Koch’s Jefferson case too late, court rules

5th October, 2012 by Lucy Shaw

Billionaire wine collector William Koch lost his bid to reinstate a lawsuit against Christie’s that claimed the auction house “induced” him to buy counterfeit wine.

William Koch

The US Court of Appeals in Manhattan yesterday upheld a 2011 ruling by US district judge Barbara Jones dismissing Koch’s suit after finding that he waited too long to sue, agreeing that the statute of limitations had expired.

“For wine, timing is critical, the same is true for causes of action,” said US district judge John Koeltl, who was sitting on the appeals court for the case.

“I’m very disappointed,” Koch said.

“The appeals judges dismissed the case for a technicality, although we know they got a lot of the facts wrong, but they’re the ones who decide what the facts are,” he added.

“Christie’s got away with an incredible hoax,” Brad Goldstein, a Koch spokesman, told Bloomberg.

Koch filed a lawsuit against Christie’s in Manhattan in 2010, claiming the London-based auction house had sold him counterfeit wine “for many years.”

Koch also said that Christie’s had “induced” him to buy four bottles of 1787 Château Lafite engraved “Th.J” that had purportedly belonged to American President Thomas Jefferson from German wine dealer Hardy Rodenstock in 1987 because Christie’s described the wines “positively” in auction catalogues during the 1980s.

The wines were allegedly discovered in the mid-‘80s when Rodenstock claimed to have found a cache in a bricked-up cellar in Paris.

One of the purportedly fake Jefferson 1787 Lafite bottles

Koch had the bottles tested in October 2000.

In dismissing the case last year, Jones said Koch knew the bottles were counterfeit and that he bought the wine out of a “desire to gather evidence against Christie’s.”

“Today’s court ruling was clearly correct; Koch’s claims turned to vinegar a long time ago,” Jonathan Lerner, a lawyer for Christie’s, told Bloomberg.

“The only hoax in this case was the allegation in the complaint that ‘no credible question’ had been raised about the wine until shortly before the complaint was filed,” he added.

Koch should have made inquiries about the wine by October 2000, when a report was issued about its authenticity, the court said. He filed his suit in 2010.

A historian at Monticello, Jefferson’s former home in Virginia, issued a report in December 1985 that determined “no solid connecting evidence could be found between Jefferson and the Th.J wine.”

While the report didn’t become public at the time, newspapers including the New York Times published articles saying there was “scholarly doubt” about the authenticity of the wine.

Koch has previously sued Rodenstock, and American auction houses Zachy’s and Acker Merrall & Condit for fraud.

2 Responses to “Koch’s Jefferson case too late, court rules”

  1. Boyce says:

    I know someone in Hong Kong who has five of these bottles. On a tour of the cellar, I asked if the owner was aware they might be fakes. I got the answer, “Then we have the most expensive fakes in the world!” Excellent perspective (if you can afford it).

    Cheers, Boyce

  2. CosCob says:

    No better fool than an old rich fool. It’s pompous collectors like Koch who helped drive up the price of fine wine.
    I hope he buys some Etruscan olive oil to make the billionaires vinaigrette

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters

Job vacancies

Administrative Assistant

Swig Wines Ltd
Chiswick, London, UK

HR Manager

Amathus Drinks PLC
London, UK

Senior Sales Manager

Haynes Hanson & Clark
Gloucestershire, GB

Customer Services Administrator

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

National Business Development Manager

Speciality Drinks Group
London, UK

Inventory Analyst

Bibendum PLB
London, UK

Events Executive - Atom Supplies

ATOM Supplies Limited
London, UK

Off-Trade Sales Account Executive

Domaine Direct
Nationwide, working from a combination of home & London office.

Sales Executive/Brand Ambassador

Glenfarclas
Ballindalloch, Speyside, UK

Client Manager

Noble Rot
Wandsworth, London, GB

Spirits Investment Director

Stilnovisti
London, UK

Junior Brand Manager

Enotria Winecellars
Park Royal, London, UK

Content & Digital Assistant

ABVGlobal
London, UK

Sales Manager

Cellar Trends
London, UK

Editorial Assistant

Wine List Confidential
London, UK

Champagne Masters 2017

Deadline : 7th July 2017

The Global Sparkling Masters 2017

Deadline : 10th July 2017

The Global Malbec Masters 2017

Deadline : 10th July 2017

The Global Syrah Masters 2017

Deadline : 18th July 2017

Click to view more

The Drinks Business Awards 2017

Now in its 15th year, the db awards have become the most authoritative, internationally respected badge of achievement in the alcoholic drinks industry.

The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters 2017

the drinks business Hong Kong announces its first year of The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters.

Rioja Masters 2016

Now in its fifth year, the competition will recognise and reward the finest Riojas on the world stage.

Fortified Masters 2016

Now in its third year, The Fortified Masters will reward the best fortified wines on offer.

Click to view more