Collecting Cuisine Trade — 27 June 2013

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is one of the most, if not the most, sought after wine producer in the world, and its most sought after wine, its Romanée-Conti monopole cru, is at the center of this dispute. On the one hand Chicago’s world renowned chef Charlie Trotter sold the unopened bottle prior to closing his famed restaurant last year. On the other hand two wine collecting brothers from New York, Bekim and Ilir Frrokaj, bought it for $46,200, only to later discover that it is not authentic and file a lawsuit against Mr. Trotter.

A case of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti bottles in their iconic straw wrapping. Photo: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (Keiichi Tahara - Armelle Drouin - Jean-Louis Bernuy - Olivia Terrasse)

A case of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti bottles in their iconic straw wrapping. Photo: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (Keiichi Tahara – Armelle Drouin – Jean-Louis Bernuy – Olivia Terrasse)

The brothers hired a wine consultant, Maureen Downey, to verify the authenticity of the bottle for insurance purposes, and that’s when the trouble began. She found multiple issues with the 1945 magnum sized bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti. Ms. Downey also spoke with Aubert de Villaine, one of the co-owners of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. In a story filed by Reuters the complaint against Mr. Trotter quotes what she learned, “Domaine de la Romanée-Conti only produced small yields in 1945 and as a result did not produce any large format magnum-size bottles.”

According to a story filed by Wine Spectator, Mr. Trotter says he was contacted by Bekim Frrokaj about four months prior and, “He bought a bottle from us that we bought 12 years ago. We bought it in good faith, and we’ve never had a complaint before that a wine was not authentic.”

The lawsuit, Frrokaj et al v. CHT Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 13-04376, claims state and federal consumer laws were violated and seeks $75,000 in damages. This is difficult to sort out as it’s possible that Mr. Trotter and his staff were genuinely duped by the party they purchased the bottle from, which has not been revealed at this point. The case is now in the hands of the court, after an out of court settlement failed.

Moral of the story: be very careful when buying $46,200 bottles of wine.

For more on the story see:
From Reuters: Celebrity chef Charlie Trotter accused in counterfeit wine case
From The Wine Spectator: Wine Collectors Accuse Charlie Trotter of Fraud; Chef Denies Allegations

 

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