LONDON: It is a case that has transfixed and appalled the wine industry in equal measure, involving a once-in-a-lifetime discovery in a dusty Paris cellar, the American president Thomas Jefferson, a colourful German dealer, one of the world’s top wine experts and the most expensive bottle of wine ever.It is 24 years since a bottle of 1787 Lafite sold at Christie’s in London for the still-record sum of £105,000, its enormous value explained by the etched initials ”Th.J” on its side, which suggested, it was claimed, that it had been the property of the man who became America’s third president.A quarter of a century later, however, many experts believe the bottle, and others claimed to be from the same batch, are fake, leaving the billionaire collectors who bought them, and the eminent oenophiles who testified about their authenticity, red-faced.This week, the man who authenticated the Lafite and presided over its auction won an apology and damages from the publisher Random House over a bestselling book which, he argued, had suggested he had sold the wine knowing its provenance to be suspect.Michael Broadbent has retired as the senior director of Christie’s wine department but remains, according to Adam Lechmere, the editor of Decanter南京夜网, ”among the top three most respected wine critics in the world”.Mr Broadbent described the ruling as a ”great relief”, adding that he planned to celebrate with a magnum of Mouton 1990 over dinner at his club.The settlement relates to a book called The Billionaire’s Vinegar by the American journalist Benjamin Wallace, which outlines the now notorious case of ”the Jefferson bottles” – and which Random House, according to Mr Broadbent’s lawyer, Sarah Webb, must now remove from bookshop shelves in Britain.A German wine dealer called Hardy Rodenstock said he bought the bottles from someone who claimed they had been found in a bricked-up cellar in Paris in 1985.Mr Broadbent, according to Mr Lechmere, had the Lafite tested by Christie’s glass and etchings experts, before pronouncing that the circumstantial evidence suggested it was genuine.”There is no question whatsoever that he would ever act in bad faith,” Mr Lechmere said.In 2005 Bill Koch, a US billionaire, became suspicious and began legal action against Mr Rodenstock for fraud, which continues.Guardian News & Media
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