Bill Koch

Counterfeit wines all over the shop

Isaac Mostovicz writes...


All our recent talk about counterfeit goods lends itself nicely to this discussion of counterfeit wines on Slate.

The article does a nice job of discussing perhaps the largest counterfeit wine story in recent memory, a story involving Thomas Jefferson, forgery, and multiday bacchanals. In 1988 Bill Koch purchased 4 bottles of wine said to be owned by Thomas Jefferson (they were signed Th. J) for $500,000. Two years ago he had the bottles authenticated and found that Jefferson, a meticulous record keeper, had never noted the bottles and that the signatures were forged. Koch is now suing the man who sold him the wine, a German music promoter and wine merchant (best known for his bacchanalic parties) by the name of Hardy Rodenstock.

How widespread are counterfeit wines? Because many vineyards lack proper records about how much wine was produced and where it went, taste can be the best means of authentication. And according to Allen Meadows, a renowned Burgundy critic, about 10% of the pre-1960 wines that he tastes these days are fraudulent. In the article Meadows notes that in some wine circles alleging fraud is becoming a mark of connoisseurship–it “show[s] off their knowledge and the acuity of their palates.” One hopes that aspiring wine connoisseurs aren’t falsely accusing wines that only taste “young” to seem more knowledgeable than than they are.

Read the full article here.

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