U.S. prosecutors are probing possible counterfeit wine sales, auction houses Christie's International and Sotheby's said Tuesday.
The New York office of Christie's said it had received a subpoena requesting information on wine sales and had been cooperating with authorities. The London-based auction house sold $58.6 million of wine last year.
"We have been cooperating with officials and will continue to do so," spokesman Toby Usnik said.
New York-based Sotheby's said it received in November 2006 a subpoena that related to the possible sale of fraudulent wine.
"It is Sotheby's understanding that its conduct is not under investigation in any way," a statement issued by the firm said. "Rather, the subpoena primarily seeks information relating to wine that Sotheby's declined to offer for sale."
Subpoenas also have been sent to collectors and to Zachys, a wine retailer and auction house based in Scarsdale, N.Y., the Wall Street Journal reported. A federal grand jury in New York has started hearing evidence and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's art-fraud unit has conducted interviews, the paper said. Calls to Zachys weren't returned Tuesday.
Counterfeiting is starting to damage confidence in the market for rare wines, except those sold directly from the estates that produce them. Wine Spectator magazine recently estimated that as much as 5% of rare vintages sold privately or at auction were fake, the Journal said.