Billionaire sued over counterfeit wine

Ordinarily you hear news about purses bearing counterfeit trademarks being passed off as original. But intellectual property isn’t the only thing has been counterfeited recently. Of the more celebrated trials over counterfeit wine is continuing in a federal courthouse in Manhattan this week.

The lawsuit was brought against Eric Greenberg by William I. Koch, the coal and petroleum magnate who is worth an estimated $4 billion and is #329 on the Forbes Billionaires list.

Obviously this case is being tried by the scorched earth approach because even though the court papers allege a value about $213,000 for the wine, this lawsuit now culminating in a trial has cost the litigants millions in legal fees.

This case stems from the purchase of 24 bottles of wine at a sale conducted by Zachys Wine Auctions in October 2005.

Koch alleges that these bottles are counterfeit and that Greenberg was aware of this when he consigned them. Zachys settled with Koch and is no longer part of the lawsuit. Greenberg denies any culpability because he did not know any of the bottles at issue were counterfeit; and that Koch should have authenticated the bottles before the auction.

On April 3rd, Jaime J. Cortes, a former employee of Greenberg testified because his employer received counterfeit wine from others that he included those counterfeit bottles in the auction. He testified,

“what they did to me, I going to do somebody else.”

This case reads like a soap opera. It’s curious that they let it get this far without settling. Reading through many of the online articles it appears that everyone has their own counterfeit wine story.

I hope this doesn’t suck out the anticipation of the rare wines. One must certainly have a discerning palate to be able to differentiate a wine like 1921 Château Cheval Blanc.

In an article written in by Elin McCoy reported that, Robert Schagrin, managing partner of New York’s Crush Wine company, said in a phone interview “The joy and anticipation has been sucked out of old, rare wines like 1921 Chateau Cheval Blanc.” I told him I’d never tasted that vintage. “Neither have I,” Schagrin said. “Though I drank a bottle that had the label.”

While there is no way to say what the decision of the Manhattan Federal Court jury will be, the law suit shows fraud, malpractice and misrepresentation is present in the fine and rare wine market.