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09.02.2006

Make Sure That Wine Is Real...

....before you spend half a million dollars on it. File this under "problems we would all like to have." Florida millionaire Bill Koch was very excited 18 years ago. He had gotten his hands on a couple of dusty bottles with the initials "TH.J" engraved on them. Discovered in the cellar of a wealthy old wine family in Paris, the bottles were auctioned off as wine made for the library of none other than Thomas Jefferson, who had a habit of ordering French wine directly from producers.

Koch proudly added the bottles to his 35,000 bottle cellar. But then doubts began to surface, little bits of information here and there, enough for Koch to believe he might not have gotten the genuine article. So what is a suspicious millionaire wine lover do? Koch spent nearly another half-million dollars investigating his bottles.

The end result? Turns out the engraving was made with an electric tool, not, um, whatever it was they used back in the 1700s (acid etching?). So now Florida has an unhappy millionaire wine lover and one big lawsuit. Turns out Koch wasn't the only one fooled. Malcolm Forbes (yes THAT Forbes) also paid an astronomical sum for a bottle.

So let this be a lesson to you. Next time you go buying a 17th century wine, bring along some folks from a history museum to set you straight.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud