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The Claret Web

 

These wines 'can of course be obtained more cheaply elsewhere'.

(Saunders Bearman, Soho solicitors: 13th April 2000. Acting for Raun Austin, City Vintners and Goldman Williams).

 

Details of Vintage Wines in Other News section.

 

Last updated: 26th November 2008

Click here to view the latest news.

 

Older news in can be found in the Claret Web Archive.

  Intro: investment in Red Bordeaux
 

The latest dodgy deals centre around investments in top red Bordeaux. There are a number of interlinked companies - Ashley White Ltd, Ashley Witter Ltd, Boington & Fredericks of London Ltd, Burbridge King Group, City Vintners Ltd, Forrester & Becks Group, Goldman Williams Ltd, Harrington Ross Ltd, Harley Fine Wines Ltd, James Hewitt Associates Ltd, Liquid Acquisitions Ltd, Millennium International Wine Sales Ltd, Pembridge Villiers Ltd, Ransby Hoare Associates Ltd, Stanley Knight Ltd and Vaz and Alexander - offering First Growth Bordeaux at twice and more its market value to British investors. They promise 'head splitting returns'! The companies are either linked by directors or by similarities in their marketing and pricing.

City Vintners and Goldman Williams also link into the share net - a group of share companies linked around the Salisbury Merchant Bank of Grenada. These companies have concentrated on penny shares. Either bought through London stockbrokers such as Fiske plc or in other cases they were market-makers for newly floated companies.

The clampdown in autumn 2001 by the DTI tore great holes in the claret web. Boington & Fredericks, City Vintners, Goldman Williams and Liquid Acquisitions Ltd have been closed by the DTI and are now in the hands of the Insolvency Service with the Tenon Group as liquidators. Ashley White, Ashley Witter and Harley Fine Wines were closed earlier in 2001 by the DTI, Ransby Hoare is in liquidation, while Harrington Ross and Pembridge Villiers have ceased trading and Vaz & Alexander is no longer trading in wine. Millennium International Wines Sales has changed its name to Catchensure Marketing Consultancy Ltd.

However, despite this clamp down and the promise of continuing investigations (December 2001), there are now (August 2002) a number of existing and new claret investment companies are still operating. James Hewitt Associates Ltd (Liquid Acquisitions Mark 2) continues as does Morgan Chantel, Bordeaux Wine Consultants and BVI Ltd. Aurora Menon (ex Stanley Knight Ltd, Ashley White Ltd and Harley Fine Wine Ltd) has reappeared as a sole trader with Frazer & d'Ivoire.

Two new companies appeared at the beginning of the year: Bordelais & Dutch, formed by David Jackson and Mark Blackburn - ex Goldman, and The Wine Index which is believed to involve Frederic Achom and Grant Boington of Boington & Fredericks Ltd. The prices charged by Bordelais & Dutch are substantially below those levied by City Vintners and Goldman Williams (for details see news section below). There are a number of other companies (BVI, Bordeaux Wine Consultants, Morgan Chantel), who offer wine investments of dubious value because of the excessive price asked for the wine. Their mark-ups tend not to be as excessive as those of the claret web. News and details of these companies can be found in Other News and the Directory.

Click here to see a list of 34 legitimate companies (wine merchants and brokers) that have taken a stand and pledged not to supply the Claret Web. Click here to see a Word document (can also be saved to disk) showing current market prices for top 1996 Bordeaux and price movements of 1959-2000 Bordeaux from September 1999 to October 2002.

Three leading UK fine wine brokers (Bordeaux Index, Farr Vintners and Wilkinson Vintners) have regrettably so far declined to join the pledge not to supply. investdrinks recommends that anyone looking to buy or sell fine wine should deal with one of thirty four companies who have taken a stand against wine 'investment' companies that mislead the public.

Clients of the claret web companies should be aware of their statutory rights under The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 to cancel an order and to a refund in full. Please see details on main page.

winesearcher.com: investdrinks highly recommends this excellent site to anyone wishing to check the prices of fine wines. The professional version allows you to check both current prices as well as last month's, two months ago, last year's, two years and three years ago. The professional version now costs $15 a year. Investors with certain companies are strongly advised to sit down and take a stiff drink before discovering how badly they have been ripped off.

What to do if you are a client of one of the companies recently closed by DTI

If you have received documents with rotational numbers for your wine, the your wine is probably safe in either London City Bond (City & Goldman) tel: 020-7474 0505) and ask for Ray or in the case of Boington & Fredericks write to John Davis, managing director, Trapps (020-7407 4422). For Liquid Acquisitions you need to contact Ray Pearson at London Bridge Vaults on 020-7407 3704.

Please note that the bonded warehouses offer in bond drinks storage to many companies in the drinks trade and have no other connection with these three companies. For the moment London City Bond and Trapps have frozen these accounts, so no wine can be moved out.

Unless you need to sell soon, my advice is to hold onto your wine especially if it is 1996. I cannot predict how prices will move but, assuming reasonably economic conditions, the 1996s should increase in value over the next five years or more and will close some of the gap between their market value and what you paid these companies.

Storage and insurance

Five years free storage and insurance was part of the deal offered by these companies. investdrinks understands from London City Bond that City and Goldman have paid most of the five year storage charges. LCB are currently checking the exact position. If any additional charge for storage has to be made it would be small. Storage charges are normally around £8 a year per case.

Insurance is, however, a different matter as it has to be renewed annually - insurance companies generally will not insure for more than a year. The wine under the City and Goldman 'umbrellas' is insured until 31st March 2002. Insurance is 0.25%. There is no need to do anything at present. investdrinks has been told by London City Bond that they will be writing to clients of City Vintners and Goldman Williams in the New Year to explain the position.

Remember if you take your wine out of bond you will have to pay duty and VAT. Duty is currently £13.89 on a case of 12 standard sized bottles (75cl) and VAT at 17.5% is payable on what you paid for the case and the duty. Take a case of Lafite 1996 bought for £4,868.75 in September from either City or Goldman. Taking the case of Lafite 1996 out of bond will cost an additional £868.35. If you want to sell your wine, it is much better to leave it in bond.

Boington & Fredericks Ltd, City Vintners Ltd, Goldman Williams Ltd and Liquid Acquisitions Ltd are being wound up by Duncan Beat, the appointed liquidator. He can be contacted on 020-7628 2040 or duncan.beat@tenongroup.com

  Latest News
 

European Fine Wines Ltd – ‘bona fide wine investment company’?
(Posted 26th November 2008)

investdrinks received this query recently about European Fine Wines Ltd.

‘Can you please tell me whether this company is a bona-fide wine investment company?

They have offered me a case of Pavie 2000 (100 point) for £3920). Is this a reasonable price or way over the top?

I have never invested in wine before but keep getting cold calls.’

My reply:
‘My advice is not to deal with any company that cold calls, especially one selling investments.

If you look at wine-searcher.com you will see that a case Château Pavie 2000 can be bought for £2700 – £1220 cheaper than European Fine Wines Ltd. I would suggest that tells you all you need to know about EFW Ltd.

My strong advice is to have nothing to do with EFW and to be very wary of investing in wine now as prices are dropping because of the economic crisis.’

I have invited EFW’s directors, Gregory Assemakis and Jonathan Barr, to comment but have yet to receive a reply. However, I will be happy to post any comments from EFW’s directors on why Pavie 2000 is a good investment at £3920.

Hertfordshire Police: Bordeaux Wine Trading Company and International Wine Commodities
(Posted 22nd October 2008)

On 17th October 2008 Hertfordshire Police issued the following press release:

HAVE YOU BEEN OFFERED WINE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY?

Have you been approached to invest in fine wines by a company called International Wine Commodities or  Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd (not to be confused with the Bordeaux Wine Company Ltd of Cavendish Place, London W1).

The wine is offered for sale ‘en primeur’, i.e. it is purchased while it is still in the barrel before being delivered to bonded warehouses in the UK. A case of wine can cost around £5,000. The wines offered for sale are from the Bordeaux region and include:

Lafite Rothschild
Haut Brion
Mouton Rothschild
Margaux
Latour

Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd is of Unit 32, The Enterprise Centre, Cranborne Road, Potters Bar and International Wine Commodities is of 1 Berkeley Street, Mayfair.

Hertfordshire Constabulary want to speak to anyone across the UK who may have been approached to buy cases of wines from these companies over the last two years.

Anyone who has had contact with the companies should contact Detective Constable Peter Thody at Hertfordshire Constabulary on 01707 638414.

Four men have been arrested on suspicion of fraud and are currently on bail.

-Ends-

For further information, please contact Nikki Hall, Press & PR officer, in Corporate Communication on 01707 354588.

Police raid International Wine Commodities Ltd
(Posted 17th October 2008)

investdrinks understands that on Wednesday 8th October Hertfordshire police raided the High Street offices in Whetstone of a wine investment business run by two directors. One of the directors is understood to be also a director of the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company, which is also under investigation by the Hertfordshire Police on suspicion of not buying en primeur wines, believed to be in the region of £750,000, that their clients purchased. It is thought that there may be a similar sum involved with this Whetstone, whose registered office is believed to be in Berkeley Street, London W1.

investdrinks advises anyone, who bought wine from IWC, to contact DC Peter Thody of Hertfordshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit on 01707-638414 or peter.thody@herts.pnn.police.uk

BWTC becomes First Growth Investments Ltd
(Posted 25th June 2008)

A phoenix rises at Primrose Hill: the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company has become First Growth Investments Ltd (FGI Ltd) with a registered office and trading address at 36 Gloucester Avenue, London NW1 7BB. Following a tip-off from a well-placed source close to FGI Ltd, investdrinks visited their office at Gloucester Avenue. The source told investdrinks of Paul Craven’s involvement in the new company and that they were selling 2007 en primeur as an investment.

I informed the management of the serviced offices of the history of BWTC Ltd, their likely failure to order at least some of the wine their clients ordered and that the company and its directors were under vigorous investigation by the Economic Unit of the Hertfordshire Police.

FGI Ltd was set up in October 2003 as World Solve Ltd. The company’s name was changed to First Growth Investments on 23rd April 2008. 25 year-old William Frederick Boyd (DOB: 12.4.1983) of Manor Way, Borehamwood was appointed the sole director on 17th April 2008. 20-year-old Daniel Davies (DOB: 6.8.1987) of Leavesdon Road, Watford was appointed company secretary on the same day.

investdrinks understands that although Boyd is the sole director Craven appears to be the one in charge and most familiar with renting offices etc. Also although the offices are rented in the name FGI Ltd the phone is often answered in the name of The Bordeaux Wine Trading Company. Apparently Boyd, Craven and others are only occasionally at Gloucester Avenue generally around noon to early afternoon and rarely stay more than 45 minutes. It is not known whether this is their only trading address or whether sales are made another office elsewhere.

FGI Ltd is offering the five First Growths in 2007 en primeur at lower unit prices than some established merchants - apparently with a total allocation of 90 cases. If you take all five châteaux as a parcel then FGI appear to be making just 3.9% gross profit once they have added their 15% ‘broker’s premium’ out of which must come the five years insurance and storage included as part of the deal by FGI. The lowest price from UK merchants on 24thj June 2008 for a case of each of the five First Growths was £12170. FGI Ltd is charging £12650. Five years insurance on five cases through London City Bond’s private reserves service will cost £359.55. This leaves £120.45 for FGI to cover its other expenses on the sale of this wine including presumably staff commission, office rental at Gloucester Avenue etc. Of course FGI are may well get discounts on the cost of the wine, storage etc. but the margin will remain decidedly slim. There is also the question of where FGI will obtain a First Growth allocation, as they are unlikely to be in a position to buy directly from merchants in Bordeaux.

