Gil Lempert-Schwarz and Dragon 8 Wine Auctions (MERGED)

Gil Lempert-Schwarz and Dragon 8 Wine Auctions
[As partially corrected in accordance with Post No. 175]

Gil Lempert-Schwarz, who was the person responsible for authenticating wines for Acker in Hong Kong and who was the “expert” (using that term very loosely) for Eric Greenberg in the Koch v. Greenberg litigation, has started a new auction house in Hong Kong called Dragon 8. The business was registerred on July 30 of this year. Dragon 8 is holding its first wine auction in Hong Kong on Saturday, November 21. Here is the link to the pdf catalog for Lempert-Schwarz’s new auction house.

in the catalog for the auction, Mr. Lempert-Schwarz claims to be the “founder.” He also claims to be the “Principal Auctioneer”, “Content Editor” and “Photographer.” Another Lempert-Schwarz named Uri, who operates a web design and graphic design company called Fluxform and was in charge of the layout and graphics for Acker Merrall’s Hong Kong catalogs, is listed as Dragon 8’s “Editor-in-Chief.” The chairman of Dragon 8 is Danish businessman Søren Grunnet Løvenlund. Mr. Løvenlund is a lawyer, wine collector and co-owner/CEO of White Guide, which is the Scandinavian equivalent to the Michelin restaurant guide. White Guide was started in Sweden in 2004. It reviews both Swedish and Danish restaurants. Søren Grunnet Løvenlund became a partner in White Guide in 2013 and since 2014 is the director/CEO of White Guide.

“The Swedish Nobleman’s Cellar”

The featured consignment for the auction, Lots 1 to 245 in the catalog, is the “Swedish Nobleman’s Cellar.” This cellar has an amazing array of both older wines including first growth Bordeaux from the 1929, 1937, 1945, 1947 and 1949 vintages and newer vintages from great chateaus and domaines, many of which are full cases in their original wooden cases. Mr. Lempert-Schwarz claims to have discovered this previously unknown cellar from “a noble family who once had close ties to the country’s Royal Household.”

As the write up in the catalog explains,

  • “In fact, as records show, at one point the King himself had presented several cases of ‘good French drinking wine’ to thehead of the family as a gift for their fine services. Decades later, that wine is recognized as much more than good—for they are cases of Cheval Blanc from the years 1937, 1945 and 1947. Acquired from the Château directly, they are encased in the original wood and have the original Danish Banderoles affixed across many of the bottles.”

The catalog goes on to explain:

  • The family buys and drinks wine all the time, so the cellar has become a fabulous repository. All the wines they buy are bought from reputable wine merchants in Denmark and Sweden, who themselves buy directly from European producers, so the condition and provenance is immaculate (with only one stop-over owner prior to ending up in the family cellars). The family keeps incredible logbooks of all purchases and everything is documented, so it was easy to research the provenance of the bottles. It became apparent that the last generation of the family enjoyed going to London wine auctions in the 1970’s and 80’s and while much of that lot has already been consumed, there are some terrific gems left, which we will present today. The present generation might have even gotten a little ahead of themselves and bought really well in the past decade, so there’s room to thin out some of these younger wines as well. Again, those wines are presented here today.

No one in Sweden or Denmark or the rest of Europe believes this epic story. I contacted Danish wine journalists Andre Devald and Rene Langdahl-Jørgensen, who broke the story about the White Club in 2014. I spent many months working with them on the White Club saga. I also contacted the head of the Swedish wine auction authority, Soren Nylund. These gentlemen readily launched into their own investigations, contacting many wine collectors and the representatives of major wine importers throughout Sweden and Denmark as well as the director of the Bruun Rasmussen auction house in Denmark. The long story made short is that no one has ever heard of this collection or the family in question. It was described to me more than once as a “fairy tale.”

I also contacted Michael Egan, who was the authentication expert for the government in the Kurniawan case. I asked Michael to reach out to his contacts in Scandinavia and the rest of the auction community to find out whether this story could be true. Michael wrote back stating: “I have asked some of my sources over here in Europe about the aristocratic Swedish cellar. No one has had any recent contact from a potential noble Swedish vendor or their representative(s). It is highly unusual for a collection like this to go directly to a completely unknown auction house without the vendor approaching at least one well established auction house.”

