ANOTHER URGENT WARNING ABOUT BAGHERA WINE AUCTIONS IN GENEVA

An alert member of Beserkers just noticed another Auction at Baghera scheduled for November 8 with a huge vertical of counterfeit Mouton – See Page 2, Post No. 81 http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2136689#p2136689


The initial post in this thread

AN URGENT WARNING ABOUT THE WINE AUCTION AT BAGHERA WINE AUCTIONS IN GENEVA ON MAY 22, 2016

As many of you know, for the last several years I have worked with various independent ‘experts’ in wine authentication to monitor offerings in the wine auction and wine brokerage markets in an attempt to lessen the incidence of counterfeit wines ultimately sold to the public and to prevent wine fraud. Most of the work that we do is done quietly and below the surface. On very rare occasions, we run into problems so overwhelming, or the conduct is so obviously fraudulent, that I’m forced to warn the public about a problem involving counterfeit wines or wine fraud. Sadly, this is one of those occasions.

Baghera Wine Auctions, a company which held its first wine auction on December 6, 2015, is scheduled to hold their second live auction in Geneva this coming Sunday – May 22, 2016. The sale is entitled “Master Cellar,” and the catalog and the pre-auction publicity issued by Baghera claim, or at least strongly imply, that all of the wines come from a single Swiss private collector. (But according to statements made to me this week by Michael, Ganne, Baghera’s director, there are at least two such Swiss collectors who have wines in this auction.) The catalog boasts more than 1,400 bottles of wine from Domaine Romanée Conti in 266 lots, very rare burgundy bottles such as 1919 Chambertin from Rousseau and a full case of 1959 Comte de Vogüé Musigny VV, as well as various Bordeaux and California cult wines, including a huge collection of Chateau Yquem beginning with the 1848 vintage.

As explained below, the stated provenance of the wines in the Baghera auction appears to be false. The DRC wines and other burgundies in the auction come from a failed Luxembourg wine fund known as Nobles Crus – not a Swiss private collector. Moreover, at least 19 lots contain wines which in my judgment are either outright counterfeit or which fail to conform to known standards for those wines and thus should not in good conscience be sold and should be withdrawn. There are at least 30 to 40 other lots about which my colleagues and I had questions – some of them quite serious, including most of the older Chateau Yquem wines. To determine the authenticity of those wines, about which we have serious questions, would require a hands-on examination by a competent authenticator.

The Stated Provenance is False

The auction is entitled “Master Cellar.” The introduction to the catalog strongly implies that all of the wines in the auction come from a single Swiss collector and are part of the same “Master Cellar.” However, Baghera’s director Michael Ganne admitted in correspondence sent to me this week, that there are in fact at least two different Swiss collectors whose wines comprise the “Master Cellar.”

According to Drinks Business article “All the [wines in Part I of the auction, including the DRC] bottles have been stored at the Geneva Freeport since they were bought and come from the collection of a single Swiss collector.” The auction catalog boasts that these wines were “preserved in perfect condition for years in the Port Franc safes in Geneva.” The catalog also insists that “The Domaine,” referring to Domaine Romanée Conti, “knows the collection well.”

The catalog goes on to state that the Bordeaux offerings from the Master Cellar offer the opportunity “to purchase rare bottles of Yquem, sometimes as old as 170 years of age, all coming from one of the greatest Swiss wine cellars which have been protecting the precious beverage…” (Ellipses in original.)