To the best of my knowledge FGI is the only company I know of so far that is claiming that 2007 Bordeaux is an investment vintage. Most merchants and critics are agreed that 2007 is certainly not a vintage for investment.

Intriguingly FGI’s website (firstgrowthinvestments.com) gives no telephone or email contact for the company. It also appears to have been put together in some haste: ‘Robert Park (sic) Junior is the world’s foremost authority when it comes to grading wine’ and ‘There are five of them; Cateau (sic) Lafite Rothschild, cateau (sic) Mouton Rothschild’.

Customers of BWTC Ltd may wish to contact Peter Thody of Hertfordshire Police Economic Crime Unit on 01707-638414 or peter.thody@herts.pnn.police.uk Any one contacted by First Growth Ltd would also be well advised to contact the police.

Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd - desperate tactics
(Posted 29th April 2008)

investdrinks is keeping a running total of the amount of money placed with the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd for 2005 and 2006 Bordeaux en primeur. Currently it is £146,055 for seven customers. It seems very reasonable to assume that BWTC has many more customers than this and that the total value of orders placed must be substantially higher.

Despite being threatened with being struck of fro non-compliance with UK company law and having fled from their offices in Potters Bar, the mobile boiler-room sales force continued to try to entrap the unwary into buying wine that the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd are unlikely to be able to supply.

A BWTC customer outlines the tactics used:

‘On 1st April I was given the hard sell by a broker who offered a collection of First Growth 2006 (5 cases), which a client was being forced to sell as a result of a pending divorce. I declined the offer even though I knew it was a good price, he asked me to hold the line (I did not ring him) and came back saying that he had been given authority to sell for two payments of 50% with the second payment being made in 6 months.’

investdrinks notes that a remarkable number of The Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd’s customers are apparently going through difficult divorces. This old ploy was previously used last year to persuade a customer to thin their wallet by £19,000 on a case of Pétrus 2005.

£10,000 for a collection of the five cases of first growth 2006 would indeed have been a ‘good price’. wine-searcher shows that  cheapest current price from UK merchants is £17,850. This appears to be a desperate attempt by BWTC to acquire further funds with no thought as to whether they could supply the wines ordered.

As investdrinks has tried, without success, to contact Niklaus Cashman, BWTC’s sole director, here are a few questions for him:

  1. BWTC sold a case of Pétrus 2005 in late 2007 for £19,000. From where have you sourced this wine? If you have placed an order have you paid for the wine?
  2. BWTC has taken substantial orders for Bordeaux en primeur 2005 and 2006. Where did you place these orders and have they now been paid for?
  3. When will our Bordeaux 2005s arrive in this country and where will they be stored?
  4. Do you agree that en primeur Bordeaux is potentially a bespoke vehicle for fraud?

Niklaus Cashman - I look forward to hearing from you.

Message to Paul Craven and Niklaus Cashman

Hertfordshire police are now investigating Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd and I’m sure that they would like to speak to you. In any case it would allow you to reassure the police and your customers that you have placed and paid for all the necessary orders. Their number is 0845-3300222.

Bordeaux Wine Trading Company flee Borehamwood
(Posted 18th April 2008)

Niklaus Cashman and the staff of Bordeaux Wine Trading Ltd appear to have gone on the run. “They picked up their things and left,” the manager of their offices in Devonshire House, Borehamwood told investdrinks. “They kind of disappeared - we didn’t know they had gone.” As at Potters Bar BWTC didn’t leave a forwarding address. investdrinks understands that BWTC paid their office rent in cash.

investdrinks can think of several reasons why BWTC opted to rent the offices in the name of William Frederick rather than use the company name. Having recently seen a credit report on the company prepared by UK Data Ltd it is not difficult to see why cash in advance is required. Their credit limit is £0.00 and their risk score: 11 - ‘caution. high risk potential’. Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd has one county court judgment against it. On 14th February a judgment for £1349 was made in Poole against Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd.

A number of concerned customers of Bordeaux Wine Trading Company have contacted Hertfordshire police, who are believed to have visited BWTC’s Borehamwood offices. investdrinks trusts that Niklaus Cashman, Paul Craven and other former directors and officers of Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd will see the wisdom of cooperating with Hertfordshire Police and demonstrate that all orders have been placed, monies passed on and that, despite the company’s bizarre wanderings around north London, customers will receive their wine.

Bordeaux Wine Trading Company - contact group
(Posted 14th April 2008)

Concerned customers of the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd have set up a contact group. It can accessed at: fishhound.co.uk/bwtc/quickcontact.htm

Bordeaux Wine Company - another bad deal

investdrinks has been contacted for advice by someone who had been cold called by BWC offering an expensive case of Château Lafite 2002.

‘Do you have any experience of the Bordeaux Wine Company, 7-11 Cavendish Place, London, W1G 0QD - www.bordeauxwinecompany.com ? Do you know if they are a reputable company? They called out of the blue offering to sell me a case of in bond 2002 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild for £3100 + a 25% £775 service charge, including 5 years storage and insurance.

I'm a complete novice to wine investment, but would look to purchase some if I felt it was a good investment. My gut feeling is that although this wine has a Parker score of 94, and that I wouldn't be looking to sell this wine on for 5 years or more, the service charge is quite steep. The Decanter website offers the advice of not touching specialist wine investment companies that charge such a steep upfront commission fee.

Do you think I should leave this well alone?’

investdrinks’ response:
Some answers:

‘Do you think I should leave this well alone?’

Absolutely - very well alone.

‘Do you know if they are a reputable company?’

I certainly wouldn't recommend them and I don’t think they are reputable. They overcharge plus add on a 25% commission fee - it isn't just investdrinks and Decanter that warns against this practice but so do the UK Govt. in their how to avoid fraud section. (See Directgov: Financial scams - how to protect yourself: direct.gov.uk/en/MoneyTaxAndBenefits/ManagingMoney/KeepingYourMoneySecure/DG_10035798) There is no need to pay a service charge when buying fine wine.

IMO anyone who calls out of the blue and offers you an investment should be automatically rejected. If you look on www.wine-searcher.com you’ll see that you can buy 2002 Lafite for £2600. BWC want to charge you £3875 - £1175 more. (Five years storage charges will be less than £100.) In addition 2002 is not a special vintage and although the Lafite has increased in value substantially over the past two years it is not I think a suitable vintage for a long-term investment.

Further Comments

Although the 2002 Lafite has increased considerably in value - four years ago a case could be bought for £815 and now it is around £2600. However, the price of the 2002 is well down on both the 2000 and 2005 and it is unlikely to be a good long-term investment bet. Anyone paying BWC’s highly inflated price is likely to be facing a loss for some time to come.

Don’t buy 2007 Bordeaux en primeur as an investment
(Posted 7th April 2008)

The 2007 en primeur campaign is about to start. Because of the very difficult summer last year the 2007 vintage in Bordeaux is not going to be one to keep for a long time. Most wines will be early drinking. 2007 is not a vintage for investment, especially as the Bordeaux owners will probably over-price them. If you are offered deals of 2007 en primeur as an investment investdrinks’ advice is to decline.

Don’t just take investdrinks word for it, listen to Jancis Robinson MW discussing 2007 Bordeaux with Stephen Staples of Berry Brothers & Rudd: bbr.com/sounds/jancisstaples07FINAL.mp3 (or bbr.com/GB/wine-knowledge/podcask07?ID=TFH7BCJGQNS00BP)

BWTC and a full case of Pétrus 2005

investdrinks has been contacted recently by a client of BWTC Ltd, who thought that he had bought at the end of last year a case of 2005 Château Pétrus for the bargain price of £19,000. He was told that the going-rate was then around £23,000 and the investor was told that they were able ‘to offer it for sale from another client who they said wanted to sell because he was going through a divorce and needed the money’. Unfortunately the client fell for this line.

Corney & Barrow is the sole UK agent for Pétrus and investdrinks spoke to Oliver Hartley, their sales director. He told me that the entire allocation of Pétrus 2005 for the UK amounted to just 1200 bottles and that the allocation was so strict that only seven or eight of their customers were allowed a full case of 12 bottles.

Hartley told me that it was highly unlikely that BTWC could have sourced any 2005 Pétrus. “We were selling Pétrus 2005 at the end of last year for the equivalent of £24,000-£25,000.

Keen to learn more about how BWTC has managed to acquire a case of Pétrus 2005, investdrinks has attempted to contact Niklaus Cashman at BWTC’s Borehamwood offices without success and, despite leaving several messages, calls have not been returned.

Not content with the coup of acquiring a full case of 2005 Pétrus, BWTC appear to have laid their hands on another - ex-director Paul Craven was apparently attempting in February 2008 to sell another case, again for £19,000, to another client. Doubtless yet another messy divorce!

investdrinks would be delighted to post details from either Nikolas Cashman or Paul Craven confirming that they are indeed in a position to sell two cases of 2005 Pétrus. Otherwise investdrinks will have to conclude that BWTC Ltd is seeking to defraud its clients.

Although the answer phone at the new premises in Borehamwood invites callers to leave messages for Bordeaux Wine Trading Company, the offices are rented in the name of William Frederick.

investdrinks understands from a BTWC customer who visited their old premises in Potters Bar that the office was tiny - ‘this  operation  was  carried  out  from  an  office  6  metres  by  6 metres,  two  the  office  was  deserted  and  showed  evidence  of  a  rapid  departure.  On perusing  pieces  of  mail  scattered  around  there were  two  distress  notices  issued  by  British  Telecom,  two  bailiff  notices  for  a  Paul  Craven  for  non  payment  of  council  tax  and  non  payment  of  a  motoring  offence’.

Bordeaux Wine Company - slicing the salami at both ends

investdrinks has been recently contacted by a long-time customer of the Bordeaux Wine Company (BWC). The customer has both bought wine from and then sold wine through BWC.  A price comparison using wine-searcher.com shows that the client has consistently paid well over the odds for wine that they have bought, while at the same time received well under the going rate when selling through BWC despite having paid a 25% up-front commission with supposedly no commission levied when they come to sell. BWC appear to have been slicing the salami at both ends.

The analysis shows that the client paid out £60442.10 to BWC for nearly 30 cases of wine. These could have been bought from other merchants for £33654.71 - this figure is indicative rather than being exact to the last £1. BWC sold two cases for them. One was a Lafite 1996. Bought in summer 2003 for £3245 when it could have been purchased elsewhere for £2021. BWC sold this case in autumn 2007 for £5600 when the going rate elsewhere four months earlier was £6742. Don’t forget that the client had already been stung for a 25% up-front commission when they bought. Clearly there was also an undeclared sellers’ premium.

Bordeaux Wine Trading Company (BWTC) in Borehamwood
(Posted 28th March 2008)

BWTC has now surfaced in Borehamwood at serviced offices at Devonshire House, Manor Way - tel: 020-8236 2950. Sandy Garcia, the manager of The Enterprise Centre in Potters Bar, told investdrinks that BWTC had moved out without leaving a forwarding-address although they were returning to collect their post. The Enterprise Centre in Potters Bar was both BWTC’s trading and registered address. Niklaus Cashman, the sole director, has failed to notify Companies House that the company has moved from their registered office. Companies are obliged to notify changes of registered office within 14 days.

