Matthew McConaughey to lead wine fraud drama The Billionaire's Vinegar

Matthew Mcconaughey at Dallas Buyers Club premiere

Matthew McConaughey is to star in The Billionaire’s Vinegar, a drama about one of the world’s most infamous wine frauds.

The film will be adapted from Benjamin Wallace’s book of the same name, subtitled The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine, the rights to which were sold back in 2008 even before it was published. Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, known for writing the hardboiled likes of 3.10 to Yuma and Wanted, are tackling the screenplay.

Wallace delves into the story of a 1787 Chateau Lafitte Bordeaux, auctioned at Christie’s in 1985 for $150,000. The bottle, inscribed Th. J, was presented as being once owned by former president and wine aficionado Thomas Jefferson, but doubts about its authenticity started building. US billionaire Bill Koch paid $311,804 for four other bottles also supposedly once belonging to Jefferson, but after a museum demanded to know the provenance of the bottles ahead of exhibiting them, Jefferson’s estate couldn’t verify them.

Koch then hired a private investigator to look into Hardy Rodenstock, the wine dealer who had brought the bottles to auction, and hounded him with lawsuits which Rodenstock constantly resisted. During the investigations, the wine was chemically tested and found to date from 1962; empty bottles, blank wine labels and corks were found in Rodenstock’s house. The fraud led to a sustained crusade against various wine frauds from Koch, who spent millions in legal fees but eventually won $12m back in damages.

There was further friction after the book was published, with Christie’s auctioneer Michael Broadbent contesting how he was portrayed – publisher Random House ended up paying him damages.

Following his Oscar win in 2014 for Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey has taken on a raft of rich dramatic roles. He’ll soon take on another fraud-based drama, Gold, which looks at the case of Bre-X – the Canadian company announced it had bought a major gold mining site in Borneo, sending its stock price soaring, but their samples from the site were found to be fakes. Also in development is a film about an Indian tribe of barefoot runners adapted from the book Born to Run.

He’s currently filming civil war drama The Free State of Jones, about Newton Knight, a farmer who led a band of anti-slavery Confederate deserters in guerrilla skirmishes, as well as attempting to form a new “free state” separate from the rest of the south. There’s also Gus Van Sant’s next film The Sea of Trees, about two men contemplating suicide in a Japanese forest, who meet and begin a journey of survival.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ben Beaumont-Thomas, for theguardian.com on Friday 27th March 2015 10.59 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010