Jefferson’s Fake Bottles?

After years of speculation, the case of Thomas Jefferson’s famous wines has a new twist to it. As described in the book “The Billionaire’s Vinegar,” a German wine dealer named Hardy Rodenstock claimed to have found some of Jefferson’s wine bottles from the 1700s, complete with engraved initials. I recommend the book to anyone interested in wine, but also to anyone who enjoys a little mystery. Since the case has no ending (yet), the book’s first half provides the most interesting reading.

It seems a new turn has been taken in this case, however. As reported recently by The Wine Spectator (article here -read before they make you subscribe!), well-known collector Bill Koch has filed suit over these famous bottles, of which he has purchased several. Mr. Koch has taken it upon himself to rid the industry of fake bottles, mostly by means of lawsuits. Koch claims to have found individuals who admit that they engraved the initials onto the bottles which then sold for tens of thousands of dollars.

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation – a nonprofit which has “dual mission of preservation and education,” of Monticello, Jefferson’s other assets and of course of the man himself – has never agreed that these bottles did indeed belong to Jefferson. Perhaps we will see that the Foundation was right all along.


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