BWTC’s annual return remains overdue, they are still without a company secretary and they face being struck off for non-compliance. Attempts to speak to Cashman have been unsuccessful. The new offices in Borehamwood appear to be only intermittently staffed. With its record of failing to comply with UK company law, investdrinks’ strong advice is not to do business with this company.

See also: jancisrobinson.com/articles/20080327_1

Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd disappears?
(Posted 5th March 2008)

The predictable appears to have happened - the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company may well have ceased trading. investdrinks understands that they have gone from their premises at Unit 32, The Enterprise Centre, Cranborne Road, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire EN6 3DQ. A concerned client reports that ‘I visited the offices of BWTC this morning at Potters Bar only to find they have absconded.  The Complex Manager told me that they have been given notice to quit, and there had been a succession of bailiffs and police interest over the last week.’

Despite Mr Cashman’s assurances (18th January 2008) it would seem all too likely that customers who bought wines en primeur from the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company will find that orders were not placed and that their monies have not been passed on.

A popular address
(Posted 4th March 2008)

228a High Street, Bromley appears to be a popular address for wine investment companies. Bordeaux UK Ltd and Nouveau World Wines Ltd, which as the company name implies offers wine investments from the New World apparently mainly Australia, both have their registered offices here. New World Wines company secretary is SBC Accountants Ltd of 228A High Street, Bromley. European Fine Wines Ltd, whose registered office is at 68 Lombard Street, London EC3V 9LJ, has SBC Accountants Ltd as their company secretary. The company was set up on 18th August 2005. Its sole director is 26-year-old Emrah Ceyhan of Bromley, Kent. European Fines Ltd and Nouveau World Wines Ltd also share the same website registrant: AFD Multimedia Limited, 28 Belgravia Gardens, Bromley, Kent BR1 4TB.

Bordeaux UK was set up in September 2002 and offers Bordeaux as an investment. Its sole director is 28-year-old Ian Paul Vanderhook of Beckenham. Nouveau World Wines Ltd is more recent. It was incorporated on 16th September 2004 as Infinite Rockall Services Limited changing its name to Nouveau World Wines on 9th June 2006. 32-year-old Daniel Snelling of Bickley, Kent is now the sole director - a previous director, 28-year-old Scott Assemakis, who was appointed on 1st January 2006 resigned on 31st August 2006.  Until recently the company’s annual return has been overdue. It should have been filed on 14th October 2007 - Companies House received the return on 18th February 2008.

Robert Parker’s rating system features on their website (nouveauworldwines.com). There is, however, rather more of Robert’s work on the site than is acknowledged. An Education in Wine Terminology (nouveauworldwines.com/005a.html) appears to be identical to ‘A glossary of wine terms’ on eRobertParker.com’ (erobertparker.com/info/glossary.asp) except that the ‘- Robert Parker’ name is missed off the Nouveau version. The section famed wine regions: ‘Australian Wine Regions’ is also Robert’s work - taken from The Wine Buyers Guide Vol 2 Rest of the World but not acknowledged. Nouveau’s website claims that: ‘New World's experienced wine brokers bring a wealth of knowledge and market information to their clients.’  However, it appears that a considerable percentage of the expertise demonstrated on the Nouveau World Wines site belongs to Robert Parker that has been used without his knowledge and permission with no acknowledgement.

European Fine Wines Ltd’s (EFW) serviced offices at 68 Lombard Street are operated by Regus. EFW ‘favour French wines as an investment’ and specifically the ‘Bordeaux Big Eight: Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Petrus, Chateau Ausone, Chateau Le Pin’.

The EFW website explains how the French ‘establish the integrity of the higher value wines’: The Fine Wine Index (Appellation Controlee France) led the way in this international trade, and wanted to demonstrate the value of different wines. Napoleon III introduced the Fine Wine Index, and today the finest French vintages are still classified and controlled by the Institut Da Appellations da Origne, which we see as Appellation Controlee.’

EFW website also has some intriguing advice on profits from fine wine and capital gains tax: ‘As we build our portfolio of quality wines, we must be aware of the strong possibility of a significant increase in value. A common concern among our clients is the potential for being exposed to a liability for Capital Gains Tax as and when they sell their collection. Simply - the category of wine that we collect is designated as a wasting asset, i.e. we would expect the wine to be consumed within 50 years. The current position is that "... wasting assets are generally exempt from Capital Gains Tax ..." It is important that you discuss this matter fully with us, and we will provide you with all the information you require in the light of HM Revenue and Customs rulings.’

An interestingly Bacchic approach to say that wine is likely to be drunk within 50 years but unlikely I fear to impress the HM Revenue & Customs, who take the view that wine is not a wasting asset if it is consumable 50 years after the date of purchase. Given that EFW offer wine from the ‘Bordeaux Big Eight’ then wines from these properties if bought young and in vintages like 2000 and 2005 are highly likely to be judged by the HM Revenue & Customs not to be wasting assets and therefore any profits will be subject to capital gains tax.

Bordeaux UK has an interestingly different take on CGT: ‘It is sometimes thought that all wine is always free from capital gains due to the fact that it is a wasting chattel. The official stance from the Inland Revenue is that for Capital Gains Tax purposes a wasting asset, from the point of view of the person acquiring it, does not exceed 50 years. We would therefore recommend you holding your wine collection for a period not exceeding 50 years. We would always recommend consulting your local tax office or your accountant when it comes to the sale of your collection.’

As the directors of these companies all come from the Bromley area you would have thought that they could get together and sort what the HM Revenue & Customs say about CGT and wine. Perhaps it is time to set up a Bromley chapter of the Claret Web?

Bordeaux Wine Trading Company (BWTC)
(Posted 18th January 2008)

This company, founded on 21st July 2006, offers wine for investment. It also offered Bordeaux 2006 en primeur. It is based at Unit 32, The Enterprise Centre, Cranborne Road, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire EN6 3DQ. Anyone considering doing business with this company should be aware that Companies House has a proposal to strike the company off for non-compliance as the annual return is outstanding since 18th August 2007 and has not had a company secretary since 13th April 2007, so in breach of UK company law on two counts. Indeed between 20th July 2007 when Paul Craven resigned as a director and 18th September 2007 when Niklaus Cashman was appointed as sole director the company had no appointments at all.

BWTC charges a 15% brokerage fee but makes no commission when selling clients’ wine. Although a 15% upfront fee is lower than the 25% charged by some other wine investment companies, investdrinks’ advice remains that these up-front fees are not in clients’ interest especially with the very shaky foundations that BWTC appears to have.

After investdrinks was contacted by a concerned client of BWTC, I contacted the company and have today (18th January 2008) spoken to the sole director - Niklaus Cashman. Cashman assured investdrinks that the failure to file the annual return was ‘down to a problem with the accountant’ and this was now being sorted out and that it was expected that this would be sorted out in a couple of weeks. He assured investdrinks that 2006 en primeur monies had been passed on. He invited the concerned client to contact BWTC and offered to refund their money if they wished. Cashman told investdrinks had worked for another wine company but declined to say which one. investdrinks understands that this may well be The Bordeaux Wine Company.

Later that day investdrinks was also contacted someone pretending, apparently falsely, to be one of the company’s former directors. investdrinks was assured that the caller that matter of the annual return was being sorted out and also blamed the failure to file on the accountant. The caller explained that ‘internal arguments’ had been the reason why the company had had no director for six weeks last year. Of course there are disagreements within companies but the failure to comply with company law is surely a sign for putative clients to look elsewhere. investdrinks’ advice is not to do business with BWTC at least until it complies with UK company law and has built up a proven track record, which will include the delivery to BWTC clients of all the 2006 en primeur ordered.

Ransby attempts to row across Atlantic
(Posted 7th August 2007)

Serial fraudster and banned company director, 33-year-old Alex Ransby is attempting to cross the Atlantic in a rowing boat apparently to raise money for people suffering from arthritis in Newfoundland.

Although it is commendable to raise money for worthy causes, investdrinks finds it difficult, bearing in mind the debacle of his last fundraising crossing of the Atlantic, not to be somewhat sceptical over Ransby’s latest venture. It also raises the puzzle as to why Canadians apparently treat Ransby as a hero and take his claims seriously.

For those wishing to read a gushing appeal for funds should go to:
https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/personalPage.aspx?EventID=12321&LangPref=en-CA&RegistrationID=322641

investdrinks notes Ransby’s wonderful sense of irony when reflecting back on his trip across the Atlantic in hipjoint in 2003 ­“It was almost impossible to explain the pride and excitement of seeing how my efforts had inspired so many people.” Alex says.

Yes indeed! I’m sure Alex’s failure to pay the bills he ran up while being a shadow director of Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd as well as running the company while a bankrupt and a banned from being a company director inspired the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to close the company down in the public interest. It is also quite possible that Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd traded while insolvent. Those creditors, who supplied equipment for hipjoint, were surely excited to be included amongst the list of creditors owed £50,000 by Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd.

I’m sure that Caroline Alexander, the sole director of Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd, and Ransby’s then partner found it truly inspirational to be dumped unceremoniously when the legal heat got too much for our brave sailor and Ransby fled to Canada to escape probable criminal prosecution in the UK. This inspirational man left Alexander to sort out the mess of Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd into which he had already conned her into providing him with in excess £20,000.

On this occasion investdrinks will have to decline to sponsor Alex Ransby, although I look forward to seeing the DTI press charges when he steps ashore in Falmouth. Of course if Ransby’s illness is anything like as serious as he claims, then his chances of rowing successfully across the Atlantic must be slim let alone setting a record. investdrinks has to wonder whether some people in Newfoundland are at last beginning to see through Alex Ransby and once again he is looking to move on. Alex - investdrinks recommends Nigeria - they are plenty of con-merchants there. You’ll feel at home.

Stop press

Ransby was due to set out on Friday 3rd August but has delayed his departure by a week due to the storm Chantal.

Raun Austin with football stars in commemorative race
(Posted 14th February 2007)

investdrinks is confident that former clients of Goldman Williams, City Vintners and the Salisbury Merchant Bank would have been delighted to read in the UK Daily Mirror on Tuesday 6th February 2007 (mirror.co.uk/news/topstories/tm_method=full%26objectid=18582038%26siteid=89520-name_page.html) that ex-football star Luther Blissett has teamed up with his business partner Raun Austin in Windrush Motorsport Ltd to enter the famous Le Mans 24 Hour race in June 2008.

They had initially planned to enter the race in 2009 but as 22nd June 2008 will be the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury with 492 passengers from Jamaica who were looking to begin a new life in the UK. These were the first of many people from Jamaica and other islands in the Caribbean who came to the UK after the Second World War.

The Mirror article explained that it normally costs £1 million to enter a car for the Le Mans race. Blissett and Austin along with fellow ex-footballers Les Ferdinand and John Barnes will be looking for financial support as well as expert tuition from pro-race drivers. The public are being invited to sponsor the Windrush team cars from a minimum of £50. How much would it cost to have The Salisbury Merchant Bank emblazoned on the car investdrinks wonders.

investdrinks has no doubt about Austin’s organisational capabilities but is concerned that Austin being disqualified as a company director in the UK until 8th February 2016 may hamper Windrush’s efforts to raise money, sponsorship etc. Should Raun Austin have too important a role in running Windrush he could be seen as a shadow director.