The DRC wines and other burgundies don’t come from a single Swiss private collector but rather from a failed Luxembourg wine fund known as “Nobles Crus.” Unlike other wine funds, Nobles Crus held a significant portion of its inventory in older wines, particularly burgundies from DRC and Henri Jayer. Nobles Crus, once one of the largest wine funds in the world, began failing in late 2012 after its inventory valuation methods were publicly questioned by financial analysts. Substantial share redemptions followed, and on June 6, 2013, the Luxembourg government suspended trading in the fund and halted its operations. Prior to the suspension of operations, the owners of Nobles Cru had admitted that their inventory “includes examples from Romanée Conti and Château Pétrus, which the current owners are unable authenticate due to a lack of records for very old vintages.” https://les5duvin.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/nobles-crus-wine-investment-fund-suspended-treatable-or-terminal/

In 2014, in a sharply criticized series of transactions, Nobles Crus investors holding shares valued at 37.7 million Pounds sterling, were allowed to exit the suspended fund by taking wine from the inventory as an “in kind” distribution. See “Luxembourg Embroiled In Fine Wine Row,” Financial Times, June 1, 2014. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/1cb6a028-df40-11e3-a4cf-00144feabdc0.html#axzz49BatK1an. The allegation was made that these investors had cherry-picked the best wines from the inventory for themselves. Id.

The Luxembourg government elected to have the fund liquidated and since 2014 a bank appointed as liquidator has been trying to sell the remaining inventory of Nobles Crus. Approximately a week ago I was informed by a third party that the wines in this auction came from Nobles Crus. That certainly appeared to be more plausible than the “single Swiss collector” story, because if you look at the first twenty or more lots of the DRC wines in this auction, many of which are pseudo-DRC vintage assortments without wood cases, the wines invariably consist of one, two or three bottle lots with foreign importer labels from the US or various different European countries and even Israel. No “single Swiss collector” is going to buy wines one or two or three bottles at a time from all over the world, when the wines are readily available to Swiss collectors who have the funds to purchase such wines and obtain the OWCs as well.

A few days later one of my colleagues, who does consulting work for a major wine auction house, said that the lots in the catalog look almost exactly like a list of wines that the auction house he does work for had received for evaluation from the liquidator of the Nobles Crus wines in 2015. A formal inquiry was made to the auction house and the wines were compared. The confirmation quickly came back that yes, indeed, the wines in the Baghera auction catalog are the very same wines.

A week ago, on behalf of myself and my colleagues, I sent an email to Michael Ganne informing him that my colleagues and I had discovered many discrepancies among the wines in the catalog, particularly the DRC wines, and that we were requesting high-resolution photographs for approximately 50 of the 400 lots. Mr. Ganne wrote back this past Monday. While he failed to provide any of the requested photographs, he insisted that “the Domaine [DRC] has been involved and came already in the cellar to look at the wines. Of course the Domaine is aware of this sale, I talk to them quite often … - they have already inspected the wines but I am happy to double check with them.” With respect to the Yquem wines Mr. Ganne insisted that “Again the Château know his wines collection well and I am in touch with them.”

Many Lots Are Either Outright Counterfeit Or Highly Questionable

It is always disconcerting when the first lot of an auction catalog that you look at has an obviously counterfeit wine that should never have been there in the first place. That’s the case with this catalog. Then there are several more in quick succession.

Lots 1, 63, and 64 – 1978 Romanée Conti

Lot 1 of the auction is a mixed case of 1978 DRC wines. The lot emulates an original DRC assortment, except that the wines are cobbled together from various different sources around the world and there is no original wooden case or OWC. When I looked at this lot I immediately knew that the 1978 Romanée Conti was counterfeit and that there were four significant things wrong with it. http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/1/1273A-02_HD.jpg Second photo of the lot: http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/1/1273B-03_HD.jpg

First, and most obviously, the Romanee Conti wine had a plain red capsule. Second, the bottle itself has embossed glass – it says “Domaine de la Romanée Conti” at the bottom of the glass. That immediately told me this bottle is fake because none of the 1978 DRC wines have embossed glass. The only vintage which ever had that embossed glass was the 1974 vintage. So obviously someone took bottles of 1974 DRC something and turned them into 1978 Romanée Conti.

The third thing that was obvious was the Leroy strip label with the bright gold “LEROY” in the middle of the label. Leroy has never labeled the DRC reds with those bright gold strips; rather they have only been used on bottles of DRC Montrachet. Additionally, the gold Leroy strip label on the Romanée Conti clearly didn’t match the other two Leroy strip labels with the name printed in gray in Lot 1.

