Sotheby's Withdraws Magnum Of 1959 Romanée-Conti From Upcoming Sale Pending Investigation

March 13, 2017

Auction house Sotheby’s has withdrawn a magnum of 1959 Romanée-Conti from its next London sale after a query surrounding a strip label it carries. The magnum of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti was due to be sold during the London leg of the ‘A Monumental Collection from the Cellars of a Connoisseur’ sale on 29 March.

It has now been withdrawn “pending further investigation” to ensure its provenance and authenticity.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti was unusual in Burgundy in that it was an extremely early adopter of estate bottling. Initially this was just for its Romanée-Conti, the other wines of the estate were still sent, as was traditional throughout the region, to bigger négociant houses in Beaune for bottling, including Maison Joseph Drouhin.

Gert Crum in his book on the history of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (published in 2005) notes that it was not until 1929 – a particularly good vintage – that Edmond de Villaine and then co-owner Jacques Chambon decided to begin bottling these other crus at the domaine.

Nonetheless, even if the proportion of wine bottled by Drouhin for the estate declined after this date it remained an important part of the distribution network.

As Crum continues in his book, into the 1940s Drouhin was still “the largest distributor of the Domaine’s wines.”**

With the arrival of the Leroy family in 1942, a family with its own substantial négociant business and distribution network (Maison Leroy), Drouhin’s role as a major distributor no doubt declined yet further but it did not finish entirely and Maison Joseph Drouhin was still an important buyer of wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for several decades afterwards.

Sotheby’s statement makes it quite clear in this regard when it states: “Our research to date confirms that this magnum number was sold by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti to Drouhin.”

The unfortunate association of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti with a number of recent high-profile fraud cases such as The White Club and “Dr Conti” himself, Rudy Kurniawan, tied in as it is with the extraordinary demand and prices wines from the estate command and what is seen as the culpability and malpractice of a few auction houses in accepting consignments of fake wines, naturally leads to high levels of scrutiny even paranoia surrounding old (and sometimes younger) bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

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