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Two ‘Jefferson bottles’ films in the offing

A major Hollywood consortium including actor Will Smith, and HBO Films, have separately bought the rights to a book and a New Yorker article about the Jefferson Bottles affair.

The book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace, is due out in May. It chronicles the controversy surrounding the provenance of various bottles of 1787 Chateau Lafite purportedly belonging to Thomas Jefferson.

The consortium which has bought the rights includes Steve Tisch, producer of Forrest Gump and The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith.

This follows US production company HBO’s acquisition of the rights to a New Yorker article about the affair, a cause celebre in the fine wine world.

‘I think the story’s pretty cinematic,’ Wallace told decanter.com. ‘It involves a 200-year-old bricked-up cellar in Paris, dramatic auctions, an underground forensic laboratory, an alleged [dentist’s] power drill, Bacchanalian wine tastings, a very public breaking of one of the bottles, a globe-spanning investigation, and some very colourful principal characters.’

A cache of more than a dozen bottles engraved ‘Th.J.’ reportedly came to light in 1985. Millionaire collector Hardy Rodenstock said they had been found in a walled-up cellar in Paris, where Jefferson served as ambassador to France.

Investigations into the authenticity of four of these bottles, bought by US energy magnate William Koch, have led to a high profile lawsuit.

The HBO Films deal relates to the rights to ‘The Jefferson Bottles’, an article that appeared in The New Yorker magazine last year, which deals specifically with the Koch bottles.

Koch’s lawsuit against Rodenstock recently was thrown out of court on procedural grounds, but Koch has vowed to pursue it.

Wallace advised there is scope to introduce the results – should there be any – into both the book and the film.

There is no information on when either of the Jefferson bottle films will start production.

Written by Maggie Rosen

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