The fourth problem that wasn’t quite as obvious was the spacing and printing on the Monopole neck label. If you compare the printing of the Romanée Conti neck label in the close-up photo below with the bottles of La Tâche to its left, it’s obvious that the date font on the 1978 Romanée Conti has more condensed spacing and that is a bolder/thicker font than the La Tâche. The word Monopole on the Romanée Conti tag is also bolder and thicker. The inner fine line of the double lined crescent border also lacks the normal separation from the outer line. It just sort of bleeds into the outer line.

Lots 63 and 64 are single bottles of 1978 Romanée Conti with the same defects, except that on Lot 64 the embossed glass is not visible in the photo. (It is likely on the back of the bottle if it is there.) On Lot 63 someone actually made the mistake of gluing the main label right over the embossed glass. If you look at the the largest photo of Lot 63 available on the Baghera website, http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/63/161605-01_HD.jpg you can read the embossed glass right through the paper label.

CONCLUSION: Lots 1, 63 and 64 are clearly counterfeit. Someone pasted a 1978 Romanée Conti main label on bottles of 1974 DRC wines and added fake neck labels, strip labels, capsules and probably corks.

Lot 2 – 1988 DRC Mixed Box

Lot 2 is another pseudo asserted case without OWC made from bottles purchased all over the world. What stands out about this lot is that there are at least three different capsule colors for the 1988 vintage, which makes no sense. http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/2/1275A-02_HD.jpg Moreover, on one of the Richebourg capsules in the first photograph, which is of a different consistency than the other capsules, the type in the printed word “Richebourg” appears to be slanted to the left, while the other bottles have their printing slanted to the right. http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/2/1275B_HD.jpg

CONCLUSION: Something here is counterfeit or requires significant explanation.

Lot 4 – 1990 DRC Mixed Box

Another non-original assortment. Lot 4 has many issues, but the most obvious ones are that this lot has multiple capsule colors and there is strange looking damage to some of the capsules. http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/4/307B_HD.jpg
At least two of the La Tâche bottles have strange wrinkles and bubbles in the main labels which are inconsistent with the Domaine’s labeling standards. The dot on the monopole labels on the right side appears noticeably lower than the dot on the left.

CONCLUSION: Either counterfeit or requires significant explanation/documentation.

Lot 44 – 2008 DRC Mixed Box

Another non-original assortment from the 2008 vintage. The printing of the vineyard names on the capsules on the two bottles on the right of the first photo is significantly skewed and at odd angles. This requires explanation and/or further investigation.
http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/44/868A_HD.jpg

CONCLUSION: Either counterfeit or requires explanation.

Lot 59 – 1952 DRC Romanée Conti

The brown wax capsule on this bottle of 1952 is the first clue that there’s something wrong – 1952 in 750 ml shouldn’t have a wax capsule at all, let alone a brown one. There are other issues with the label, including the very light green ink for the AOC line which does not match other 1952 DRC exemplars.

CONCLUSION: Highly suspect; presumptively counterfeit.

Lot 60 – 1960 DRC Romanée Conti

The plain red wax capsule on this lot, which is acknowledged in the lot description, is an obvious problem. The brand new looking bleached white monopole label with the very irregularly cut paper is also problematic. http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/60/563-B-02_HD.jpg

CONCLUSION: Highly suspect; presumptively counterfeit.

Lot 61 – 1962 DRC Romanee Conti

The pristine snow white main label and neck label with the beat up old wrinkled capsule (which has the wrong color printing – the text on the capsule should be grey not white) makes no sense.

Braghera Lot 61_________________________________1962 DRC with correct capsule for the vintage

CONCLUSION: counterfeit.

