Bill Koch, the multimillionaire collector at the centre of the Jefferson bottle case, has vowed to keep fighting wine fraud.
Referring to the ongoing case he has brought against collector Hardy Rodenstock, Koch told the New Yorker magazine, ‘if the judge throws the lawsuit out for some technical reason I’ve got five others I could bring.’
‘The case is much bigger’ than Rodenstock, Koch said. ‘When I get finished going through all the wine in my collection, I am going after all the people who sold it to me.’
Koch filed the suit against Rodenstock in August 2006. He had purchased four so-called Thomas Jefferson bottles sourced from Rodenstock in 1988, and claims they are frauds.
On 14 August an administrative judge recommended that the trial judge find Rodenstock in default for refusing to participate in the proceedings.
The New Yorker said Koch’s civil complaint against Rodenstock ‘alleged that Rodenstock had orchestrated an “ongoing scheme” to defraud wine collectors.’
Koch bought four bottles, for about $500,000, from the Chicago Wine Company and Farr Vintners. Both houses said ‘all four bottles originally came from the person who had supplied the bottle auctioned at Christie’s’: that is, Rodenstock.
The ‘bottle auctioned at Christie’s’ was a reference to a 1985 auction when Christie’s sold a 1787 ‘Lafitte’ bearing engraved initials ‘Th.J.’ to publisher Christopher Forbes for a record US$157,000.
In a further development, one of the Christie’s glass experts who examined the Christie’s bottle has admitted he could have been wrong.
Hugo Morley-Fletcher, who was the head of Christie’s ceramics department in 1985, told the New Yorker, ‘My opinion at that time, within my experience, was that it was correct. . . . The trouble is we are engaged in an activity which is not a precise science.’
When asked if there was any possibility that he could have been mistaken about the engraving, he replied, ‘Of course…one has to come up with an opinion. It is possible that one was conned.’
Written by Adam Lechmere