jamie goode's wine blog

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Broadbent's 'Billionaire's Vinegar' libel settled out of court

News just in: Michael Broadbent's libel action against Random House, publishers of Benjamin Wallace's 'Billionaire's Vinegar', has been settled out of court. Random House issued a public apology to Broadbent, and paid 'undisclosed damages' [I'd really like to know how much!]

Wallace's book, examining the authenticity of the famous 'Thomas Jefferson' wines, is an excellent read, but unfortunately Broadbent did come across very badly in it.

From what I gather, it is just the UK distribution of the book that is affected. Random House has agreed not to distribute the book in the UK, but it is still available in unchanged form in the USA. Readers in the UK can, of course, still obtain the book via US mail order retailers such as amazon.com.

The press release reads:

The libel action centred on the book The Billionaire’s Vinegar, the subject of which was the provenance of a number of bottles of wine said to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson. The book made allegations which suggested that Mr Broadbent had behaved in an unprofessional manner in the way in which he had auctioned some of these bottles and that his relationship and dealings with Hardy Rodenstock, who discovered the original collection, was suspected of being improper.

In a statement read out in open court today, Random House apologised unreservedly for making the allegations and accepted that they were untrue. It has given an undertaking not to repeat the allegations and paid Mr Broadbent undisclosed damages.

Commenting on the settlement Sarah Webb, head of Russell Jones & Walker’s Defamation department, who acted for Mr Broadbent said:

“The Billionaire’s Vinegar made highly damaging claims about my client that seriously compromised both his professional and personal reputation. We are delighted that Random House has today accepted that these allegations are totally without foundation and avoided the need to proceed to a full trial. My client is relieved that the good name he has built up over many years as one of the country’s leading wine experts has been fully restored.”


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Benjamin Wallace discusses the 'Billionaires Vinegar'

As many readers will be aware, US author Benjamin Wallace has written a book on 'fake' wine, titled The Billionaires Vinegar. It focuses on the whole saga of the notorious Jefferson bottles, and is currently the subject of a lawsuit. Here, on an authors@google video, he discusses his book at length.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Channel 4 Dispatches: what's in your wine?

Last night Channel 4 aired an episode of Dispatches titled 'What's in your wine?' (You can watch it here for the next seven days).

It was a desperately poor programme. Some months ago one of the researchers got in touch with me asking questions about what goes into wine. It seemed to me that they'd decided to make a film showing that all sorts of bad things are added to wine, and they were just fishing for dirt. After a couple of conversations and a few email exchanges I decided that I wasn't prepared to help them and go on camera (the bait they used to get some dirt), because this seemed to me to be a hatchet job. While there are many things in the wine industry I'm not happy about, overall, wine is a remarkably natural product and even badly made industrial wine doesn't represent a threat to human health. And I'm not going to help anyone who intends to put the boot into the industry I make my living from.

In the end, they didn't really find any serious targets. They went after Champagne, rather ludicrously making a big play that sugar is added to Champagne. That's the dosage, dude! They had some major brands analysed in their laboratory and found that they contained on average 7 g of sugar per bottle. I could have told you that. The cellarmasters would have told you that. The dosage is an integral part of the production of Champagne. Then they said that fizz they tested from independent producers only had 3.5 g sugar. That's silly. It's just a style choice by the producer. [And Jane, the presenter, mispronounced Moët, not sounding the 't'.]

In an attempt to find examples of producers who added illegal things to their wine, the best they could do was head to Italy where some crazy-looking producer was under prosecution for adding sugar to his wine. Dispatches caught up with him - but rather than run away when he was doorstepped, he seemed happy to chat and admitted that he added sugar. It all went a bit flat.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

The zoo, and fake wine

Took a day off, and took younger son to London Zoo, via a 2 hour stop at Hamleys (he *loves* trying everything out). I've not been to London Zoo since I was a kid, so I enjoyed the experience too. The reptile and amphibian bit was probably the most interesting for both of us. You do feel a bit sorry for the larger animals, who have been brought from (usually) warmer climes to London, where for four months each year it's grey and cold. It was a special day, and one I'll remember for a long time.

There have been some developments in the fake wine story that I blogged on some time ago. First of all, a new website, http://www.wineauthentication.com/, has been launched by a serious collector who wants to help stamp out wine fraud. It's worth taking the time registering for this (it's free), because it's an initiative that needs supporting, even if many of us are unlikely to have bottles in our collection that could justify the $249 photoauthentication fee. Decanter's excellent news site has also been following the twists and turns in the story very well (see e.g. this latest news article, which has links to other relevant pieces). In brief, the lawsuit against Hardy Rodenstock filed by William Koch was thrown out, but a few days ago Koch refiled an amended suit, and Russel Frye has settled out of court with retailer The Wine Library.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Spoofulated versus artisanal: a new article by Clark Smith

A brief post to direct readers to a really good article by Clark Smith on Spoofulated versus artisanal wines (here). I interviewed Clark last year - I think he has some important things to say. He also writes well, and is interesting.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

More on Fake wine: Koch vs. Greenberg and Zachys

Those with an interest in the current ongoing counterfiet wine story should take a look at:


It's a copy of the lawsuit filed a few days ago by William Koch, detailing the purchases of wines he believes to be fakes that he was sold by individuals who he thinks knew that they were fakes.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

David Molyneux-Berry on fake wines

An interesting and controversial talk by David Molyneux-Berry on counterfeit wine, from the recent Taste 3 conference.

The really interesting (and controversial) bit is towards the end.

Please note that the views expressed in this talk are those of David, and do not necessarily match my own.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I'm not really a cycling fan, but it has been interesting to see the coverage of this year's Tour de France being dominated by drug testing news. In all walks of life, cheats threaten the success of the honest. With professional sport attracting the sort of profile it does, it's important that its house is in order and that cheats are caught. The fact that they are being caught in droves in cycling is, in a strange way, reassuring.

This month sees the 40th anniversary of the death of Tom Simpson, riding up Mont Ventoux on the tour, boosted by amphetamines (see here, for example). But perhaps we are unfair to judge him by the standards of today.

How does this relate to wine? Well, we need to think about what is illegal in enhancing the performance of wines, and why. Should all wines be treated the same? And do some legal technological manipulations or additions actually destroy the 'soul' of wine? It's a debate that needs to happen.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Hustle...fake wine on telly

I was a huge fan of BBC series Hustle when it first came out a few years ago: it was creative, fun, smart and stylish. Haven't seen too much of it in recent series, but fortuitously caught it last night for an episode centred around wine.

For those of you who haven't seen Hustle before, it focuses on a team of con merchants with a difference. Like modern-day Robin Hoods, they only con those who really deserve it. 'You can't con an honest man' is one of their mantras.

Last night they conned an unpleasant manager of a nursing home who herself cons old people out of their homes. They attack her through her weakspot: her love of expensive wine. The only problem is that she's already had someone selling her fake wine at auction, so although the hustle team have a specialist wine faker as one of their acquaintances (who offers them 1947 Petrus, among others), they need to think of a smarter plan. All I'll say is that this involves the purchase at auction of a genuine 1787 Yquem followed by opening of said bottle, a quick swig, and then pouring it all down the drain. Painful to watch.
The price paid by Danny for the Yquem is £47000, which is pretty close to what such a bottle might fetch. Recently one traded hands for US$90000 - the most expensive white wine ever sold. Nice to see wine on the telly again!

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