Lots 65 and 66 – 1980 DRC Romanée Conti Magnums

Just about everything is wrong here. Lot 65: http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/65/RC80MAG-B_HD.jpg Lot 66: http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/66/RC80MAG-A_HD.jpg

First, the Mise Du Domaine capsules for the 1980 vintage are clearly wrong. Vineyard branding on the capsules started in 1976. The 75cl which is printed on the main label is crudely overstamped with an attempt to make it into 150cl. This has a four digit bottle number where it should be six. There are strange black and green ink smears and black ink marks on the main label. There are strange chemical burnout or whited out areas on the neck labels.

CONCLUSION: clearly counterfeit.

Lots 77 and 78 - 1990 Romanée Conti Magnums

There are significant issues here too. First, the printing on the vineyard on the capsules slants in the wrong direction – to the left. Lot 77: http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/77/538D_HD.jpg Lot 78: http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/78/538E_HD.jpg

The Monopole neck label appears to be substantially over-sized. There is obvious glue all around neck label on Lot 77 and main label on Lot 78. The main labels are badly bubbled and sloppily applied. This is not consistent with the Domaine standards.

CONCLUSION: apparently counterfeit.

Lot 117 – 1966 DRC La Tâche

The most immediately obvious defect was the large brilliant white print on the capsule. http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/117/B-TACHE66_HD.jpg
The 1966 capsules had medium gray lettering, not white.

Baghera Lot 117____________________1966 La Tâche @ Heritage Auctions Dec 2013__________1966 La Tache @ Zachy’s Paulee Feb. 2015

The aging is separate on the two labels as well. The neck label is much more oxidized (darker) than the main label. That doesn’t happen in the real world.

CONCLUSION: apparently counterfeit.

Lots 286 and 287 – 1919 Rousseau Grand Chambertin Vieux Plants

These wines are 100% fake.

Lot 286: http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/286/1235-D_HD.jpg
Lot 287: http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/287/1235-C-01_HD.jpg

Rousseau did not own any vines in Chambertin until 1920. This is directly stated on Rousseau’s website. http://www.domaine-rousseau.com/en/domaine-armand-rousseau/our-history.html

How hard was this to figure out? This makes me wonder what level of effort went into the vetting of the wines for this auction.

CONCLUSION: clearly counterfeit.

Lot 289 – 1969 Rousseau Charmes Chambertin

A Rudy Kurniawan bottle. This has an off center red and black neck label with completely incorrect numerals – a hallmark of Rudy’s Rousseau creations. It also has a short capsule when it should have the longer capsule starting in 1969. Compare the 1969 Clos St. Jacques sold by Don Stott.

CONCLUSION: counterfeit

Lot 294 – 1959 Comte de Vogüé Musigny VV

While the 1959 Vogüé Musigny lot purports to have an original carton (one of the very few burgundies in this auction that do), it is still highly suspect. Photo 1: http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/294/CEP002-01_HD.jpg Photo 2: http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/294/CEP002-02_HD.jpg

First, when the 1959 vintage was released there were no vineyard-designated capsules – just the plain red ones with domaine embossing on the top. The vineyard designated capsules did not begin until the 1971 vintage.

So unless these bottles were somehow purchased direct from the Domaine after 1973 or were allegedly rebouchaged at the Domaine since that time, it’s hard to explain how these bottles have the modern vineyard designated capsules.

What is even more difficult to explain is why nine of the 12 capsules shown in the two photographs have very visible folds and creases in the capsules suggesting that these capsules have been pulled off of bottles and put on again. It is not consistent with 12 bottles pulled out of an original cardboard case.

