numbers printed onto their labels. See, for example, the photograph of Lot 97 (1978 Romanée Conti 750ml bottle) which appears at page 105 of the Spectrum catalog. See also the photograph of 1978 Romanée Conti (Bottle No. 005884) in “The Ultimate Cellar,” Sotheby’s April 2-3, 2011 (Lot 6244 at page 171.)

(11) Misspellings. On lot 94 (magnum of 78 Romanée Conti), the street address of Percy Fox, the UK agent, is misspelled. The name of the street. is Sackville, not Sackvilee. There are numerous photographs of the Percy Fox strip label with the address correctly spelled on other bottles in other auction catalogs. Have your experts contacted Percy Fox to determine whether they in fact used strip labels with their address misspelled?

(12) Wrong surround trim on the neck label. On Lot No. 99 (12 bottles of 1971 Romanée Conti) the decorative edging around the neck label is incorrect. The normal edging is a thick bold outer line tracing the shape of the neck label and a second fine parallel line in black with white space in between. On Lot 99, the fine black line and white space is missing. Instead there appears to be a solid gray line directly abutting the black solid outer line and there is no intervening white space between them. .

(13) Record of prior sale of the same numbered bottle. Lot 101 consists of three jeroboams of 1971 Romanée Conti with consecutive numbers. One of those is No 018. A jeroboam bearing the identical number was sold in Kurniawan's Cellar II auction and another bearing the number 00018 was sold in the Rosania/Kurniawan auction at Acker on April 25, 2008. Each of these jeroboams had different strip labels, neck labels, etc. and both of them are quite different in appearance from Spectrum’s lot 101. What evidence did Spectrum’s “experts” use to determine that the bottle in Lot 101 is legitimate and the other two (at least one of which came from the same source) were fake? Moreover, how does Spectrum explain the fact that the three jeroboams in Lot 101 have three digit bottle numbers and are missing the Aigu accent on the first Ė on the green-colored Appellation Romanée Conti line?

(14) Soil level irreconcilable between main label, neck label and strip label. This is true in several instances. One of the most egregious is Lot 97 (1978 Romanée Conti). Another is lot 121 (12 bottles of 1964 Romanée Conti.)

(15) Wrong font/wrong spacing on some older neck labels. My very first impression as I looked at the photographs of the older wines in the catalog was that the font is wrong on the neck labels. DRC uses a comic-type font for MONOPOLE on the neck label. From 1990 on, the font in use for “MONOPOLE” has been the same as is depicted in the photo of the 1999 Romanée Conti on page 22 of the Spectrum catalog. However prior to the 1990 vintage the font on the neck label was slightly different. The font was slightly narrower, with the result that the straight lines in the M, N, P, L and E appear somewhat “thinner” before 1990. Additionally, the top portion of the letter O was distinctly “thin” in comparison with the bulbous bottom. See the photographs of the neck labels on the 1966 to 1988 vintages set forth at pages 70 and 74 of the Sotheby’s “Ultimate Cellar” catalog and pages 174, 176 and 186 of the Wolfgang Grünewald catalog referenced above. In addition, prior to 1990 (except apparently for the vintage 1964), the vintage date was printed in a regular font, not the thick bold numbering which appears on the modern labels In addition, for the years from 1978 through 1988 there was greater space between the numerals comprising the year than there is today. (Again, see the photographs from other auction catalogs referenced above.) The neck labels on the Spectrum bottles in Lots 11, 12, 89, 91, 92, 94, 97, 99, 118 and 122 do not match the neck labels in other auction catalogs for the vintages after 1964 and before 1990. The neck labels in the Spectrum catalog appear to be copies of the modern version – with a much thicker font on MONOPOLE, broad bold numbering and tight spacing between the numerals, even for the vintages from 1978 through 1988.

Ultimately, I’m left astonished wondering whose Spectrum’s alleged “experts” were and just what did they do? There are so many red flags here; so many things that an alleged “expert” should have detected but didn’t. Just what did this allegedly “elevated inspection process” consist of? What steps did Spectrum take to authenticate the “once in a lifetime” bottles of 1945 La Tache and Romanée Conti with DRC itself? What information did Spectrum obtain from DRC, if any, that would enable them to offer these wines to the public despite the obvious issues?
Last edited by Don Cornwell on February 5th 2012, 9:10pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #62  Postby Eric LeVine » February 5th 2012, 11:58am

Wow, amazing Don.
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Re: URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #63  Postby Brian G r a f s t r o m » February 5th 2012, 12:02pm

OK, folks; we don't normally do this so early in the year, but I'm afraid the POTY ballots are now officially closed, as we now have a clear winner. Thank you for your understanding regarding this matter, and please try again next year. [thankyou.gif]

Don,
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Re: URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #64  Postby CJ Beazley » February 5th 2012, 12:08pm

