A fascinating reminder of the famed and controversial Thomas Jefferson 1787 Lafite that sold at Christie's in London in 1985 surfaced this week, in an exhaustive article called “The Jefferson Bottles” in the Sept. 3, 2007, issue of the New Yorker.
You may remember that Christopher Forbes was the winning bidder, at $156,000, a record price for a single bottle that still stands. He bought it for his father, the late publisher Malcolm Forbes. (For more information, see James Suckling's blog and our news analysis.)
Less well known is the fact that I was the under-bidder, due to a sudden attack of dementia. I was in the room, expecting to buy the wine for about $25,000 when Chris Forbes' associate told me that they flew over in a private jet to "pick up the bottle." That incensed me. I was planning to put the bottle on display at the New York Wine Experience, to share a piece of wine history with fellow wine lovers.
Fast forward to 1987 at Vinexpo, the wine trade fair in Bordeaux. During the event, Michael Broadbent, who had auctioned the famous bottle for Christie's, let me know that another Jefferson bottle was being auctioned off the next day. This one was a half-bottle of 1784 Château Margaux.
Wine Spectator had reported extensively on the possibility that the bottles may not have had a Jefferson connection. But I was still interested. It was still a very old bottle of wine from a great château.
This was a classic example of caveat emptor ... let the buyer beware.
I gave Michael the authority to bid up to $30,000. I was not going to take any chances by being in the room. An unidentified telephone bidder pushed the price right to my limit, then gave up. After the auction, Michael came up to me to tell me I was the lucky winning bidder.
Was the bottle truly connected to Jefferson? I’ll probably never know for sure. To tell the truth, it doesn’t really matter. I have a piece of wine history. Even if it’s simply a famous fake.
But I know one thing. I saved $126,000. That’s a good feeling, no matter who owned the bottle before I did.
Hoyt Hill Jr — Nashville, TN — August 29, 2007 12:12pm ET
Michael Neeley — Everett, WA/ USA — August 29, 2007 4:09pm ET
Chris Seiber — Newport Beach, CA — August 29, 2007 6:39pm ET
James L Hoofnagle — Wexford, PA — August 29, 2007 10:46pm ET
William Delaney — Arlington VA — August 30, 2007 10:22am ET
Ken Koonce — Dallas, Texas — August 30, 2007 10:48am ET
Jonathan Rezabek — Chandler, AZ — August 30, 2007 6:02pm ET
Gene Keenan — san francisco — September 9, 2007 3:34pm ET
Travis G Snyder — Salt Lake City — September 27, 2007 5:41am ET
Joseph Ganun — Plainfield NJ — November 9, 2007 7:28pm ET
Jonathon Wagner — San Francisco, CA — January 10, 2008 2:52pm ET
Marvin Shanken — New York City — January 10, 2008 5:34pm ET
Michael Johnson — Terrace, Canada — January 28, 2008 11:55pm ET
Matthew Miller — new york ny — March 15, 2008 3:01pm ET
Leo E Fenn Iii — July 10, 2008 5:01pm ET
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