The third notable problem is that the bottles in this lot have the so-called “punch out” numbering system which was used for a time by Vogüé’s prior owners to put the vintage on its labels. Some bottles of 1959 Vogüé that were imported from Europe to the US in the 1960’s had such labels. Geoff Troy’s father purchased some of those bottles himself in the 1960s – but they had plain red capsules because they were sold before the 1971 vintage. But what is unusual about the dates on the labels in Lot 294 is that if you compare the vertical height of the four numerals from one label to the next, the relative height of the numbers on each label vary substantially. That doesn’t make sense. The positioning of the numbers on each label in a case should be either exactly or substantially the same. The numbers were not stamped onto each label by doing hand “typesetting” of each numeral. The fact that these numerals vary substantially at least circumstantially suggests that each label was stamped by hand as part of a fake label making process.

CONCLUSION: highly suspect and likely counterfeit.

Lot 507 – 1961 Petrus Magnum

This lot is rather blatantly fake. It bears no resemblance to any authentic 1961 Petrus Magnum I’ve ever seen. http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/visuels/catalogues/5/lots/507/CEP03-01_HD.jpg To start with, the capsule is the wrong color. The capsule on the Baghera magnum is primary red as opposed to the shiny candy apple red color used by Petrus. The embossed printing on the Baghera magnum capsule is incorrect too, being one line of large font type rather two lines printed in a much smaller font.

The label is also completely incorrect. Notably, it lacks the words Cru Exceptionnel which appear in the middle of every authentic 1961 Petrus magnum label (and I have about 8 examples.) The text on the legitimate Petrus magnums also appears in a different order than what appears on the Baghera magnum. It appears that someone either used a 750ml label and applied it to a magnum bottle or attempted to copy the text of a 1961 Petrus 750ml label and place it on a magnum label. In all events, the paper label on the Baghera label is not the correct size. The magnum labels on the 1961 Petrus bottles almost completely cover the visible portion of the glass from right to left. The Baghera bottle does not.

The word Petrus on the main label lacks the details of the typical layered-shadow lettering. The details on the vines on each side of the label are obscured out, as if the label were photocopied. In the left hand corner of the Baghera label there is the entry 1,48 in dark black bold ink. It is darker than any other ink on the label, suggesting that it must have been added or stamped onto the label. This 1,48 entry does not appear on any other authentic Petrus magnum label that I’ve seen. Moreover the numerical value 1,48 contradicts the bottle code embossed onto the bottle, which says 150 cLL. Finally the Baghera label is extremely wrinkled and appears as though it was applied by a four year old child.

Baghera Auction Lot 507______________________________1961 Petrus Mag from L Little Auction @ Skinner Nov. 2015_______1961 Petrus Mag from Bonhams London May 2015

CONCLUSION: clearly counterfeit.

The Yquem Wines

There appear to be many significant questions about some of the Yquem wines and, unfortunately, it is exceptionally difficult to try to authenticate Yquem from photographs. I think we all agree that to properly authenticate the older Yquems it would require a hand’s on inspection – something I can’t accomplish from thousands of miles away. Unfortunately none of my colleagues in Europe were able to get to Geneva before the sale to look at the wines.

But from the descriptions in the catalog, I’m left with some really troubling questions about this collection.

First, consider the oldest lots and what is represented in the catalog about them —

548 1848 Yquem recorked by the chateau 1993
549 1867 Yquem recorked by the chateau 1992
550 1869 Yquem recorked by the chateau 1990
551 1872 Yquem recorked by the chateau 1992
552 1884 Yquem recorked by the chateau 1991
553 1898 Yquem recorked by the chateau 1987

How is it, that a “single Swiss collector” who has allegedly owned these wines for decades, along with huge supplies of other Yquem, managed to take his six oldest vintages, one bottle at a time, over a period of six years, to Chateau Yquem to be recorked? Why would not take them all at once? The story simply doesn’t seem credible.

Is the only evidence that these wines were in fact recorked at the Chateau the fact there is a date which appears on the cork saying that the bottle was recorked in that year? Does that then mean that the consignor of these wines really hasn’t “been protecting the precious beverage…” all those years?

And why, if this collector took all of those bottles to the chateau to be recorked, are all of those bottles now covered by very short gold cut off capsules? A collector would have had no reason to cut short the capsules in his own cellar.

