Christie’s auction is in trouble over four bottles of wine. The story goes like this that William Koch, a Palm Beach billionaire, has sued the reputed auction house for selling him four bottles of Bordeaux wine that were supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson. Trouble started fomenting when the $300,000 worth of wines turned out to be fakes.
Having already sued the seller, he has now set his sights on the auction house, claiming that it knew that the Bordeaux was not genuine. “The simple, straightforward solution to this problem was for Christie’s to recognize its wine department was acting as an independent, rogue division, admit it and clean it up immediately,” stated Koch after filing a suit against Christie’s in Manhattan Federal Court yesterday.
In 1988, Koch bought a 1787 Lafite Bordeaux that contains Thomas Jefferson’s initials engraved into the bottle. Three other bottles were also supposed to be from his collection. Though they were purchased directly from the German collector Hardy Rodenstock, according to Koch, Christie had indirectly given the collection its stamp of approval by advertising it in one of its catalogs.
Koch’s lawyers claim that a Jefferson scholar had raised “serious doubts” about the authenticity of the wines in 1986 and Christie’s had full knowledge of it. According to Koch, he came to know of the problem only when he was asked to showcase his collection at a Boston museum in 2005. Koch claims that investigators have found German engravers who admit dummying up the so-called “Jefferson” bottles. Tests also show that the engravings were done by a modern tool. Despite all these evidences stacked against the defendants, both Christie’s and Rodenstock believe that the allegations are incorrect.