Austin proved his organisational ability and drive in building up Goldman Williams Ltd and City Vintners Ltd as easily the two largest companies in the Claret Web before they were closed by the Department of Trade & Industry in the public interest in December 2001. Goldman and City Vintners total combined turnover had reached just under £20 million by the time the DTI intervened. At the same time Austin developed his penny share business in the West Indies and Spain through a series of companies like the Stanley Riebeck Corporation and Goldberg Kravitz under the aegis of The Salisbury Merchant Bank.

However a co-ordinated Serious Fraud Office and police swoop in July 2002 in Spain, Grenada and the UK closed the Salisbury Merchant Bank and its associated companies and led to an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into both the penny share and wine investment businesses. No charges were brought and the investigation was eventually closed. investdrinks understands that the SFO considered a major impediment to a successful prosecution was an initial investigation by the DTI into City Vintners and Goldman Williams which cleared the two companies. It was a second investigation a year later that uncovered evidence that persuaded the High Court to close the two companies in the public interest.

investdrinks hopes that Raun Austin’s tax adviser and director and once chairman of the Salisbury Merchant Bank, Claude Clifford Greaves, will have completed his three year prison sentence for unrelated but major VAT fraud in time to be present at the race.

For further information on the SFO investigation see thisismoney.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=401276

Bordeaux Wine Company

investdrinks was delighted to receive the following recent message:

‘I was cold-called by this organisation. Offering en primeur Bordeaux, based at 3 Rosemont Road, Hampstead, London W1G 0QD. 25% commission upfront etc.  A case of Lafite-Rothschild 2005 in bond was £6125.  Available elsewhere at around £4000 after searching around. Just thought I’d pass this on, but mainly as a thank you for your web site and associated information!  It was most useful in allowing me to unravel whether I should, or should not, invest here...
Kind regards’

investdrinks’ advice remains that you should be wary of cold calls offering wine investment, to check prices on wine-searcher, and to refuse to do business companies who charge an upfront commission (usually 25%). Five years storage and insurance is usually included in the price. This amounts to around £60 a case over five years.

The UK Government offers similar advice: ‘ALWAYS ask about payment of commission. Beware of an up-front commission payable at the time of purchase instead of the time of sale.’ (consumerdirect.gov.uk/goods-service/scams/fs_i03.shtml)

investdrinks would be delighted to hear from companies like the Bordeaux Wine Company, Bordeaux UK and Morgan Aston Ford who charge a 25% upfront commission as to how this practice benefits their clients. I will be pleased to post their comments on the site.

Bordeaux UK  - hilarious tax advice

Bordeaux UK’s web site has a section on tax:

What about Capital Gains Tax?

‘It is sometimes thought that all wine is always free from capital gains due to the fact that it is a wasting chattel. The official stance from the Inland Revenue is that for Capital Gains Tax purposes a wasting asset, from the point of view of the person acquiring it, does not exceed 50 years.

We would therefore recommend you holding your wine collection for a period not exceeding 50 years. We would always recommend consulting your local tax office or your accountant when it comes to the sale of your collection.’

The first paragraph is correct but it is clear that Mr Ian Vanderhook and his company have not understood the implications. HM Revenue & Customs view wine that has a potential to last 50 years as a taxable asset and this is irrespective of how long you hold it. investdrinks suggests that Mr Vanderhook makes an early appointment with his local tax office.

Bordelais & Dutch: a letter from David Jackson
(Posted 8th January 2007)

Although I question many of his claims (see my response below) I’m happy to post the following letter from David Jackson, a director of wine investment company Bordelais & Dutch closed in the public interest by High Court following a petition by the DTI on 28th January 2003.

From: David Jackson
14th December 2006

Dear Mr Budd,

I write to you as a former director of Bordelais & Dutch Ltd (B&D), a firm which was vilified on your web site and grouped within your ‘Claret Web’.  B&D was subsequently closed in the public interest by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Your web site contains the following pledge: “The details on this site are backed by evidence. If, however, an individual or company demonstrates that they are inaccurate or that there is other evidence which sheds a different light on the evidence that I have, then I undertake to amend any inaccuracies as rapidly as possible and to issue a retraction”.
I am writing to you as I have such evidence.  Further, I consider this information to be of the utmost importance to the clients of my former company, but as I no longer have a forum with which to communicate with these people, then I place reliance on you honouring your pledge and request that you print this letter in full on your web site

At the time of B&D’s operation, you suggested that the directors were of questionable repute and were implicit that the investments offered were against the interests of the clients - “any investor who buys the 1986 Mouton as an investment from B&D would find that they would be very much better off leaving the money in an ISA... Even a National Savings Account offers a much better level of return than Bordelais & Dutch’s advise and price. £3,110... .Still at least clients of Bordelais & Dutch Ltd will not have to worry about capital gains tax - losses are not taxed.”.

Time has told a very different story.  You will recall that the brochure of B&D contained an explicit recommendation to hold the wines for five years, and we are now approaching that juncture.

A perfunctory search on Wine Searcher (winesearcher.com : “investdrinks highly recommends this excellent site to anyone wishing to check the price of fine wines”)  reveals that Mouton ‘86, based on the average price of the ten matching wines listed, is now £6,137.

This would represent a profit to the clients of B&D of £3,027, or some 97%.

I have been able to find prices for three other wines sold by B&D on your site; Haut Brion ’96 (£1,520), Lafite ’96 (£2,700) and Lafite ’86 (£2,900), all of which you surmised would prove to be a worse investment than an ISA at 4%.

Applying the same process as with the ’86 Mouton reveals that only the ’96 Haut Brion has appreciated modestly (20% based on the average price today of £1,830), although matching the ISA nonetheless.  

More interestingly, the ’96 Lafite showed a 78% appreciation (the average price now being £4,799) and the ’86 Lafite had appreciated by some 112% (£6162) - significantly more than double the selling price of B&D. 

I trust that you will see fit to impart this information to the readers of your website.

At the time that we lost control of B&D to the liquidator, my business partner and I wrote to all of the clients expressing our sadness at losing the firm.  The letter contained an assurance of our integrity and intentions, and implored the clients to hold onto their wines for the five years recommended.

Sadly, I would imagine that the lies of the DTI (I have evidence that the DTI misled the courts and the Secretary of State in order to achieve their malicious goal of closing the company) and agenda driven journalism such as yours drove many to sell their wines at a loss on the assumption that they had been misled or conned. 

The legacy is that both the DTI and you acted very much against the best interests of the clients of B&D. 

Nonetheless, as I received numerous touching letters of support from clients at the time, I would imagine that many gave us the benefit of the doubt, and hold their wines to this day.  These people will no doubt be heartened at reading this letter.

Perhaps a lesson may be learnt by all from this; that as much care should be applied to discouraging someone from making an investment as in recommending it in the first place. 

In honouring your pledge and in light of the evidence contained within this letter, I also suggest that you to update the title page of your website - an analysis of ’96 wines which only documents their performance to 2002 has become misleading itself.

Yours sincerely

David Jackson

My response
David Jackson is correct to point to the recent considerable increases in price of some of the older vintages of Bordeaux. This has been in part because of the very high prices achieved by the 2005s en primeur, so that in comparison good older vintages were undervalued. This illustrates that wine prices tend to rise in sharp steps interspersed by a price plateau.   However, Jackson has given a selective headline picture and a more in-depth look at the price increases and profits achieved would have given a fuller picture.

As he chose to quote selectively sections of an investdrinks posting from 4th March 2002, here is the posting in full:

‘Jackson & Blackburn back in business but National Savings Investment Account better value (posted 4.3.02)
David Jackson, ex general manager of Goldman Williams, and Mark Blackburn, a broker at Goldman, are the two directors of newly formed Bordelais & Dutch Ltd. The company is offering Mouton-Rothschild 1986 as an investment at £3,110 a case. This can be bought from Corney & Barrow (broking) for £2,300 a case. The price of Mouton 1986 has barely moved over the last three years - 3 years ago Corney & Barrow had this wine for £2,200, so over that period the wine has risen by just 4.5% (1.5% per annum). Bordelais & Dutch Ltd trade officially from the same address as Morgan Chantel Ltd.

Any investor, who buys the 1986 Mouton as an investment from B&D will find that they would be very much better off leaving the money in an ISA. After ten years on current performance the market value of the Mouton 86 will have risen to £2,669 - a loss of £441. An ISA at 4% will have risen from £3,110 to £4,604 and one at 4.5% will have risen to £4,830. Even a National Savings account offers a much better level of return than Bordelais & Dutch's advice and price. £3,110 in a National Savings account (2.7% per annum) will have risen to £4059 gross. Still at least clients of Bordelais & Dutch Ltd will not have to worry about capital gains tax - losses are not taxed.

It does seem extraordinary that the general manger and a senior broker of Goldman Williams which a High Court judge believed supported 'the conclusion that the Companies were carrying on a business in a manner designed deliberately and dishonestly to mislead the public' should be able to set up a new investment company a week after Goldman Williams was wound up in the public interest. There should surely be a requirement on Jackson and Blackburn, whatever the merits or otherwise of their new company, to demonstrate to the financial authorities that they are fit and proper people to offer investment advice. Should they show again that they are not fit and proper, it will be down to the DTI to prove this at taxpayers' expense. This is absurd.’

My comments on Bordelais & Dutch Ltd were based on the past history of the directors and the companies they worked for and on the historic performance of the wines they were offering for investment and, especially, at the price they were offering them. Nowhere in David Jackson’s letter does he mention that the wines his company was punting as investments could all be bought cheaper elsewhere, often substantially cheaper.

Let’s take two wines - Mouton-Rothschild 1986 and Haut-Brion 1996 -  cited by David Jackson and look at their performance in more detail - beyond the headline profit percentages. Prices are taken from wine-searcher.

Mouton-Rothschild 1986
The price of MR 86 has certainly increased sharply over the last year. Available from Corney & Barrow Ltd in early 2002 for £2300 or from Jackson’s Bordelais & Dutch Ltd for £3110 it was selling for £5200 from Wilkinson Vintners on 6th December 2006. Almost all of this increase occurred between June 2005 when it could be bought £2550 from Albany Vintners. It remains to be seen if the price will continue to rise or will plateau out.

Certainly had an investor bought MR 86 from Bordelais & Dutch Ltd in 2002 they would have made a substantial profit although had they bought from Corney & Barrow it would have realised considerably more.

Bordelais & Dutch
Case bought for £3110 - sold in December 2006 for £5200 (gross price)
Deductions:
Storage & insurance charges (£10 per annum) 5 years - £50.
(Storage and insurance for five years was included in B&D price but as firm was closed in public interest charges for at least four years will have been payable by investor)
Less 10% commission charge:  £520
Total deductions: £570
Price after deductions: £4630
Net profit: £1520 (without capital gains)
Net profit (including capital gains):
% increase: 48.87% (9.77%)
Capital gains (if levied): £304 @ 20%  (net profit: £1216)   £608 @40% (net profit £912)
NB It is quite possible that capital gains would not be levied on this as you could make a good case that the MR 86 will not be drinkable in 2052. 