That is some impressive investigative work there. It would appear that most of what you stated is irrefutable. At this point I feel the auction house HAS to respond, on this forum, to these observations to have any credibility left concerning these lots. I feel sorry for some unfortunate buyer who doesn't have this information, regardless of what they chose to do with, or mix with, these purchases.
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Post #65  Postby Peter Kleban » February 5th 2012, 12:09pm

John Morris wrote:
British libel law is scary and hard for Americans to grasp because we are lucky enough to have had the benefit of 50 years of Supreme Court rulings that create a lot more latitude for public discussion. In the process, we've become more thick skinned. The British are much more sensitive about their reputations in the face of accusations, and those who feel aggrieved -- whether justified or not -- have a powerful bludgeon in the form of the law.


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Post #66  Postby CJ Beazley » February 5th 2012, 12:13pm

Not unless you publicly call her a "tart"
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Post #67  Postby droch » February 5th 2012, 12:15pm

Eric LeVine wrote:Wow, amazing Don.

This.
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Post #68  Postby AAgrawal » February 5th 2012, 12:17pm

Oh wow. This is stunning, and a huge amount of work. You sir are a true burgophile's burgophile. I think DRC should hire you as their counterfeit czar.
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Post #69  Postby Peter Kleban » February 5th 2012, 12:20pm

Incredible piece of detective work, Don. [worship.gif] [worship.gif] [welldone.gif]
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Post #70  Postby Brad Kane » February 5th 2012, 12:23pm

Peter Kleban wrote:Incredible piece of detective work, Don. [worship.gif] [worship.gif] [welldone.gif]


What Peter said.
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Post #71  Postby Andrew L. » February 5th 2012, 12:23pm

Great post, Don. I would love to see Spectrum come back with a response to that.
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Post #72  Postby Tom Blach » February 5th 2012, 12:24pm

Don, Bravo. I have forwarded your magnificent work to Richard Brierley in London.
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Post #73  Postby Cris Whetstone » February 5th 2012, 12:25pm

Andrew L. wrote:Great post, Don. I would love to see Spectrum come back with a response to that.

I don't see how they can other than with a "we will look into it".
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Post #74  Postby Peter L Funsten » February 5th 2012, 12:34pm

Don,
Well done for your excellent research which I am sure took many hours and some days to carefully analyze the catalogue and come to your conclusions. You are not only a great taster of Burgundy wines and friend but a first class investigator and a great help to all of us that purchase at auction.
Gentlemen, Don is humble man who rarely gets credit for his endless service to our wine community (the Premox wiki, his precise notes on wines and his extensive relationship with the Burgundy world) but he is also an excellent lawyer who is careful and cautious in his conclusions. If he says Urgent Warning...take notice!
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Post #75  Postby Humberto Dorta » February 5th 2012, 12:35pm

Dont f*ck with THE DON. [worship.gif]
Im don't drink much Burgundy and if I did, I wouldnt play in this market and I'm still impressed to hell. Wow.
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Post #76  Postby ybarselah » February 5th 2012, 12:36pm

I see what you did there, Don.
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Post #77  Postby Alan C h a n » February 5th 2012, 12:37pm

There goes my diabolical plan to bring those DRC bottles that I found at the corner liquor store for dinners at Don Cornwell's house.
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Post #78  Postby Ed Baum » February 5th 2012, 12:46pm

Wow.
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Post #79  Postby drsugarman » February 5th 2012, 12:56pm

Don - Wow!
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Post #80  Postby NickWittman » February 5th 2012, 12:59pm

Fantastic post Don!

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Post #81  Postby Didier Li » February 5th 2012, 1:08pm

I joined this forum as a result of this thread. I'm not in the market for Burgundy but this kind of research is a benefit to every collector in the world. Even if you weren't intending to bid at the auction (I was), this should once again ignite the debate over the risks inherent with buying at auction these days...especially rare bottles. Thank you Don. [welldone.gif]
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Post #82  Postby Dale Bowers » February 5th 2012, 1:12pm

(1) Condition of the capsules vs. fills and labels. The biggest red flag to me .....


Great work Don.

I am by no means an expert like Don, but this struck me as well. I just examined the oldest bottles in my cellar and discovered exactly what Don mentions. Almost all of the bottles have pristine capsules compared to the labels. Most labels have a few nicks, age spots, and some soil, while the capsules appear new. If an admitted rookie like myself noticed this, what does that say about Spectrum's so-called experts?
Last edited by Dale Bowers on February 5th 2012, 1:14pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #83  Postby Richard Shama » February 5th 2012, 1:14pm

Didier Li wrote:I joined this forum as a result of this thread. I'm not in the market for Burgundy but this kind of research is a benefit to every collector in the world. Even if you weren't intending to bid at the auction (I was), this should once again ignite the debate over the risks inherent with buying at auction these days...especially rare bottles. Thank you Don. [welldone.gif]


Fully agree. Thanks Don.
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URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #84  Postby Dan Rosenheck » February 5th 2012, 1:14pm

I'm in awe. You should offer your consulting services to collectors! And <ahem> auction houses...