Andre Devald and Rene Langdahl-Jørgensen began contacting some of the Danish importers, such as Sigurd Müller Vinhandel, the longtime official importer for DRC in Denmark. Using the listed bottle numbers in the Dragon 8 catalog and comparing them with their own sales records, Sigurd Müller determined that one of the bottles included in Lot 195 (3 bottles of 2009 DRC Montrachet) was sold to Kristoffer Meier-Axel, who operates a rare and fine wine business in Denmark known as Weinart. [Note: This entity should not be confused with companies with the same name operating in Germany and Austria.] The CEO of Sigurd Müller called and confronted Mr. Meier-Axel with the information last Friday (Nov. 13). According to Sigurd Muller’s CEO, Meier-Axel stated “oh yes, you are right, that was a fault by me…that bottle went to auction.” My colleagues in Denmark and I interpreted Meier-Axel’s response as an admission that he was the consignor of Lot 195, [and so stated when this was originally posted], but according to Mr. Meier-Axel that is incorrect.

On November 25, Mr. Meier-Axel sent Sigurd Muller an email stating: "I have read on the internet that you [Sigurd Muller] should have sold me 3 bttls of Montrachet and that Weinart should have consigned 3 bttls to Dragon 8. I will state that we did not do so. Weinart bought 1 bttl from you and this 1 bttl I carelessly sold to a foreign customer. This customer might have consigned the bttl for auction in HK (it was as I said to you a fault by me).”

Sigurd Müller also told Andre and Rene that Lot 196, which contained DRC Montrachets from various vintages, included a 2003 DRC Montrachet (bottle No 01527) that had been sold to a Danish collector, but it was not Kristoffer Meier-Axel. The question of how the bottle sold to the Danish collector could end up in the possession of a “Swedish nobleman’s” family is yet another inconsistency in the fairy tale disclosed in the catalog. On the other hand, since Weinart routinely buys and sells rare wines, it is quite conceivable that a Danish collector sold his 2003 DRC Montrachet to Weinart, who in turn sold it to the unidentified consignor of the “Swedish Nobleman’s Cellar.”

Kristoffer Meier-Axel’s name may ring some bells for the readers of this thread. He is known to have bought wines in very substantial quantities directly from Rudy Kurniawan long after the April 2008 Ponsot sale. Some of the records introduced at trial showed that he paid Rudy $509,850 in October and November of 2010. You may also recall that the last email that Rudy wrote a few hours before he was arrested on March 8, 2012 was an email to Kristoffer Meier-Axel, offering him the counterfeit Jayer Richebourg bottles that were found on the photo stand in Rudy’s home at the time of his arrest.

Kristoffer Meier-Axel was also well known to both John Kapon (owner of Acker Merrall) and Gil Lempert-Schwarz. John Kapon is known to have met with Kristoffer Meier-Axel in Copenhagen on multiple occasions. Kapon solicited auction consignments from Meier-Axel and it has been reported to me that Meier-Axel did in fact sell wine through Acker Hong Kong during the past 12 months.

The highly improbable story in the Dragon 8 catalog about the Swedish nobleman was apparently used as a cover to allow the unidentified consignor to sell wines recently acquired from Weinart and/or other unidentified sources, which had no documented provenance, as bottles which allegedly had “immaculate provenance.” Perhaps the story about Swedish nobility and the Swedish King (who serves in a solely ceremonial role) was offered in the hope that it would generate interest in Hong Kong for Dragon 8’s initial auction. But totally misrepresenting the provenance of the wines in the catalog is not the way to start your first auction.

My colleagues and I have looked for evidence in the catalog of counterfeit wines. Most of the “Swedish nobleman” lots are more recent Bordeaux vintages in original wooden cases. There were no obvious problems with these lots. In some instances, because the photos show only the main labels and often cut off the capsules or part of the bottles, the wines were very difficult to asses with just a partial photograph. Nevertheless, we did find two notable lots – one from 1945 and the other from 1949 which appear to be clearly counterfeit. In one instance, that has been confirmed by wine producer. I am concurrently notifying Dragon 8 auctions about what I found with a request that these bottles be withdrawn. I will post about those bottles separately. Meanwhile we are continuing to look at a couple of other lots that seemed questionable.

Were any of the “Swedish nobleman” wines ever walled up in an obscure apartment building in France?



Gil is practicing…

(click on the image for a video)


Dragon 8 deserves its own thread!

The 1931 Quinta do Novals in that auction have Raised some potential red flags for me. More later when I get to a proper computer and not in my phone.

The 1931 Quinta do Noval VP’s that are listed in lot #193 and 194 are interesting.