In comparison the mini-cash ISA @ 4.5% per annum has not done so well.
01/02: 3110:
02/03: 3249.95
03/04: 3396.20
04/05: 3549.03
05/06: 3708.74
06/07: 3875.63
Net gain: 765.63
% increase: 24.62% (4.92%) 

However, buying from Corney & Barrow plus putting into an ISA the difference between C&B’s price and B&D’s produces a much bigger saving.

Corney & Barrow
Case bought for £2300 - sold in December 2006 for £5200 (gross price)
Deductions:
Storage & insurance charges (£10 per annum) 5 years - £50.
Less 10% commission charge:  £520
Total deductions: £570
Price after deductions: £4630
Net profit: £2330 (without capital gains)
% increase: 101.3% - 20.26% per annum
Capital gains (if levied) : £466 @ 20%    (£1864) £932 @ 40% (£1398).

Investing the difference between the two purchase prices in an ISA @4.5% realises
01/02: 810.00
02/03:  846.45
03/04:  884.54
04/05:  924.34
05/06:  965.93
06/07:  1009.40
Increase: £199.40

Money saved through buying from C&B and invested in ISA totals £2529.40 This is £1009.40 above profit realised through B&D - a difference of 66.4%. Clearly David Jackson should have been telling his brokers to advise potential customers that Bordelais & Dutch Ltd couldn’t hope to meet prices from merchants like Corney & Barrow and that they might well achieve substantially higher profits by buying elsewhere.

Haut-Brion 1996
Although this has risen in price it has not risen sufficiently for a B&D client to realise a profit, instead they are in the red. 

Haut-Brion
Bought Bordelais & Dutch £1520 in 2002, Sold 4th January 2007 at £1650 (gross price). Listed available from Albany Vintners 4th January 2007
Gross profit: £130
Deductions to B&D
Storage & insurance charges (£10 per annum) 5 years - £50.
Less 10% commission charge:  £165
Total deductions: £215
Price after deductions: £1435
Net loss: £85 (no capital gains)
Net % decrease: 5.6%  

£1520 invested in a mini-cash ISA:
01/02: 1520
02/03:  1588.40
03/04:  1659.88
04/05:  1734.57
05/06:  1812.63
06/07:  1894.20
Increase: £374.20

In this case had a canny investor listened to investdrinks and put their £1520 into an ISA, they would be £459.20 better off. However, I do expect in time that someone who bought Haut-Brion from B&D has a considerably better chance of seeing a profit over time than anyone who bought a plot of agricultural land from Stephen Cleeve’s European Land Sales Partnership, David Jackson’s recent employer.

I stand by the comments I made about Bordelais & Dutch. Buying from brokers in the UK and therefore having to add another tier of expenses and profit margin meant that their prices couldn’t be competitive. It was right that they were closed in the public interest, although by rights it ought to have been down to David Jackson and Mark Blackburn to show that they were fit to offer investment advice and that they had a business model that worked.

Austin and Somerville investigation dropped
(Posted 13th June 2005)

The Serious Fraud Squad has dropped their three-year investigation into the business affairs of 37 year-old Raun Austin and 67 year-old Andrew Sommerville. The investigation into City Vintners, Goldman Williams and various penny share companies based around the Salisbury Merchant Bank started with raids on properties in the UK, Spain and Grenada on 23rd and 24th July 2002.

Think before you buy 2004 en primeur
(Posted 19th April 2005)

The world's wine merchants and many journalists were in Bordeaux from Monday 4th to Friday 8th for the annual jamboree to taste the latest vintage - 2004. The Bordelais were expecting some 4,400 merchants and 105 journalists.  Having tasted the wines, made their notes the merchants have now returned home and are starting to crank up the 2004 en primeur machine. 

No reason to buy 2004 en primeur

2004 is a big vintage. It is a patchy vintage with some good wines made. There is also plenty of earlier vintages, especially 2002 and 2001. There is not going to be a shortage of wine and 2004 is certainly not an investment vintage. The only possible reason for buying 2004 is if the prices drop dramatically down from the 2003 level. Prices need to drop by at least 20% and where properties pushed their 2003 prices up sharply they will need to fall by a lot more.  So far very few producers have released their prices. Of the few that have Valandraud (St Emilion) came out at nearly 50% below the 2003, while Gruaud-Larose fell by only 10%. This means that there are a few mature vintages of Gruaud-Larose that will cost less than the 2004. For instance Farr Vintners is offering Gruaud 2004 for £210 a case, while they have the 1997, which is ready to drink now, for £200. buy the 1997 now and wait to buy the 2004. No point in tying up you money.  

Use wine-searcher to check 2004 prices

You might imagine that there would be little difference between merchants on the prices of just released 2004s. You would be wrong. Currently the cheapest price for Gruaud-Larose 2004 on wine-searcher is £197.88 from Finest Wine. We Love Fine Wines charge £246.25 - £49.25 or 24% more. As well as checking prices it is best to deal with a company that has been around for a while and has an established track record in dealing in en primeur.

En primeur - a general health warning

Bordeaux starts to offer its top wines just a few months after the alcoholic fermentation has finished. When the world comes to Bordeaux at the end of March/ beginning of April to taste the latest vintage the wines are barely formed. This is particularly true with late vintages such as 2004. Despite the confident assessments from wine merchants they will not have tasted the finished wine. The final blend will not have been made. Often the different grape varieties will being aged separately and will not be blended for another year or so. The samples tasted are an approximation of what the final wine will be like. Given the amount of money and the status involved, the temptation to make a sample from the best barrels that will get high marks from merchants and journalists must be considerable. As far as investdrinks is aware there are no controls over the samples by any body such as the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. It's all down to good faith. Furthermore at this stage there is little sulphur to protect the wine and the samples are very fragile - there can be wide differences between samples taken from the same barrels.

You might wonder why then the rush to taste and offer the wines for sale? After all the Burgundians, with the exception of the Hospices de Beaune charity auction that occurs very soon after the vintage, do not offer their wines en primeur until some 14/15 months after the vintage. The 2004s will be first offered for sale in January 2006 when the wines are easier to judge. The blunt answer is cash flow. The en primeur system is a wonderful cash cow for the Bordeaux châteaux, the Bordeaux merchants and wine merchants around the world. Providing the public buys, en primeur provides all three with a rapid injection of cash. Don't imagine that your wine merchant will have to pay the Bordaux négociant as rapidly as you have to pay them. Normally they have several months in which to pay the Bordelais and, in 2004 with the current situation, terms are likely to be particularly easy.

For the consumer it only makes sense to buy en primeur when the wine is either likely to rise in value substantially or if it will be difficult to find later on. Neither of these conditions applies in 2004, so it is much better this time to wait until the wines are in bottle and can be assessed properly.

DTI close 18th claret investment company
(Posted 9th March 2005)

On 2nd March Bordeaux Estates Ltd was wound up in the High Court in public interest. The DTI investigation found that: 'sales staff at Bordeaux Estates Limited claimed to offer expertise in the fine wine market, and offered to help clients to build a profitable wine portfolio. The company cold called potential clients, offering to source, purchase and arrange warehouse storage for fine wines, giving the impression that high returns on potential investments were a certainty.

In reality, they were overcharging by as much as 110 per cent, making it very unlikely that the wines would make a healthy return.

DTI investigators found the company had:

  • made misleading statements in its promotional literature;
  • failed to purchase wine in sufficient quantities to satisfy the orders it received;
  • failed to advise and deal with customers in good faith and with reasonable skill and care; and
  • failed to maintain satisfactory accounts.'

According to its inadequate records Bordeaux Estates had 59 clients, who ordered wine costing £370,030. The sole director was Pierre Stephen Boyd (Steve Boyd), who was also director of The Wine Index closed in the public interest on 14th May 2003. The Wine Index had links back to Boington & Fredericks closed in the public interest in January 2002. The closure of Bordeaux Estates brings the number of wine investment companies closed by the DTI since 1998 to 18. In the light of the findings of the DTI investigation investdrinks trusts that the appropriate civil and criminal measures will be taken against Pierre Stephen Boyd (Steve Boyd).

Bordeaux Wine Company rides to the rescue - or not
(Posted 7th February 2005)

investdrinks has recently had enquiries about the Bordeaux Wine Company based on the Finchley Road in north west London. They contacted an ex-client of Goldman Williams and offered to sell their Goldman portfolio for them. Just one small catch to 'get on board' they would have to buy wine from the Bordeaux Wine Company. The salesman suggested a case of 2000 Lafite at £3,184. Using www.wine-searcher (rightly recommended by BWC) shows that Fine & Rare Wines currently have this for £2,568 - a saving of £616. Later the persistent salesman pushed a case of 1996 Haut Brion for £1,816 this includes the company's 25% commission on wine purchases - the current price was apparently £1,488. Whose current price I wonder? wine-searcher shows that you can buy 1996 Haut Brion for £940 a case. A classic white knight operation!

Bordeaux Wine Company is not alone in charging a 25% upfront commission on purchases with no commission on any wines sold, Bordeaux Wine Consultants and Morgan Aston Ford are two other companies that use this dubious practice. Wonderful for the seller but of no benefit to the buyer. 

Bordeaux Wine Company - comical ignorance

investdrinks has recently received a copy of The Bordeaux Wine Company's brochure. Parts of the brochure are so comically inaccurate that despite the company's claims of 'knowledge and contacts within the industry' that you have to wonder whether they know anything about fine wine at all. Most comic is page 6 - BORDEAUX - The History. The claim that the appellation contrôlée laws prevent 'the Châteaux to increase in size' is just plain wrong. Since the 1855 classification many of the classified châteaux have changed in size as they have bought and sold vineyards and this is not covered by the AC laws. 'In 1855 Napoleon III introduced what is known today simply as 'The Classification', putting all wines into a classification system on the grounds of quality.' Again incorrect. It is a popular myth that Napoleon III instituted the 1855 classification - it was actually put together as an afterthought. It didn't and doesn't cover all wines - only top properties in the Médoc, Barsac and Sauternes with Haut-Brion as the sole representative from the Graves region. The classification was based on price.

'The Classification' is still upheld today by 'The Appellation Controlée (sic) laws and supported by the EC regulations. Again incorrect.  Moving onto BWC's Terms & Conditions there is a strange clause under Price. 'At no time do we claim to sell the wine at the market price' - investdrinks wonders what this means?

Under the section 'Our Company & Our Role in the Marketplace' BWC trumpet that they have access to Government-Regulated bonded storage facilities'. All brokers and those dealing in fine wine will have access to bonded warehouses as do many other companies through out the drinks industry.

If you want to invest in wine do make sure that you choose a company that knows what it is talking about. On this evidence BWC hasn't a clue.

Tenon Recovery appointed liquidator of Churchill

At the 17th January meeting of creditors of Churchill Wines Ltd and Winestore UK Ltd, Tenon Recovery were appointed liquidators, effective from 21st January 2005.

Churchill Wines/Winestore UK Ltd meeting
(Posted 11th January 2005)

The Official Receiver has called a meeting of creditors of Churchill Wines Ltd and Winestore UK Ltd on 20th January 2005. It will be held at the OR's London office 21 Bloomsbury Street, London, WC1B 3SS and will start at 10:30. Tenon (020-7448 8115) are being nominated to act as liquidator. If other companies have been nominated, please contact investdrinks and your details will be posted here.

