Bill Koch, brother to the controversial Koch brothers, paid $500,000 for four bottles of wine that were represented to have belonged to Thomas Jefferson.  Rumors began to surface that the bottles were counterfeit when a review of Jefferson’s records showed he had never ordered wine from the 1787 vintage.

A physicist from the University of Bordeaux, Philippe Hubert was consulted.  He had discovered that wines bottled before 1945 do not contain Cesium 137, a radioactive isotope first found on earth after the first atomic bomb tests.  The Jefferson wines did not contain Cesium 137 which meant the wine was bottled before 1945.

Further investigation revealed that the initials Th.J. had been engraved in the bottles using a modern dental drill.  The wines were clearly counterfeit.  Read more details on how science can detect counterfeit wine in this NPR article.

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