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US celebrity chef sued for counterfeit wine

14 june 2013, 18:32
Celebrity Chicago chef Charlie Trotter was sued Thursday for allegedly selling two collectors a large bottle of wine that was supposedly highly valuable but in fact was a fake, AFP reports.

Bekim (Benn) and Ilir Frrokaj paid more than $46,200 in June of last year for what Trotter had claimed was a magnum of 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti from the chef's famed, now-shuttered restaurant Charlie Trotter's in Chicago.

The pair said they only learned the bottle was counterfeit when they tried to have it insured and a consultant told them it had no value.

As part of his plans to close his restaurant last August, Trotter sold parts of his restaurant's fine wine collection that had drawn the interest of collectors like the Frrokajs.

"During dinner, Charlie Trotter and the sommelier explained the rarity and value of the DRC magnum to Benn and Ilir," the Frrokajs said in a court filing in US District Court in Chicago.

"Charlie Trotter and the sommelier also spoke about wines from the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti estate and how those wines are some of the rarest and most valuable in the world."

The consultant hired by the wine aficionados, Maureen Downey, traveled to the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and met with the estate's co-owner, Aubert de Vellain, who confirmed the assessment.

De Vellain indicated that "the DRC magnum was counterfeit because Domaine de la Romanee-Conti only produced small yields in 1945 and as a result did not produce any large format magnum-size bottles in that vintage," according to the lawsuit.

The wine collectors are seeking more than $75,000 in damages -- to match the amount of their $46,227.40 loss plus an additional $30,000 in punitive damages against Trotter for violating state and federal consumer laws.

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