Ransby's Hipjoint published

Flanker Press of Newfoundland has now published Alex Ransby's Hipjopint - co-written by local journalist and writer Kim Keilley. investdrinks requested a review copy but unfortunately Flanker say that, at present, they are only sending out copies to Canadian journalists. It may be that Flanker are concerned that a wider distribution will reveal that their Hipjoint book is as shaky as Ransby's business ventures. It is also possible that Flanker do not believe that Ransby's book merits the cost of posting it to the UK. As investdrinks has no intention of lining a fraudster's pockets by buying the book, so it will not be possible to know whether Hipjoint should be filed as fact or fiction.

 Extracts from publisher's puff on Amazon:
An accomplished yachtsman and a qualified boat builder, Alex Ransby currently lives in Newfoundland. His latest accomplishments include repair of the rowboats used in the St. John's Annual Regatta and motivational speaker. A Boat Called HipJoint is his first book.

Alex Ransby is a bad boy, better suited for Armani and Jaguar than epoxy and glue. As his life lay in tatters, an arthritis-stricken Ransby made the decision to build a boat and sail around the world. But his hopes and dreams slowly eroded until all that was left of the original plan was the Atlantic and the homemade boat he called HipJoint.

HipJoint is more than a boat. She is Ransby's friend and confidant, and she provides him with the opportunity to finally stare down his demons while alone at sea, surviving treacherous storms and the jagged, unforgiving coastline of Newfoundland.

A Boat Called HipJoint is the story of one man's battle against nature, and ultimately himself, as he struggles to regain some semblance of self-confidence while crossing the Atlantic Ocean alone.

This decidedly nauseous puff provided by Flanker, however, makes one fear the worst. They rightly say that Alex Ransby is a 'bad boy' but fail to mention that he is also an unscrupulous fraudster, serial liar, bankrupt, coward and love rat. Apparently the voyage across the Atlantic made Ransby confront his demons, which is presumably why he decided to flee the consequences of his actions in the UK - dumping his girlfriend and business partner Caroline Alexander and leaving her to try to sort out the financial mess that was Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd - and run to Canada where there seem to be a sufficient number of credulous people still prepared to believe his tales. 'An inspirational speaker' indeed! Imagine the scene - Alex Ransby's theme this evening will be how to use your illness to your advantage - learn how to arouse people's compassion and so run up debts that you will not be able repay.

Tenon Group to liquidate Churchill Wines?
(Posted 29th September 2004)

investdrinks is aware that the Tenon Group (020-7448 8115) who are the liquidators for a number of other claret web companies, are interested in becoming the liquidator of Churchill Wines Ltd and their associate company, Winestore UK Ltd. At present investdrinks is not aware of any other company that has expressed an interest but will post the names of any other contender that comes forward.

Churchill Wines Ltd closed by DTI
(Posted 27th September 2004)

The DTI successfully continued their campaign against the claret web scams by when their petition to close down Churchill Wines Ltd was accepted in London's High Court on Monday 20th September. The Official Receiver has been appointed as provisional liquidator and the petition will be heard on the 3rd of November. The petition was presented without warning to Churchill Wines Ltd. This brings the number of claret investment scam companies closed in the public interest by DTI to 17 since 1998.

Churchill Wines was set up in July 2001 but is not thought to have started trading fully before autumn 2002. The sole director was 36 year-old Malcolm Hills of Tunbridge Wells. Hills had previously been company secretary of wine investment company James Hewitt Associates Ltd, closed in the public interest by the DTI in September 2002. James Hewitt Associates Ltd was described in the High Court of a 'phoenix company' of Liquid Acquisitions Ltd, closed by the DTI in January 2002. investdrinks understands that Hills may well have worked for Liquid Acquisitions Ltd.

Churchill Wines purported to trade from an accommodation address in the Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells but actually operated from The Lansdowne Building, 2 Landsdowne Road, Croydon, Surrey CR9 2ER.' These offices are part of the Regus' network of global serviced offices. Hills claimed to sell only those Bordeaux as an investment that had a minimum of 96 Parker points. The company's mark up was generous. In 2003 it was attempting to sell Lafite 1996 for £2990, when it could have been bought elsewhere for £1870. It is believed that Churchill turned over in excess of £1 million. At the time of being closed down both the company's accounts and annual return were overdue.

At present The DTI are declining to give the grounds for the closure and this suggests that the petition was not based on selling over valued wine investments and making extravagant promises. Instead it is possible that Churchill Wines Ltd failed to buy all of wine it sold to its clients. Should that be the case it is possible that a DTI criminal investigation could lead to a prosecution. In any case Hills faces the possibility of being disqualified as a director. A number of claret web directors have already been disqualified and it is likely that more will follow.

The DTI reports that the number of complaints about the claret web it is receiving is now markedly down so the company closures allied with warnings about the dangers of unregulated alternative investments may well be working.

Class action against Goldman directors?
(Posted 16th August 2004)

An investor with Goldman Williams is interested in exploring a possible class action against the directors of the company as they explain.

'While the SFO is still investigating the actions of Goldman Williams, a former client who invested through them is seeking to organise other unfortunate clients into a group looking at private action against the directors. If you are interested, please send your emails to gwaction@hotmail.com'

Bordeaux UK offers Mouton 1998
(Posted 26th July 2004)

This company is currently offering Mouton Rothschild 1998 for £1,450 a case. Investors could buy the same case from Seckford Wines Ltd for £895, making Bordeaux UK's price 62% above the cheapest in the market. Furthermore, taking into account 98 Mouton's less than sparkling performance over the past four years, investors can have little confidence that their Mouton 1998 will, within a few years, reach Bordeaux UK's excessive price. In April 2000 it could be bought for £800 a case. By June 2001 this had risen to £1,100. But it has been downhill ever since. By August 2002 it had slipped to £1,030; by June 2003 it was down £940 and it is now down to £895.

Morgan Chantel Ltd goes bust
(Posted 17th June 2004)

At a creditors' meeting on the 26th May Morgan Chantel Ltd went into liquidation with 650 creditors owed £112,472. Harold John Sorsky, 239 Regents Park Road, London N3 3LF (Tel: 020-8371 5000).

Set up in April 1998 Morgan Chantel was one of the long-running wine investment scams. Given the mark-up it is perhaps somewhat surprising that the company went bust but this may be an indication that the public are becoming wise to companies offering over-priced wine investments. Take one example. In February 2000 a client was persuaded to buy a half case (6 bottles) of Lafite 1996 for £1375. At that time a full case could have been bought from £1650 - the equivalent of £825. Even with storage and insurance thrown in, that was a tidy mark up.

Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd wound up

Alex Ransby's company vehicle for his round the world sailing bid and for raising sponsorship was closed in the public interest on Wednesday 9th June at the High Court in London.

It is thought that Ransby 'raised' around £40,000 from four principal sponsors: the Hospital Saving Association Limited (HSA), Nuffield Hospital in Chichester, Seafresh Limited and Wyeth Consumer Healthcare. In addition members of the public were conned into providing another £3000 in sponsorship. Caroline Alexander, the sole director, apparently provided in excess of £20,000 to the company - doubtless out of affection for Alex. It is, however, clear that Alex, as an undischarged bankrupt and disqualified director, ran the company.

Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd had debts in the region of £50,000. Although the company's financial records were far from complete, it seems quite probable that the company was insolvent last September when Alex Ransby fled to Canada to start a new life and look for fresh dupes. Had he stayed in the UK, Ransby could be facing criminal charges for running a company while both a bankrupt and a disqualified director and while it was insolvent.

The High Court winding up should provide another chapter for Alex Ransby and Kim Kielley's keenly awaited book Hip Joint by Flanker Press in the autumn. Anyone wanting a flavour of the guff it may contain is again advised to read Kielley's report for the The Telegram (St. John's) on Thursday 3rd July: arthritis.ca/resources%20for%20advocates/capa/media%20watch/ransby/default.asp?s=1.

Creditors of Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd may wish to explore with the Official Receiver the possibility of taking out an income order against Flanker Press so as to use some of the income generated by the forthcoming book against their debts.

Bordeaux Estates Ltd - a runner

The directors and managers of Bordeaux Estates Ltd appear have done a runner without paying their bills. The company has disappeared from their registered address owing fees. It is understood that they also owe money to the bonded warehouse.

Hipjoint sale
(Posted 28th May 2004)

investdrinks has learnt that Alex Ransby's Hipjoint has been sold for £5.105. In typical Alex Ransby fashion the sale price covers Admiralty and solicitors fees but not the sums owed to his creditors. Apparently the date for final receipt of tenders for the boat was 26th April 2004. On the 27th April the Admiralty Marshal contacted persons with a claim telling them of the highest bid.

It is not known whether the sale of hipjoint has come too late for it to be included in the eponymous book written by Alex Ransby with Kim Kielley to be published in the autumn by Flanker Press. The book is believed to cover the young fraudster's heroic voyage across the Atlantic. investdrinks notes that Flanker Press have recently published Marine Disasters and Shipwrecks Volume 1 by J.P. Andrieux and suspects that it would be more fitting to include the hipjoint debacle in a second volume of Marine Disasters and Shipwrecks.

investdrinks is amused to see that the fraudster was a recent speaker at the Public Forum in St. John's on Psoriatic Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis on Thursday, April 22nd, 7:00 p.m. at the Battery Hotel. Guest Speakers were Dr. Sean Hamilton, Rheumatologist, Dr. Ian Landells, Dermatologist and Mr. Alex Ransby, Motivational Speaker. (Further comment would be superfluous!)

The Newfoundland and Labrador Division coordinates a number of exciting events throughout the year to raise funds to help support arthritis research, programs, and services: Anyone wishing to register for any future public forums please contact Donna at 1-800-321-1433 or 579-8190, email info@nf.arthritis.ca

Raun Austin and Andrew Sommerville disqualified for 12 years
(Posted 10th February 2004)

Raun Anthony Alexander Austin of 42 Anchorage Boiler House, 50 Shad Thames, London SE1 2LY and Andrew John Conyers Sommerville (DOB: 23.3.1938) of Ash House, Ampney Crucis, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5RY, have both been disqualified from being directors for 12 years. The disqualifications run from 9th February 2004 until 8th February 2016.    Somerville's disqualification may have a bearing on his continued membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

No date of birth is given for Austin - presumably Companies House has been unable to work out which of the three dates that appear on various Company House documents is the right one.

Alex Ransby - pulling a flanker
(Posted 10th November 2003)

investdrinks is most intrigued to learn that 30 year-old serial scamster Alex Ransby is now in Newfoundland writing a book called Hipjoint about his adventures. Ransby is writing the book with Kim Kielley, a journalist for the Halifax Herald of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Flanker Press (a bright spark) based in St Johns will publish it in 2004.  

Hipjoint should be a riveting read providing Kim Kielley insists that the following topics are fully covered:

  • How Ransby Hoare & Associates Ltd (a wine investment scam) with Alex Ransby as a director defrauded investors of £85,486 by selling over-priced claret that the company failed to buy.
  • How Alex Ransby misappropriated £29,000 from Ransby Hoare for his personal benefit and then made false statements to the voluntary liquidator about how the money was spent.
  • Alex Ransby's disqualification as a UK director until 2014.
  • Alex Ransby's personal bankruptcy in August 2001.
  • How he illegally ran Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd as a disqualified director and personal bankrupt.
  • How Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd ran up debts it couldn't pay building Hipjoint.
  • Why the three corporate sponsors tip toed away from the Hipjoint venture and what they were promised..
  • The current state of Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd and how he left Caroline Alexander, the nominal director, to sort out its debts.
  • His precipitate flight in September from the UK to escape his creditors and before the UK authorities could investigate how and why a personal bankrupt and disqualified director was illegally running a UK company.

What Kielley must avoid is the sort of five-star rubbish that The Telegram (St. John's) ran as news on Thursday, July 3, 2003. Unfortunately this is reproduced on the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance website: arthritis.ca/resources%20for%20advocates/capa/media%20watch/ransb y/default.asp?s=1

The following gives a flavour:
'A qualified boatbuilder, Ransby quit his job as a stockbroker and immersed himself in The Hipjoint's construction. The banana-coloured yacht is sleek, powerful and quite capable of handling the ferocious storms and curious whales he's encountered during this journey. The Hipjoint mirrors Ransby's personal situation. He's scheduled for a hip replacement upon his return to England.'

How appropriate that Hipjoint should be banana coloured, while Ransby's chief qualification is surely a doctorate in bullshit. Should Alex's many friends and creditors wish to contact the publisher with further information Flanker Press' contact details are: Flanker Press Ltd., PO Box 2522, Stn C, St. John's, NL Canada A1C 6K1. Phone: (709) 739-4477; fax: (709) 739-4420; email: info@flankerpress.com

investdrinks understands that Hipjoint is being released by the Admiralty Master, so that it can be sold. It is thought unlikely that sale will realise more than £20,000 at best.

Raun Austin ends season in 7th place
(Posted 3rd November 2003)

After a promising start to the 2003 BMW Kumho Championship when he held third place, Raun ended the season down in 7th place in Class B with 37 points. He has not raced since 13th July and only competed in five of the seven races. investdrinks can only assume that Raun's various business activities have limited his participation in the Championships.

Drysberg & Nash disappear
(Posted 22nd October 2003)

Drysberg & Nash, who operated from 44 St Olav's Court, Lower Road, London SE16, a business centre close to the southern entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, appear to have disappeared. Investors have been unable to contact them. The company was not registered with Companies House. investdrinks understands that the company was set up by Stephen Rhodes and James Frost. Both had worked as brokers for Boington & Fredericks Ltd, which was run by two convicted fraudsters and was closed in the public interest by the DTI in November 2001. Apparently Rhodes had previously worked for James Devereaux Ltd, a whisky investment scam that went bankrupt in December 1996 with debts of £1.9 million. Frost signed the lease for St Olav's Court, giving 11 Giles Coppice, London SE19 as his contact address and the company started operating in late 2001.  

Drysberg & Nash sold unwary investors over-priced red Bordeaux. One client bought a case of Leoville Las Cas 1996 in August 2002 for £3200 - available elsewhere for £1,050 - and a case of Château Margaux 1996 for £2,925 in January 2003 - available elsewhere for £1,750.  investdrinks understands that ownership of some of the wine that was stored in the name of Drysberg & Nash is being transferred to their clients.

'We are not one and the same' Bordeaux Wine Company denies link
(Posted 22nd September 2003)

Gcobani Tyatya, company secretary of the Bordeaux Wine Company, has recently told investdrinks that there is no link between his company and Bordeaux Estates Ltd. This is curious as two putative clients of Bordeaux Wine Ltd contacted investdrinks to say that the company they were originally dealing with transmogrified into the Bordeaux Wine Company. In the first instance the initial contact was by The Wine Index (now closed by the DTI in the public interest) and the second it was Bordeaux Estates Ltd. Stephen Boyd is a director of both Bordeaux Estates and The Wine Index. It is possible that the apparent connection between the Wine Index and Bordeaux Estates and The Bordeaux Wine Company are the purest coincidence. Just as it may be the purest coincidence that the websites of the Bordeaux Wine Company Ltd and Bordeaux Estates Ltd both have the same registrant - Wireforks of Waterside, 99 Rotherhithe Street, London SE16 4NF.

Mr Tyatya also told investdrinks that Bordeaux Wine Company are currently selling Lafite 1996 for £2,680 a case and not £3,750 as stated on an invoice from early-August. He suggests this is a date error as 2000 Lafite sells for £3,750. As Mr Tyatya has assured investdrinks that his is 'an honest and professional company and our intentions are honourable' I assume that any customers who paid £3,750 for 1996 Lafite will receive a rebate. The 1996 Lafite is currently available from Corney & Barrow for £1990 and the 2000 Lafite from L'Assemblage for £2,600.

Ransby disqualifications - Alex Ransby misappropriates £29,000

On March 27th 2003 the Chichester Observer reported on the disqualification of Alex and Geoffrey Ransby for their part in running Ransby Hoare Associates Ltd. The following is an extract from the report.

'Alex Ransby, who plans to sail around the world, ran the firm with his father. The wine firm,Ransby Hoare Associates Ltd, was shut down with debts totalling £99,000. Mr Ransby, 28, who lives in Chichester, has now been banned from being a director by the Insolvency Service until 2014. His father, Geoffrey Ransby, 63, of High Street, Fovant, Salisbury, was banned for nine years. Both men gave undertakings not to hold directorships and did not dispute the allegations of unfit conduct.

These were that they failed to make sure they bought wines which had already been paid for, which meant 31 orders totalling £85,486 were not completed. Both men were responsible for misleading representations which made customers buy wines from the firm at inflated prices. Alex Ransby misappropriated £29,000 for his personal benefit and then made false statements to the voluntary liquidator about how the money was spent. His father was blamed for failing to act over this missing £29,000 and making false statements about the money to the voluntary liquidator.'

investdrinks gathers that HSA Hipjoint is still moored at Portsmouth's Gun Wharf. The boat is now festooned with arrest warrants and is said to be in a disgraceful state. Apparently the 'remarkable young yachtsman' has left to start a new life in Canada, leaving behind a mass of debt for Caroline Alexander, the sole director of Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd, to clear up. investdrinks trusts that this young fraudster will soon be as comprehensively rumbled in Canada as he has been in the UK.

Bordeaux Wine Company/ Bordeaux Estates Ltd
(Posted 29th August 2003)

investdrinks recently received an enquiry from a putative investor about these two apparently linked companies. 'Had an offer from Bordeaux Estates Ltd Lafite 96 at £3750 per case. Is this not overpriced? They sent me an invoice today but appear to have suddenly changed their name to 'The Bordeaux Wine Co. Ltd'. As Lafite 1996 can be currently bought for £1950 from Planet Wine, the Bordeaux Estates Ltd/ Bordeaux Wine Company price is certainly high. Any investor will have to be very patient before they can expect to see any return on this wine.

Bordeaux Wine Company Limited's registered office is at 116-118 Finchley Road Hampstead NW3 6HY. The company was founded on 17th January 2002 as Freedom Finance UK Ltd. The name was changed on 13th May 2003. Benedict Moruthoane of Helen Close, Finchley N2 0UU is the sole director and Gcobani Tyatya is the company secretary. They were both appointed on 6th June 2003.

Ransby's return

Having reached Canada, Alex Ransby is now sailing hipjoint back to the UK. Although it is not known how successful he has been in raising money, Ransby and hipjoint are facing two arrest warrants on the boat on their return. Hipjoint is expected to be moored at Moodys. The boat, the sole asset of Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd, is thought to be worth around £20,000, while Ransby Ocean Challenges apparently have debts in the region of £40,000.

investdrinks understands that Caroline Alexander, the sole director of Ransby Ocean Challenges, is trying to ascertain whether the company is solvent as Alex Ransby 'has left matters in a terrible mess and I have been left to try to sort them out.' She has also acknowledged that many of the company decisions were made by Alex Ransby and she was not kept informed. 'I personally was not aware of a lot of the work being carried out on Hipjoint that was organised by Alex or that it was incurring debts, or that further sponsorship was not in fact coming in.' As a personal bankrupt Ransby is barred from running a company; he appears to have ignored this and run Ransby Ocean Challenges with Alexander acting as a purely nominal director.

Every tale has a silver lining and in Alex Ransby's case it has been the enthusiastic support of his local newspaper, the Chichester Observer, which has published several articles on the hipjoint project. Back in December 2001 Graeme Moir, the paper's sports editor, presented a cheque for £250 to Ransby on behalf of the Johnston Press, owners of the Chichester Observer. In March 2002 'businesses or individuals who can help Alex with his sponsorship money' were urged to contact him through Moir at the Observer.

It is not known how much the Chichester Observer knew of Ransby's past: a wine investment scam company in liquidation owing just under £100,000 (December 2000) and subsequently closed in the public interest in the High Court (April 2002); personal bankruptcy (August 2001). One has to wonder how much the Observer knew of Ransby's current predicament before they published a large feature in mid-August - The Ransby blockbuster has more twists in it yet - on Ransby's voyage across to Canada and the rising tide of debt that threatens to swamp the hipjoint enterprise. No mention of the disqualification for eleven years as a company director (March 2003) nor the two arrest warrants for the boat.

Like others the Observer team appear to have been taken in by the Ransby charm. Certainly they have stayed on board longer than the three corporate sponsors who started to bail out after Tony Hetherington's article (Mail on Sunday 13.4.03) Why crooks are laughing that revealed Ransby's disqualification. The CO articles provide further evidence that Alex Ransby seems to have operated as a 'one man band' breaking company law by running a limited company while debarred.

The Wine Index
(Posted 10th July 2003)

The meeting to appoint a liquidator to wind up The Wine Index will be held at the offices of the Insolvency Service, 21 Bloomsbury Street, London, WC1B 3SS at 11.00am. The Wine Index has known assets of £106,000 and over 200 individual creditors. Investdrinks is aware that the Tenon Group (0207 628 2040), who are the liquidators for a number of other claret web companies, are interested in becoming the liquidator of WI. At present investdrinks is not aware of any other company that has expressed an interest but will post the names of any other contender that comes forward.

DTI close Henry Talbot's of London
(Posted 23rd June 2003)

This wine investment scam was wound up in the public interest in the High Court in London on 18th June. The petition to wind up was unopposed. Henry Talbot's of London was set up in September 2002 with James Morrison as the sole director. Morrison had been briefly company secretary for James Hewitt Associates, closed by the DTI in October 2002. Morrison set up Henry Talbot's immediately after the petition to wind up was served on James Hewitt Associates Ltd and the Insolvency Service appointed as provisional liquidator.

In turn James Hewitt Associates was the phoenix company that arose from the ashes of Liquid Acquisitions, closed in January 2002. Andrew Dunne, company secretary for and the main mover behind Liquid Acquisitions, had previously been the manager of Ransby Hoare Associates Ltd. Ranbsy Hoare went into liquidation in December 2000 and was later wound up in the public interest.

It is thought that Henry Talbot's turned over in excess of £100,000. Prompt action by the DTI will have limited investors' losses. These will be small in comparison to City Vintners/ Goldman Williams, closed down in November 2001 with a joint turnover of around £18.5 million.