Before I proceed, I will say that without physically inspecting them or having better pictures I cannot say either way if they are genuine or counterfeit. I can say that they are suspicious for the following reason and should be examined very closely for anyone interested.

1- If this came from the “Nobleman’s” family as indicated then it for a fact did not come directly from a Danish or Swedish importer and that statement in the auction catalog is an outright lie. Back then Avery’s would bottle as ordered or bottle, hold as shiners, then when an order came in would label for that importer. In this case a Baltimore importer. So if real this would have been bought here in the States after being shipped here directly from Avery’s.

2- The color difference on the labels is exceeding odd and suspect. Why they would use two different colors back then (as these were most likely done by hand) as far as I know is unprecedented. I’ve also asked another friend in the UK who concurred.

3- it is odd that the labels are different. Upper case vs. lower case. While in itself not necessarily wrong, a far more detailed look into why would be warranted to determine the authenticity.

4- The wax on at least two appear to be modern shiney candle wax. Again, not definitive but something that needs to be looked at in far greater detail.

5- If the picture has been manipulated by showing some bottles in black and white and one in color, why? Are there things trying to be hidden? Or are the other bottles black and white photo copies of the color one??

6- The one color bottle appears to be a two part mould style. This era should be a three part bottle with a seam near the bottom shoulder. It may be there and not easily seen in the photo or covered. I would also want to see pics of the bottom of the bottle (punt) and the top in detail.

7- While not totally unheard of, it is unusual to find 4 bottles of this rare vintage Port from one source where they are all from the same Shipper and from the same importer with the same labels.

Keep in mind this wasn’t considered a great year for VP. Only about 11 producers that I know of bottled it (2 being noval, some Single Quinta, and some others most here have never heard of).

Again, I am not saying these are fakes as a more detailed examination is needed. What I am saying is anyone interested in buying these should really do some homework before making that leap.

Is the Nicolas stamped 1955 Margaux a concern?

No. No, it isn’t.

Keep in mind this wasn’t considered a great year for VP. Only about 11 producers that I know of bottled it (2 being noval, some Single Quinta, and some others most here have never heard of).

gives others opinions,RM;

…Bypassed by the majority of shippers because it coincided with the worldwide depression,1931 is almost certainly the best year never to have been fully declared…
…As a result there are few records of the 1931 vintage but the wines that have survived are oustanding and count among the best i have tasted…

I don’t believe for a second that these bottles are real. The labeling is amateurish, unless Avery hand wrote labels at that time. The lettering is different, the spacing between the lines is different, and the relative placement of the words on each line is different. I think you would have to be nuts to bid on these. Sorry was that too strong an opinion? [basic-smile.gif]

Averys are still in business in the UK and it is more than likely they still have records and similar bottlings in their cellars…

Gil is having a tough Friday…

Be VERY careful what you read as almost all opinions come from tasting two bottles of this vintage, Noval and Noval Nacional.

If you read reports from the vintage they paint a not so flattering picture of a harvest where most grapes didn’t fully ripen due to a cooler than normal summer. Of course the Douro is a large place with lots of micro-climates so as almost always happens someone makes an outstanding Port. That does not mean the overall harvest for all was great. Overall 1931 was by no means a spectacular vintage for the Douro.

Also, Keep in mind that most VP back then was bottled somewhere between 2-5 years after harvest (the 2 year regulation we now have didn’t come about until post WW2). So by late 1933 and into 1934-1935 would be the time this most likely would have been bottled. By 1934 the UK was already slowly coming out of the depression. This is often cited by some people but I’ve never read or heard any accounts from a producer of this period of economic downturn affecting this specific vintage of Port.

They did hand write some back then so that isn’t necessarily a proof positive sign of them being fake. However, as I mentioned for someone to pen the same label in different colors is exceeding strange. Now it could have happened, but so far I nor another friend of mine who is a very meticulas VP collector and historian has ever heard of them doing it. But I can’t say for 100% certain as I’ve seen stranger things with regards to Port. However, as I said, a more detailed examination of those bottles needs to be done.

Too bad none of those bidding on the auction may see this thread, and the auction will probably garner a ton of money.

With all the fraud seemingly committed at auction, why is nothing being done to stop it? Until it is, the money will continue to flow.

