If, like me, you enjoyed the The Billionaire's Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace, a book on the infamous Jefferson wine bottles, you might be interested to know that one of the key players in the book, wine writer and auctioneer Michael Broadbent, is now suing Random House for defamation of character. Decanter reports
that Broadbent is suing for libel in the UK where the book is now available. It came out in May 2008.
The book tells the story of German collector Hardy Rodenstock who had allegedly found rare bottles of Chateau Lafite walled up in a basement in Paris. An 1787 Lafite engraved Th:J sparked worldwide interest because it was thought that Jefferson had bought the bottled when he was in Paris serving as ambassador. Three of the bottles were sold at Christie's, where Broadbent worked, between 1985 and 1987 including the the 1787 Lafite which was bought by Malcolm Forbes for $156,450 fin a 1985 auction.
The billionaire in the title is William Koch who is suing Rodenstock claiming that he was the source for four Jefferson bottles that Koch bought in 1988. Those bottles are now believed to be fake. Rodenstock has said that the bottles were genuine but has not submitted them for testing. The Billionaire's Vinegar goes into fascinating detail on the ways the bottles might have been faked but ends on a rather soft note simply because lawsuits related to the case are ongoing.
Broadbent's lawsuit says that Benjamin Wallace accuses him of inventing a bid for the half-bottle of 1784 Margaux to boost bidding and implies that he may have colluded with Rodenstock. The 82-year-old wine expert says the book has wrecked his reputation. In the book he does come off as rather eager to believe in Rodenstock's story but for a wine expert to have an opportunity to taste vintages of such great age the temptation must have been very great. Random House has said it will defend the book. Movie rights have already been snapped up.