Contact Alex
(Posted 16th June 2003)

Aware that friends, admirers, sponsors and creditors may wish to contact Alex and HMS Hipjoint during their epic voyage, investdrinks is delighted to pass on Alex Ransby's iridium phone number: 00881 631 45708. Well-wishers should be aware that calls will not be cheap - probably in the region of £2 a minute. A cheaper option would be to send a text message to 881 631 45708@msg.iridium.com

Still in third place

Raun Austin continues his promising season in the Kumho BMW Championship 2003. Third place in the race at the Croft circuit on 24th May means that Raun holds onto his third place in the championship, just three points behind the leader but with the fourth placed driver snapping at his heels just a point behind. investdrinks trusts that the attentions of the insolvency company winding up the affairs of City Vintners and Goldman Williams will not cause Raun to move down to the Clio championship. The next BMW race is at Oulton Park on 28th June.

Wave of debt may swamp HMS Ransby
(Posted 9th June 2003)

investdrinks understands that Alex and HMS Ransby (aka Hipjoint) have now left the Azores and are heading west. The good news is that the Childrens Chronic Arthritis Association (CCAA) has received some sponsorship money from Alex's round the world venture. "We have received some small sums - a few hundred pounds in small donations," Caroline Cox, the general secretary, told investdrinks. CCAA haven't received any money recently and it is thought that most of the donations came from sponsors who had paid to have their name on Hipjoint's hull. "Alex has been very supportive of us," added Cox. Fortunately Alex's adventure has not involved CCAA in any financial outlay.

Less well placed are a gathering list of creditors. investdrinks understands that a High Court writ to seize hipjoint has been issued in favour of Southern Spar Services, who are owed around £7,000 for the mast and rigging. Other creditors are understood to include BD Marine in Southampton (also owed around £7,000), Ocean Web, Arun Sails in Bosham, and Moodys Marina in Southampton, who fitted Hipjoint with a new keel. Apparently Alex Ransby managed the unusual feat of getting Hipjoint out of Moodys before he had settled their bill.

Although as a personal bankrupt (Brighton County Court 6th August 2001) Ransby is entitled to be company secretary of Ransby Ocean Challenges Ltd, he should not run the company. Caroline Alexander is the company's sole director. However, it is unclear how active a role she plays in running the company. "I never met Caroline Alexander," says Bob Bowers of Southern Spars, "it was definitely Alex Ransby who made the decisions." investdrinks understands that it was Ransby who discussed and decided upon modifications with Southern Spar. investdrinks understands from another supplier that Alexander was not at Hipjoint's launch nor did she ever apparently set foot on the boat.

Furthermore it would appear that Hipjoint may not be worth very much. A supplier told investdrinks: "The boat is a wreck. It's a typical home-built one-off job and very badly put together. You would be lucky to get £25,000 for it."

Life on the ocean wave - HMS Ransby sets sail
(Posted 27th May 2003)

Where in the World is Hipjoint?
(
hipjoint.org/where.html)

With little of the expected ceremony and fanfare, Alex Ransby recently set sail in hipjoint to start his voyage around the world to raise money for the Children's Chronic Arthritis Association. This follows several frustrating months of delays. Originally a grander departure had been planned as Yachting News reported last year: 'The Grand Departure is scheduled to take place on 16 November from Gunwharf Quay in Portsmouth, subject to weather conditions. Two lifeboats, each with places for 10 people, will escort Hipjoint out of the Solent.'

investdrinks does not know whether our intrepid sailor's low key departure was due in anyway to the embarrassment of running aground in March when the boat was found to have no anchor or any life belts or other safety gear as reported by the Portsmouth News. On that occasion Alex had three female companions with him. Or perhaps it was due to Alex's recent disqualification as a director until 2014.

Apparently HMS Ransby is somewhere in the Bay of Biscay heading towards the Azores before crossing the Atlantic and up to Halifax. However, as the tracking device on the boat is not switched on it is impossible to know exactly where Alex is. On past performance he might, for example, have run aground close to the Isle of Wight. In any case investdrinks trusts that Alex's sponsors, who include H.S.A (health insurance), Chichester Nuffield Hospital (part of not-for-profit network of 43 hospitals), and Wyeth/ Centrum mulitivitamins, feel that their money has been wisely spent. Hipjoint is estimated to have cost between £150,000 and £200,000 to build.

Over the coming weeks investdrinks hopes to have further reports on HMS Ransby's progress.

Raun continues good start

After the races at Pembrey circuit, Raun Austin is now up to third place in his class in the 2003 Kumho BMW series.

DTI tally rises to 15
(Posted 12th May 2003)

DTI close Henry Talbot's of London

On Thursday 8th May the DTI petitioned successfully in the High Court to have the Insolvency Service appointed to wind up Henry Talbot's of London. The petition was presented without warning. James Morrison was the sole director of the company. Previously he was briefly company secretary of James Hewitt Associates Ltd before it was closed by the DTI last October. James Hewitt Associates was described in the High Court as a phoenix company taking over from Liquid Acquisitions Ltd, closed in January 2002. It would seem likely that Henry Talbot's was yet another phoenix operation.

RIP
Bordeaux investment companies wound up by DTI since 1998

investdrinks is delighted that the DTI continue to harry the claret web scamsters despite the often lengthy and costly investigations necessary to petition successfully for closure.

Lonhroes International Ltd- June 1998
Croft & Dupont April 2000
Ashley White January 2001
Ashley Witter March 2001
Harley Fine Wine - August 2001
Boington & Fredericks - January 2002
City Vintners  - January 2002
Goldman Williams - January 2002
Liquid Acquisitions - January 2002
VCA Vintners - January 2002
Vaz & Alexander - February 2002
Ransby Hoare Associates April 2002
James Hewitt Associates October 2002
Bordelais & Dutch - January 2003
The Wine Index - May 2003
Henry Talbot's of London - May/June 2003

Support your sporting scamster
Where are the customers' yachts?

investdrinks is sure that ex-clients of Ransby Hoare Associates will want to wish Alex Ransby well when he sets sail soon in his yacht the 'SS Got off Scot-free' on his round the world voyage. (investdrinks may have got the yacht's name wrong, so would be grateful if anyone knows better.) The boat is currently being built at Chichester. As Ransby, who was recently disqualified as a director until 2014, has long suffered from a bad back, this is a brave undertaking. Those wanting to wish Alex bon voyage should contact him at 3 The Sadlers, Westhampnett, Chichester PO18 0PR for the place and date of his departure.

Solid start to BMW season for Raun

Raun Austin's many fans and ex-clients will surely be delighted to learn that in his second season Raun has made a solid start in this year's Kumho BWW saloon car racing series. On 21st April Raun took a creditable 4th place in his class at Silverstone. This weekend just past the BMW circus was at the Pembrey circuit near Llanelli. investdrinks will bring you the result as soon as possible.

There must be many clients of Raun's wine and share dealing companies who will want to cheer him on or ask him about the current value of their investment. The next meeting is at the Croft circuit near Darlington on 24th/25th May. The BMW race starts at 12.45 on Sunday 25th. The dates for the rest of the series can be found at: barc.net/calendar.htm

The Wine Index Closed
(Posted 7th April 2003)

DTI total to 14

On Thursday 3rd April the DTI successfully petitioned the High Court to appoint a provisional liquidator to close down The Wine Index. The petition will be heard on 14th May. The company was run by Pierre Stephen Boyd, who is also a director of Bordeaux Estates Ltd. investdrinks understands that Frederick Achom and Boington Grant were involved in running the company, so the Wine Index might be seen as an offspring of Boington & Fredericks (closed by the DTI in November 2001). As Achom and Grant are disqualified directors (from July 2002) the Insolvency Service may well want to know what exactly was their involvement in the Wine Index.

Assuming that the petition to wind up is granted, the Wine Index brings the DTI tally of closed Bordeaux 'investment' companies to 14 since 1998. Investdrinks is delighted to see their commitment to rooting out the scams but the number of dubious wine investment companies operating only illustrates the weakness of UK company law. If the names of a company's beneficial owners had to be given, this would make it more difficult to set up phoenix companies. It is now a requirement in the Channel Islands. Why not in the UK?

Ranbys disqualified
(Posted 24th March 2003)

The two directors of the wine investment company, Ransby Hoare Associates Ltd, have been disqualified as directors. The company went in liquidation in December 2000 and was later wound up in the public interest by the DTI in April 2002. Brigadier Geoffrey Paul Rymil Ransby of Old Fovant House, High Street, Fovant, Salisbury (DOB 12.4.1939) and his son Alexander William Guy Rymil Ransby of 3 The Sadlers, Westhampnett, Chichester PO18 0PR (DOB: 19.10.1973). The Brigadier is banned until 20th March 20012 and his son until 20th March 2014. Andrew Dunne was the general manager of the company until he left to set up Liquid Acquisitions, also closed in the public interest by the DTI in January 2002.

Ransby Hoare operated from offices in Wimbledon before moving to a private address in East Dulwich, South London. investdrinks trusts that this is the first of a number of lengthy disqualifications for people involving in running scam investment companies that have been closed in the public interest by the DTI.

Why a front-loaded commission is not a good idea
(Posted 25th February 2003)

Some companies include a front loaded commission in their wine prices. Typically this is anything between 25%-50%. The idea is that having paid the commission when you buy the wine, when you come to sell this will be commission free. Although the idea may appear initially attractive, there are a number of drawbacks. Your wine will have to rise considerably in value before the commission charged by other brokers - typically 8%-10% - outstrips your front loaded charge.

As wine is generally a mid-long-term investment, it will be crucial that the company to whom you have paid the front-loaded commission is still around when you want to sell. Otherwise you will have to pay another company's commission as well as the front loaded commission you have already paid. In these days, when companies such as Marconi and Cable & Wireless look shaky, relying on a company's survival is probably not prudent.

Also there is little inventive for company operating on a commission-free sale to achieve the best deal for you when you want to sell apart from the desire to do further business with them.

investdrinks does not recommend schemes based on front-ended commission.

Latest bargain from The Wine Index

The Wine Index are offering 1996 Château Margaux for a 'consideration' of £3600. Justerini & Brooks have this for £1950 a case. Admittedly The Wine Index do offer five years free storage and insurance, worth about £50, but that still leaves a difference of £1600.

Bordelais & Dutch closed in public interest
(Posted 3rd February 2003)

Bordelais & Dutch Ltd was wound up in the public interest at an uncontested hearing at the High Court in London on 28th January and the Official Receiver was appointed as liquidator. The company was set up in January 2002 by David Jackson, ex-general manager of Goldman Williams, and Mark Blackburn, one of Goldman's brokers. Although the B&D's prices were substantially lower than those charged by Goldman Williams, they were still at least 30% higher than the cheapest price charged on the market. The rate of return claimed by the company was judged unattainable given the high prices coupled with the recent fall in wine prices. Furthermore there was some evidence of price creep in B&D's wines over the past few months, although the general market tendency has been downwards.

Morgan Chantel Prices
(Posted 13th January 2003)

In May 2002 an investor paid £1295 for a case of 2000 Pichon-Lalande. In July Bordeaux Index had this for £590 a case. Uvine currently have a case for £650. In October 2002 they also bought a case of Margaux 1998 for £1,800. It was available from Fine & Rare in October for £924 and can be currently bought for £900 from either Justerini & Brooks or Farr Vintners.

Operation Jellybeans

The trial, which was due to commence at Southwark Crown Court on February 3rd, has been put back. The next mention of the case has been listed for 7th February. The full trial is unlikely to start for several months. The three defendants Wayne Fisher, Claude Greaves and Stephen Linsley have all pleaded not guilty and the case does not concern wine investment.

Older news in can be found in the Claret Web Archive.