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Post #85  Postby Bruce Leiser_owitz » February 5th 2012, 1:26pm

Don--Thanks again for the thread and your detailed post.

On the provenance, SOME of the lots have some indication of provenance. On page 124, for lots 114 and 115, what appear to be rather astoundingly pristine labels for 1909 and 1881 Ch. Latour purport to be explained as being from a particular Christie's auction, with the wine consigned directly by Latour. Whether that information is accurate, and what efforts were made to verify its accuracy with Christie's and Latour, are other matters.

However, many, many lots have no provenance information at all. Another one that jumps right out is Lot 138--supposedly a six-liter bottle of 2000 Ch. Lafite. If you look at the photo on the preceding page, 138, you'll see that the label on the bottle is rather significantly crooked; the label dips from right to left. It's not easy to imagine that Ch. Lafite would bottle something like the 2000 Lafite in a six-liter format and let it go out the door with such an obviously crooked label. So......what is the provenance on this bottle? Nothing at all is listed.

I am in no position to opine one way or another as to the authenticity of various of these bottles, especially since I haven't seen them in person. But Don is certainly correct to point out the astonishing lack of information in various auction lots about the purported provenance.

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Post #86  Postby Paul Marquardt » February 5th 2012, 1:56pm

John Morris wrote:Don's post laid out the information carefully and responsibly but, like Brady, I think it's worth reminding everyone here that there are risks to bad-mouthing British people on-line, even on an American-based board.


I'm not a UK lawyer and this is not legal advice, but I think John and Brady are right to flag this issue. I don't doubt the good faith of all involved in posting, but I would hate to see someone get screwed for trying to perform a public service.
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Post #87  Postby Jeff Leve » February 5th 2012, 2:30pm

Don... WOW! Great post. Thank you for the thread and the post. The response by Spectrum was shameful and filled with double speak. I hope they respond in detail to your detailed and well-written response.
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Post #88  Postby p. raghib » February 5th 2012, 2:32pm

Don, that is a fantastic amount of detail-thank you. Have you reached out to the domaine or wilson daniels? I still dont see the auction house responding to you in writing, i was surprised they even chimed in at all. It would be great to have the domaine seize and destroy counterferfeit wines. If i were you id also reach out to Bill Koch...and if you need his contact info let me know.

Well done, paul
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Post #89  Postby Jay Miller » February 5th 2012, 2:36pm

Well done sir!
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Re: URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #90  Postby Nick Gangas » February 5th 2012, 2:59pm

wow Don. Great job. You must be one hell of a lawyer if you'd do all this for fun.
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Berry Crawford
 
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Re: URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #91  Postby Berry Crawford » February 5th 2012, 3:15pm

Pretty epic Don
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Re: URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #92  Postby Richard Shama » February 5th 2012, 3:24pm

Here is a quote from the Spectrum Wine auctions catalogue for this event

"All wines have been carefully inspected and vetted by our international team of experts and lie in London for this very special sale.
Our inspection process for wine of this magnitude required the most meticulous level of detail and the Spectrum Wine and Vanquish
team of experts spent many long days and nights in our temperature and humidity controlled warehouses, and on conference calls
from California, London and New York to examine countless high definition images of wine bottles, scrutinizing every fine detail of
each consignment"

Jason Boland
President, Spectrum Wine Auctions
Richard Brierley
Head of Fine Wine, Vanquish Wine Ltd

It seems with this statement, a swift reply to all of Don's concerns will be forthcoming [rofl.gif]
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Justin Bonner
 
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Re: URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #93  Postby Justin Bonner » February 5th 2012, 3:25pm

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Re: URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #94  Postby paul hanna » February 5th 2012, 3:57pm

Jeff Leve wrote:Don... WOW! Great post. Thank you for the thread and the post. The response by Spectrum was shameful and filled with double speak. I hope they respond in detail to your detailed and well-written response.


Have to agree with all these posts.

Amazing work Don.


I have copied and filed this for my own information and future reference, on an issue that is sure to become more widespread.


It really does fall to the auction houses to be the leading experts in detecting such frauds, after all, it is in their long term interest as much as anyone else....
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Matt Latuchie
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Re: URGENT WARNING--RUDY KURNIAWAN IS TRYING TO AUCTION MORE WINES

Post #95  Postby Matt Latuchie » February 5th 2012, 3:58pm

amazing stuff - you should do consulting work for every serious auction house.

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