This is certainly something to wine about. Atlanta real estate developer Julian LeCraw has sued the Antique Wine Company for selling him some very expensive bottles of what he he claims to be counterfeit wine. One of these, priced at $100,000 and said to be the world's most expensive white wine, was a 1787 vintage of Château d'Yquem.
LeCraw, a fine wine collector, claims to have bought numerous bottles of wine from the Antique Wine Company, a well-known international distributor of wine based in England, including this one. Each of the 13 wines LeCraw has purchased from Stephen Williams, CEO of the Antique Wine Company, has been analyzed in a wine report by expert Maureen Downey.
“The Downey Report explains why each bottle of fake wine is not what it purports to be," the complaint states. "For instance, on some of the bottles that are supposedly centuries old, the labels were printed by computer. Others show excess glue around the labels which could not have been used by the châteaux. Other indicia of counterfeiting relates to the corks, the capsules, the sediment inside the bottle, the shape and color of the bottle, and the color of the liquid in the bottle, among other things."
The Antique Wine Company has responded to these claims with evidence that allegedly proves that the wines are genuine. "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," a representative of the company told The Daily Meal. "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 chateaux and producers."
The defendant is asking for $3 million in damages in the case, which was filed in Atlanta on April 17.
UPDATE: On June 16, The Antique Wine Company filed several motions in response to these claims, including the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, forum non conveniens (meaning that the court should dismiss the case because another court is better suited to hear the case), and the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The company has also provided evidence against the claims of counterfeit wine, including records of the "thorough processes to verify the provenance of the wines it buys and sells."
In a statement, The Antique Wine Company said: "Ensuring the authenticity of the wines it buys and sells is of paramount importance to The Antique Wine Company, which is why it maintains extensive records proving traceability from its suppliers and beyond, including documents from châteaux and producers. Despite its diligence and industry-leading process for ensuring that the wines it buys and sells are authentic, on 17th April 2014 Julian LeCraw Jr, a former client of The Antique Wine Company, filed a lawsuit in the United States (Atlanta, Georgia) making unfounded allegations that 15 bottles of wine supplied to him were counterfeit, and making exaggerated claims for losses and damages in connection with wines The Antique Wine Company had been asked to sell for him."
Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi