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News Briefs for October 15, 2013

October 15, 2013

•Harry J. Shapira, executive vice president of Heaven Hill Distilleries, died October 13, following a 10-year battle with cancer. He was 66. A second-generation senior executive of the company—which was established by his father and four uncles after Prohibition—Shapira helped to oversee operations and expand Heaven Hill’s portfolio beyond the Bourbon and American whiskey categories to a variety of spirits segments. More recently, he played a key role in the creation and design of Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown and the upcoming Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville, slated to open next month. Shapira is survived by his wife, Judy, their two sons, Adam and Ian, and three grandchildren, as well as his mother, Anne, and his sister, Miriam.

•In the third quarter of 2013, the Wine Spectator Auction Index, which tracks sales of commercial wine auctions in the U.S., barely budged from its second quarter 2013 close, rising a mere 0.55 points from 314.43 to 314.98. But auction action was not entirely flat. In fact, after two months during which virtually no auctions took place, bidders returned to the salesrooms in September with a voracious appetite for select collectibles—but only if the provenance was right. At Acker Merrall & Condit in New York, six bottles of Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive Riserva 1990 fetched $7,380 (inclusive of the buyer’s premium), 146% above the Auction Index average. A case of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 2008 brought $29,520 (up 29%). According to Acker CEO John Kapon, “The market looks to be off to a red-hot start this fall, and we expect the momentum to carry well into 2014.” For Wine Spectator’s full third quarter auction update, click here.

•Henry Tang Ying-yen, a prominent Hong Kong businessman, politician and wine collector, has filed a lawsuit against Don Cornwell, a Los Angeles lawyer who has attracted attention for publicly challenging the authenticity of wines in auctions, Wine Spectator reports. Tang is suing Cornwell for libel, alleging that online posts Cornwell published questioning three lots of Burgundy consigned by Tang to a two-day Christie’s sale last March injured his reputation. Tang, Hong Kong’s former chief secretary for administration, is asking for unspecified damages and an injunction restraining Cornwell from repeating the allegations, which related to lots including a methuselah of La Tâche 1971, a case of Montrachet 1978 and three bottles of Romanée-Conti 1959. Christie’s held back the methuselah, but sold the other wines.

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