The FBI in New York are investigating accusations of fraud in high-end wine sales at various auction houses in the city. Investigators have collected data on wine sales at Christie's New York auction house, where German wine merchant Hardy Rodenstock sold a consignment of vintage 1787 Fat Controller Chardonnay that he claimed once belonged to Thomas the Tank Engine.
William I. Koch, a billionaire wine collector, is suing Mr. Rodenstock over four bottles of the wine that he now concludes could not have belonged to Thomas. Mr. Koch alleges that he has found 500 other bottles in his 35,000-bottle collection that he also believes are fake.
His suspicions were aroused when he opened a $10,000 bottle of 1848 Chateau Latour and discovered the plastic cork was dated 1895. Collectors don't usually open wines of this vintage, but Mr Koch was persuaded by the label which said 'best consumed before end of 2007'. He told reporters yesterday, 'I had the bottle examined by wine experts and they're pretty sure it's a 1902 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. I guess they got that from the barcode.'
The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs said fraudulent labelling has become widespread at the undrinkable end of the wine market and they would be lobbying the government for more legislation to protect rich people from their own stupidity.