Next, assuming for the sake of argument, as we must given the catalog description, that the oldest Yquem wines still have their original labels, then why do the 1848, 1867 and 1871 look almost absolutely identical and have the identical oxidation condition and no water damage despite ranging from 145 to 168 years old?

And why to the 1869, 1884 and 1898 all look different than the aforementioned vintages but identical to each other in terms of color, oxidation, wear, etc.?

One of the other things that I noticed is that when I compared the lots from the 1950s with the authentication photographs that are provided on the Yquem website, the bottles shown in the Baghera catalog are substantially different from the exemplars on the Yquem website. Consider for example the following:

573 1950 Yquem Bottle punt is radically different than the bottle on the Yquem website

574 1953 Yquem Bottle punt is radically different than bottle on Yquem website; capsules do not match

575 1954 Yquem Bottle punt does not match photo of 1954 from Yquem

576 1957 Yquem Punt may be different; but glass bottle in the Baghera auction is missing C2 glass code below 75cl that is shown on the 1957 bottle from Chateau Yquem

577 1959 Yquem Of the three bottles in this Baghera lot, the bottle on the left is taller than other two and has a different punt; that bottle also does not match the punt shown on the Yquem website

586 Mixed old Yquem 1921 in this lot is much lighter than the other 1921s (lots 560-62) and Lot 586 has no sediment in the bottle

CONCLUSION: Lots of questions and lots of suspicions

SO, BUYER BEWARE!

Here we go again and great work by DC - again.

Wow!

Thank you for the education!

Amazing post! Great work.

Yeah, I saw a story about this, and was wondering. Not that I would have bid, but still.

Thanks for all the work Don.

Excellent work and education Don.

I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for a peak into the scrutiny for details and recognition required in high-end auction evals.

It’s interesting that the perpetrators of counterfeiting and their enemies, the appraisal/authentication experts, both require a tremendous amount of product-specific knowledge (ink colors, font types/sizes, foil details, etc).

Excellent post! Thank you for all your hard work. [cheers.gif]

Yes amazing!
Thank you

Nice to look at the bottles though.

Anyone buying these top Wines without an expert is a fool.

1 Like

FIFY.

Just kidding. I know you can’t prove that without access to the bottles.

You would think that eventually auction houses would realize that crossing Don is a bad idea.

If you’re in the auction business you don’t want an email from Don requesting “high resolution” pictures.

Excellent detective work.

Catalog is online in excel. http://www.bagherawines.auction/assets/uploads/catalog/xls/BagheraWines-22MAY2016.xlsx

The idea that wine funds are allowed to be sold to ‘retail’ investors as a registered investment product is just baffling. And allowing a PIK structure for exiting shareholders when its clearly struggling with redemptions is also wacky. In the rare cases where PIK is justified, it needs to be a pro-rata slice of everything rather than a cherry picking. If something is an undivisible item (like a lawsuit), then segregate it, and don’t let people out.

We’ve been frozen in some funds for quite some time, and chasing them for monies, or a liquidation/distribution plan is irritating.

Great work Don.

PS: Some of the headlines this last week also explain who’s been buying what I consider insanity.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/malaysian-leader-najibs-stepson-allegedly-funded-u-s-property-deals-with-1mdb-money-1463022324

Maybe all the crazy money going into S.W.A.G. has been stolen…

And shit, here I was about to buy the whole damn lot!
image.jpeg

Wow! Thanks Don. I appreciate being occasionally mixed up with you. :slight_smile:

Wow. Amazing work. [worship.gif]

That is an amazing display of depth of knowledge in one field.

w.o.w.

Don, thanks for fighting the good fight.

Very detailed documentation, not that I’ll ever need it.
Your eyes must be better than mine: some of those printing details looked similar to me and I wasn’t getting the nuance that you were. Good job!

1 Like

I’ll just pile on here and say, “Thanks, Don, good job”.

So what did the people at Baghera say when you contacted them?