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Rodenstock Hardy

Rodenstock Hardy The German artist manager and music publisher Hardy Rodenstock (1941-2018) is mentioned in some sources as a member of the famous dynasty of glasses. However, as he himself admitted in the course of the case mentioned below, this is a stage name, he was born as Meinhard Goerke. In the 1970s he was a producer of several groups of pop and hit music. He is said to have made his fortune with stock exchange transactions and acquired properties in Munich, Bordeaux and Monte Carlo. Afterwards he became known worldwide by collecting and trading very old and exquisite wines. According to his own statement, it all began when he uncorked a Château d'Yquem of the 1921 vintage. That was "the starting signal of my passion for great wines". His speciality is the great Bordeaux wines, for which he was awarded honorary citizenship of the city of Bordeaux. He was also considered the owner of the largest collection of old, exquisite Château d'Yquem vintages.

He regularly organized rarity tastings to which only renowned personalities and renowned tasters such as Michael Broadbent (1927-2020), Jancis Robinson (*1950), Robert M. Parker (*1947) and the owner of the Château d'Yquem, Comte Alexandre de Lur-Saluces (*1946) are invited. Probably the most famous Rodenstock tasting to date took place from 30 August to 5 September 1998 at the Hotel Königshof in Munich. The incredible number of 125 bottles of Château d'Yquem, the oldest dating from 1784 (2 from the 18th, 40 from the 19th and the rest from the 20th century), was tasted. During the week, a vertical tasting was carried out in the context of five lunches and seven dinners, as well as 175 other wines. This tasting is also the subject of a book (August F. Winkler, Yquem - The Century Tasting).

In the 1990s, Rodenstock presented Impériale bottles (6 l) of Château Petrus at several tastings, including the 1921 and 1922 vintages, and initial doubts about the authenticity were expressed by Serena Sutcliffe (*1945), head of the wine department of the Sotheby's auction house. These doubts were reinforced by Château Petrus owner Christian Moueix (*1946). According to his statements, there is no evidence of bottle oversize in the estate's records, which were usually only used by famous wineries for special customers. However, the estate was an unknown winery at that time. The most spectacular allegation of forgery, however, which occupied the scene for many years, was a different one.

In the spring of 1985, Rodenstock, according to his own account, received a call about the discovery of 12 very old vintages of exquisite wines. These had been found walled up in a cellar wall in Paris. This marked the beginning of a long history of counterfeiting charges, lawsuits and settlements. The facts could not be clarified to 100% beyond doubt until today. It concerned wines of the renowned French vineyards Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château d'Yquem of the vintages 1784 and 1787 from the estate of the US president Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). They bore his initials carved into the bottle glass. Jefferson was then US envoy in Paris and collected French wines. However, Rodenstock never mentioned where he had found them or the finder, who, according to him, had died in the meantime. A Château Lafite-Rothschild 1787 from this find was sold in 1985 for € 160,000 at Christie's auction to Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990). In any case it is one of the most expensive wines in the world.

In 1988, the American billionaire William Koch (*1940) bought four bottles of Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Mouton-Rothschild of the vintages 1784 and 1787 for $ 500,000 from the US wine auction house Chicago Wine Company. Koch calls works of art by many important artists (including Cézanne, Dali, Monet, Picasso, Renoir and Rodin) and valuable antiques worth several hundred million dollars his own. Among them is also an exquisite collection of 40.000 partly very old wines. The four bottles carried the Jefferson initials in the shape of "Th.J" and according to the seller they came from Rodenstock. Koch had them appraised by employees of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in Monticello (historic Jefferson winery) near Charlottesville (Virginia). These expressed initial doubts about the authenticity of the bottles, as there was nothing to be found in Jefferson's meticulous cellar book records of these wines.

Another indication of a forgery is that Thomas Jefferson had always used the initial form "Th:J" (i.e. with a colon) in many documents throughout his life and not "Th.J" as on the bottles. In 1991, a laboratory commissioned by the wine collector Hans-Peter Frericks (a former friend of Rodenstock's) proved by radiocarbon dating (C14) that the wine in one of these Jefferson bottles must have been made after the first nuclear tests, i.e. after 16 July 1945. Frericks' subsequent legal action against Rodenstock ended with his conviction in the first instance, but ended in a settlement, the details of which were agreed to remain confidential. Another analysis, in turn, showed that the wine in any case originated before the atomic age (i.e. the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945), otherwise it would have to contain caesium-137. After extensive analysis in an FBI laboratory, it also turned out that the amazingly even engraving was most likely made with a technical precision instrument (perhaps a dentist's drill).

In Koch's extensive collection there are further bottles of wine which were allegedly sold by Rodenstock. Therefore, Koch sued Rodenstock in New York in August 2006. However, Rodenstock swears that the Jefferson bottles are genuine and affirms his innocence. In addition, Rodenstock never had a direct business relationship with Koch. Some of the bottles could very well be genuine (in relation to the winery and/or vintage), some of them might actually be fake. Maybe in the future it will be possible to determine this beyond any doubt with appropriate means (if there are still bottles). But if they really are from Jefferson's property will surely never be clarified again. Because of course the initials (no matter if dot or colon) are no proof, they could be the abbreviation for any name.

After a New York federal court had provisionally dismissed the lawsuit of William Koch against Hardy Rodenstock, the US collector filed an appeal against the dismissal of the lawsuit. His lawyers brought new arguments and pointed out that at least some of the so-called Jefferson bottles had been handed over to Koch in New York. Since Rodenstock was the source of all four controversial wines suspected of being counterfeit, the court had to declare its jurisdiction after all. Rodenstock denied all accusations of forgery throughout his life. He claimed that Koch had never bought a bottle from him and that it had to be conclusively proven that these four bottles were indeed from the Parisian find (see an interview on this subject on the website Feinschmeckerey). In May 2010, Rodenstock was sentenced by default for his absence at a scheduled trial. The facts of the case could never be clarified. There were several TV documentaries on the subject and the film rights were also sold.

Picture: WINEBerserkers

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