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Dear Jennifer
I would like to address several inaccuracies in your article:
1] "The problem is that the bottle was a fake". This is an allegation which is still not proven and there is as much research to indicate it to be genuine as there is to indicate that it may be fake.
2] "Christie's should have known it" which is precisely why they sent, with the catalogue, a disclaimer saying that there was "circumstantial evidence but no proof of its authenticity"
3] "Historian Cinder Goodwin, who specialized in Jeffersonian papers, told Broadbent that neither Jefferson's daily account book, letters, bank statements or French custom forms made any mention of 1787 vintages". At the time, Cinder, apparently was new to Monticello and my father, who had for many years studied Jefferson's relationship with wine very thoroughly, had seen evidence that Cinder was unaware of, therefore, took her opinion for what it was worth. For instance, Cinder was unaware of a PS on a letter from Jefferson reminding the recipient to use "cement" to seal the bottles well enough to stand the voyage. Cinder was unaware of any mention of 1787, which has, anyway, since been discovered. There was no time, in the days pre-computer, to look up everything. As much due diligence had been done as could possibly have been done and a lot more research by my father and Christie's since then has concluded that the verdict is still out - my father still believes that particular bottle to be genuine but he has never gone as far as to say that it is definitely authentic.
4] "he used a colon ("Th:J."), not a period ("Th.J.)." Then perhaps you can explain why the latter was the front cover of an important book about Jefferson? He used both. This showed Cinder's inexperience at the time.
5] "Broadbent's ego and faith in his judgment trumped common sense and respect for someone else's expertise." This is insulting, in fact, defamatory and almost libelous. Clearly you don't know him and have never spoken to him. In my opinion, a journalist worth their salt should not make such comments without interviewing the individual.
6] "Per the New Yorker article, in his eyes," sadly, the journalist at the New Yorker never spoke to my father prior to publishing this. To give him credit, he tried, but my father was on a cruise prior to deadline and fact checking and neither I nor my father's secretary were able to contact him for comment. My father regrets that he'd failed to leave me with contact details as there were a lot of unfortunate errors in the piece.

I appreciate your attempts at clarification, but you are confusing an informal blog post with an actual piece of journalism. I have never claimed my posts are full-fledged articles; in fact, I routinely emphasize that they are not. If it makes you feel better, I've taken out the offending line.... not because I've changed my opinion, or fear your threats, but because it's really not worth fighting over. The subject of the post really isn't your father, who doesn't much concern me...

Just a minor point. Regarding your reference to Physics Buzz, the testing of glass is not alone a valid test for the age of wine. Many older counterfeits are made by refilling an authentic bottle or re-labeling a bottle from a nearby year. The test would therefore confirm that the bottle was correct for many of these frauds. In addition, it is necessary that the reference data, such as the glass for a 1787 Lafite, be accurate. Who is determining this? I hope that it isn't a wine vendor that sells a lot of older wine.


Russell makes a good point, and I'd encourage folks to follow the links for more information, particularly the NEW YORKER article (which goes into far more detail) and Wikipedia links.

Dear Jennifer,
This article is wonderful and a bit uncanny. I once took a tour of Monticello and the tour guide had said that depending on the guests, Thomas Jefferson was known to dilute his wine with water. He did this to be frugal and did not think the guests would notice.

I have recently taken to drinking my wine diluted. (I know the gasps that are now being emitted as I type this, but it is for medical reasons that I do it.) To make it appear glamorous or to hide the fact that I do this, I will say to my husband "I'll take mine in the manner of Thomas Jefferson." Well we have a house red that we drink most often and now my dinner beverage's name has been shortened to "Tommy Red" by my guests. I hate that!!!!!!

Great article. Thanks

Long ago, before we had children, my wife and I used to be so into wine that we attended a weekly wine-tasting at a local wine store. Once, for fun, the proprietor offered a blind tasting. It was a disaster because it confirmed exactly what you discuss here. People's perception is influenced by price and label. And this can be humiliating. What kind of nascent wine snob wants to discover that he or she can't tell the difference between a 100 dollar bottle of Bordeaux and some 10 buck bottle from Napa? I mean, where's the sense of oenological smugness in that?

The wine store, by popular demand, never offered another blind tasting. The lesson is that wine appreciation is more than just about taste. People want to be able to fool themselves that they have sophisticated palates, even when they do not. This is all part of the fun.

It appears that the Lafitte "Jefferson" bottle was, in fact, a fake. There's a new book out about it (which *not* by the same author who wrote the New Yorker article). Apparently the provenance of the bottle was terrible and the collector who sold it (Rodenstock) was responsible for passing off numerous other fakes.

The book can be found here:

and a detailed summary here:

but I heard about it on NPR:

Unfortunately, Jennifer, the law doesn't rely on the fact you are not a journalist. A blog post is a publication; you are the publisher.

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