The ‘Jefferson bottles’ case is set to explode on the world stage with a major article in German magazine Stern.

The multimillion-selling weekly – read by one in eight Germans – has today published a 10-page feature on the case which centres on a cache of 18th century bottles supposedly belonging to Thomas Jefferson, which came to light in 1985.

One of the bottles, a 1787 Chateau Lafite, went under the hammer at Christie’s in London in 1985 for US$156,450 – still the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold.

As decanter.com reported in September last year, the millionaire German dealer Hardy Rodenstock, who claims he took possession of the cache of a dozen or more bottles, all etched with the initials ‘Th. J’, is being sued by one of the purchasers, William I Koch, a billionaire collector of art and wine.

Koch’s experts have examined the etching on the glass and claim the initials are made with a high-speed electric drill.

Now the case has expanded with the involvement of the US government. Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and New York auction house Zachys have all supplied the FBI with materials.

Throughout the case, Rodenstock has maintained his innocence of any fraud. He will not disclose the address in Paris where the bottles were found, nor is he precise about the number of bottles in the cache.

According to Stern, Rodenstock says, ‘Perhaps some bottles were authentic, and others not. Perhaps I too was deceived.’

Stern says it offered to have the Berlin National Institute for Materials Research examine bottles still in Rodenstock‘s possession but that he refused.

Rodenstock said, ‘If Christie’s says to me that they have it from their best ceramics and glass experts that the engraving is authentic – if they fax this to me, then for me the discussion is over.’

Stern reports that Monticello, Jefferson’s estate in Virginia, told Rodenstock that although the third president was a monumental record-keeper the archives did not validate claims that the bottles were Jefferson’s. Despite a back-and-forth correspondence in which Monticello maintained its doubts, Stern says, ‘Rodenstock cheerfully kept selling the Jefferson bottles.’

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Christie’s: correction

Written by Adam Lechmere