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In 1985, a single bottle of wine went up for auction at Christie's in London. Two minutes later, it sold for over $150,000 to a member of the Forbes clan, demolishing the previous record paid for a single bottle. But this was no ordinary wine -- it was a 1787 Lafitte (now spelled Lafite), engraved with Thomas Jefferson's initials, found in excellent condition amid a cache of bottles hidden in an old house in Paris.
The story had everything: history, intrigue, and mystery. Jefferson lived in Paris during the years leading up to the French Revolution, and he may well have hidden his precious stash from potential rioters. Breathless wine experts authenticated the handblown bottle with its seal of black wax and engraved letters. Awed by the bottle's survival, they ignored the doubts of a Jefferson scholar at Monticello.
Hardy Rodenstock, a man with a nose for finding valuable old vintages in the half-forgotten cellars of stately British homes, owned the Jefferson cache. Exactly how he'd gotten it was unclear, but that was not unusual as dealers in rare wines understandably protect their sources. Tycoons clamored to buy the remaining Jefferson bottles, and as they did, a scandal unfolded like a fine Bordeaux swirled in Riedel crystal: an opening rich in hubris, a juicy hint of folly followed by deep undertones of greed. (Summer 2008 Selection)