A British wine merchant is facing a $25-million lawsuit after allegedly selling fake bottles of rare wine including 1787 Château d’Yquem.
Atlanta real estate developer Julian LeCraw Jr had his lawyers start an action against the Antique Wine Company (AWC) alleging the company sold him several bottles of wine purporting to be collectible classics in 2006.
The wines included various 19th-Century vintages of Château Lafite (Lafite Rothschild from 1868), a 1908 Imperial of Château Margaux and two bottles of Yquem, one of which bore the vintage 1787 and cost almost $100,000.
The Yquem sale was subsequently touted by AWC as the most expensive bottle ever sold at that time and the company "sought and received substantial publicity for the 1787 d’Yquem sale to enhance their own credibility as global vintage wine merchants," according to the 59-page complaint.
In the documents filed with the court, LeCraw explains that he began buying wine from AWC in the early 2000s and, in January 2006, bought the bottle of Yquem, which AWC owner Stephen Williams personally delivered.
The claim alleges that LeCraw was also supplied with a leather notebook containing various documents to verify the provenance of the wine.
In March 2013, a visiting wine merchant alerted LeCraw to the possibility that the Yquem and several of the Lafites might not be genuine, so he had them checked by authentication expert Maureen Downey, who said the Lafites, the Yquem and the Margaux were fake.
The lawsuit also alleges that AWC has received an estimated $3 million worth of wine from LeCraw to sell on his behalf and for which he has not been paid. The suit seeks $25 million in punitive damages plus legal fees.
AWC has responded strongly to the allegations, saying it will “vigorously” defend the lawsuit.
“The Antique Wine Company strongly denies all the allegations made against it by Julian LeCraw. Our lawyers have been in correspondence with Mr LeCraw’s lawyers over these allegations for some months and have provided them with evidence to prove that the allegations made by them are unfounded. This evidence includes extensive information provided at the time of the sales to show the authenticity of the wines and subsequent documents verifying the original information.
“[AWC has] cooperated fully in connection with the consigned wines and [has] made proposals for resolution of this issue.
“The Antique Wine Company, since its inception in 1989, has supplied hundreds of bottles of highly valuable wine to customers around the world. Ensuring the authenticity of these wines is paramount and they maintain extensive records proving traceability from the suppliers to the company and beyond, including documents from châteaux and producers.”