Gil Lempert-Schwarz and Dragon 8 Wine Auctions - Part II

As mentioned in my prior post, there are two lots in the Dragon 8 sale which in my opinion are either outright counterfeit or highly suspect and thus inappropriate for sale

1945 Chateau Margaux

Lot 180, at page 163 of the catalog, is a mixed lot with single bottles of 1945, 1947 and 1948 Chateau Margaux. Only the 1945 is fully visible in the catalog photograph.

Lot 180 from the Dragon 8 Catalog

In my opinion, the 1945 Margaux in this lot appears to be counterfeit. I just don’t have enough data to say anything about the others.

In reaching that conclusion I compared the bottle of 1945 in the Dragon 8 catalog with several other exemplars, including 1945 Chateau Margaux consigned directly by the owners of the Chateau to Sotheby’s New York for auction on October 17, 2015.

Bottle from the Chateau sold at Sotheby’s NY October 17, 2015

For a direct link to the photo, click here:

Using the links provided, take a look at both photos at both 100% magnification and as much as 250% magnification. I believe you will find the following:

  1. The text MISE EN BOUTEILLE AU CHATEAU printed in red across the Dragon 8 label is wrongly positioned. I compared several others I found, including the bottle from the Chateau. just sold at Sotheby’s. The uppermost right window on the top floor of the Chateau drawing should be at the bottom of the U as though the window was resting there. Because the Dragon 8 bottle is not so aligned, the rest of the printing intersects the word Margaux over and slightly below the X, instead of above the X.

  2. There is considerable bleeding of the red ink on the MISE EN BOUTEILLE AU CHATEAU on the Dragon 8 bottle which is quite obvious at 200% or 250% magnification. Note how different the bottle from the Chateau looks at 250% magnification.

  3. The vintage date 1945 is printed in red ink on the Dragon 8 bottle. But the bottle from the Chateau just sold at Sotheby’s and all of the others that I have seen have the vintage date printed in the same gold lettering used for the rest of the text on the label.

  4. The font on the vintage on the Dragon 8 bottle does not match the font on the bottle from the Chateau.

  5. The main label on the Dragon 8 bottle has a large vertical fold suggesting that perhaps it has been off the bottle and there is a jet of glue extending down about a half inch below the label which appears to have been pushed out when it was glued on.

1949 Vogüé Musigny VV

Lot 220 in the Dragon 8 sale is a single bottle of 1949 Comte de Vogüé Musigny

This is one of many bottles shown in the Dragon 8 catalog which have unbelievably pristine labels for such old wines allegedly cellared in 70+% humidity conditions. Ironically the catalog states at page 13 that “The conditions of the labels may vary greatly, as does the ullage, but the bottles have never moved from their dark resting places, which are fairly constant at 12-13 degrees Celsius and 70+% humidity. In other words, they are ideal conditions for long term storage.” Michael Egan commented that a high degree of variation in the condition of the labels makes no sense given the described cellar conditions and provenance. “Surely, the labels would have not that much variation if cellared in the same location. * * * The label and ullage variation seems to be very substantial for the older vintages, which would mean to me that the bottles have come from different sources, such as at auction, as briefly mentioned in the introduction.”

Thanks to a recent hard drive failure I don’t have access to a lot of my photo exemplar files at the moment. (They have been recovered and I will get the drive back next week). But even with some working handicaps, there were still some very noticeable problems here that in my opinion make the bottle either outright counterfeit or highly suspect:

  1. As Michael Egan noted, there is a considerable amount of glue around the Lebègue-Bichot shoulder label. There is also glue around the outside of a portion of the main label on the upper left hand side. This suggests that someone other than Comte de Vogue glued on both the main label and the shoulder label.

  2. The label on the Dragon 8 bottle has deckled edges but it should not. I’ve never seen anything from the 1945 to 1949 Vogüé vintages with deckled edges.

  3. The red printing on the label looks like it is slightly smeared or has bled into the paper. (Look at the linked full-size photo on higher magnification)

  4. The label on the Dragon 8 bottle is missing the text “Réserve numérotée” on the label.

  5. The Dragon 8 bottle says “…. mise en bouteilles au domaine” instead of “Mis en bouteilles à la propriété”. (See the example from one of my 1947 Vogue exemplars below).

  6. The Dragon 8 bottle has a six digit bottle number instead of a four digit bottle number.

1947 Comte de Vogüé Musigny VV (cellared and drunk by Doug Barzelay)

The photo above is one of the many bottles of 1945 and 1947 Vogue with original provenance in my exemplar collection. Notice the differences vs. the Dragon 8 bottle.

