Monday, May 7, 2012

Jefferson's juice?

Thomas Jefferson's wine cellar at his estate in Virginia after its most recent renovation in 2010.
William Koch in the wine cellar of his Palm Beach, Florida, home in 2009. The bottle he holds - one of the 40,000 in his collection - was thought to have once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, but is now believed to be fake.
American businessman William I. Koch has accused the auction house Christie's International of defrauding him in the purchase of wine said to have belonged to U.S. president Thomas Jefferson (pictured below). The plaintiff, who is worth in excess of $3 billion, purchased 4 bottles of Lafitte Bordeaux wine dated 1787 and engraved "Th.J" (photo here, scroll down) in 1987/1988 for $311,804. The litigation was initiated against the seller, German collector Hardy Rodenstock, but Koch now asserts that Christie's gave the wine its stamp of approval by advertising it in one of its catalogs. Most recently, the court promises to render a decision at a later date regarding the appeal of the decision to throw the case out because the statute of limitations has expired. Monticello had raised doubts about the provenance of the wine in 1985, noting that none of the orders made by the estate from 1787 to 1792 included purchases of the "Th.J" wine. It was found that German engravers admitted to dummying up the “Jefferson” bottles, and tests showed that the engravings were done with a modern tool. "I thought that I had a piece of history, a piece of America’s most important history," says Koch, who has now spent far more on the lawsuits than he did on the wine. You may read about the story in a book published in 2009, called - appropriately enough - The Billionaire's Vinegar.
Selected previous posts about alcohol and auctions:

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