When I sent my list of identified issues to Jean-Luc Pepin at Comte de Vogüé earlier this week, I hadn’t noticed the glue on the glass. I should have. Michael Egan pointed it out subsequent to my email to Vogüé. Early this morning I received a response from Jean-Luc which he said I may feel free to post here: His response was as follows:

  • Hi Don,

Thank you for your email and information concerning this new wine auction house in Hong Kong, “Dragon 8 wines”.

The 1949 Musigny looks also suspicious to me for some of your suggested reasons :

 Extremely pristine and unoxidized label,
 The deckled edges which did not exist from the 1945 to 1949 vintages,
 The missing “Réserve numérotée”
 The “Mise en bouteilles au domaine” instead of “Mis en bouteilles à la propriété”
 The six digit bottle number instead of a four digit bottle number.

I have the catalog of the Don Stott sale (8 & 9 May 2015) in my office and the photograph of the bottle of Musigny Vieilles Vignes 1947 (Lot 453) on page 89 emphasizes my above position.



I have passed the above information on to Dragon 8 auctions and have asked that they withdraw the two lots. I have also pointed out that there are some other lots which appear at least suspect but are beyond my level of comfort to opine about conclusively. Those lots include the following lots:

Lot 21 – 1937 Chateau Cheval Blanc. My concern about this lot is that catalog introduction says the Swedish King gifted the consignor’s family with at least a full case of 1937. The bottle in the photograph has a Danish importer strip (Direkte Slotsvin) but the bottles in the photos do not have any Danish tax stamps or”Banderoles.” Yet the catalog states at page 31 that every single bottle imported into Denmark must have the tax stamp on it. The catalog states at (at page 12): "Acquired from the Château directly, they are encased in the original wood and have the original Danish Banderoles affixed across many of the bottles.”

Lots 193 and 194 – 1931 Quinta de Noval Port: Here is the photo which appears in the Dragon 8 catalog:

Each label is different from the next one.This makes no sense at all. These bottles also have a US importer listed on the label. I’ve never seen anything like these labels before.

Lot 221 – 1961 Henri Jayer Échézeaux. This is one of the “old style” labels for Jayer. But the only bottles I’ve ever seen that were documented authentic were in brown glass bottles and were Belgian bottled by Caves Dessilly. This one has a green bottle.

The mysterious conflict in the tax stamps

Soren Nylund, who runs the Swedish auction authority (named Systembolaget) was kind enough to send me several examples of Danish tax stamps (or “Banderoles”) on bottles of bordeaux and burgundy ranging from 1949 to 1972. Much to my surprise, the Danish tax stamps provided by the Swedish government’s auction authority do not match the ones in the Dragon 8 catalog.

When you look at page 31 of the Dragon 8 catalog, which describes the Swedish tax stamps or “Banderoles,” it shows three photos of neck labels from the consigned lots, all of which look like this, with slight variations in the text.

Danish “Banderoles” shown in the Dragon 8 Catalog

In contrast, the photos of the Danish tax stamps that were provided by the Swedish auction service, which spanned from 1949 to 1972 and included 1949 Chateau Margaux (Danish bottled), 1953 Chateau Latour (also in the Dragon 8 catalog), 1955 Chateau Latour, 1955 Mouton and 1972 Remoissenet Musigny, all had an identical design on the paper that ran down the side of the neck. But that design is substantially different than what appears on the Dragon 8 bottles. The only differences among the tax stamps provided by the Swedish auction service were that, in a majority of instances, the Banderole extended down both sides of the bottle neck and across the top of the bottle. The minority variant was a Banderole of single sided design, with the paper extending on only side of the bottle neck and with a truncated semi-circle at the top which extended almost halfway across the top of the capsule. The text printed on the side of the tax stamps was a bit different in each case (like the Dragon 8 bottles). While the top of the “full sized” Banderoles had a crown design, it was very different than what appears on the Dragon 8 bottles.

Danish Banderoles for 1949 Ch. Margaux provided by the Swedish State Auction Service

Danish Banderoles for 1953 Ch. Margaux provided by the Swedish State Auction Service

Danish Banderoles for 1972 Remoissenet Musigny provided by the Swedish State Auction Service

I find this difference worrisome, but I cannot explain it and, so far, neither can the Swedish auction service.

For those of you who have reached the golden age of 50 or more, do you remember the old line about “something rotten in Denmark”?

Don - you always are sticking your nose in other peoples’ business. Keep it up

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