The Billionaire's Vinegar

The Billionaire's Vinegar

The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine

Book - 2008
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Random House, Inc.
It was the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold.

In 1985, at a heated auction by Christie’s of London, a 1787 bottle of Château Lafite Bordeaux—one of a cache of bottles unearthed in a bricked-up Paris cellar and supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson—went for $156,000 to a member of the Forbes family. The discoverer of the bottle was pop-band manager turned wine collector Hardy Rodenstock, who had a knack for finding extremely old and exquisite wines. But rumors about the bottle soon arose. Why wouldn’t Rodenstock reveal the exact location where it had been found? Was it part of a smuggled Nazi hoard? Or did his reticence conceal an even darker secret?

It would take more than two decades for those questions to be answered and involve a gallery of intriguing players—among them Michael Broadbent, the bicycle-riding British auctioneer who speaks of wines as if they are women and staked his reputation on the record-setting sale; Serena Sutcliffe, Broadbent’s elegant archrival, whose palate is covered by a hefty insurance policy; and Bill Koch, the extravagant Florida tycoon bent on exposing the truth about Rodenstock.

Pursuing the story from Monticello to London to Zurich to Munich and beyond, Benjamin Wallace also offers a mesmerizing history of wine, complete with vivid accounts of subterranean European laboratories where old vintages are dated and of Jefferson’s colorful, wine-soaked days in France, where he literally drank up the culture.

Suspenseful, witty, and thrillingly strange, The Billionaire’s Vinegar is the vintage tale of what could be the most elaborate con since the Hitler diaries. It is also the debut of an exceptionally powerful new voice in narrative non-fiction.

Baker & Taylor
A real-life historical mystery journeys behind the scenes of the secretive world of wine aficionados to describe the 1985 purchase of a bottle of 1787 Château Lafite Bordeaux for $156,000, the mysterious background of the wine, and the enigmatic wine collector who discoverd the bottle, once supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson, in a bricked-up Paris cellar. 100,000 first printing.

& Taylor

Describes the 1985 purchase of a bottle of 1787 Chãateau Lafite Bordeaux for $156,000, the mysterious background of the wine, and the enigmatic wine collector who discovered the bottle, once supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson, in a bricked-up Paris cellar.

Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2008.
ISBN: 9780307338778
Characteristics: 319 p. ; 25 cm.


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Nov 28, 2016

I've shelved this book as "Curiosity" to signify that it cannot fit into any of the usual shelves; it appears to lie somewhere between social commentary (reflecting bizarre or outlandish human behavior) and outright fiction (despite the fact that the events recounted really happened). It purports to be a mystery but the only thing mysterious is the readiness of supposedly sophisticated people to be hoodwinked into paying completely outrageous sums for bottles of wine that in many cases were likely to be undrinkable and to believe (or pretend to believe) fanciful claims about the origin of the items offered for sale -- all of this in pursuit of some kind of one-upmanship over their peers.
The tale told here has no relationship to the ordinary pleasure of enjoying a decent glass of wine. This is all about what Noel Coward famously termed "wretched excess". The saving grace is that the men who were taken in were willing participants in the scheme, they could certainly afford to do so and they got what they deserved.

Mar 12, 2011

Even if your only connection with wine is an occasional glass of merlot with dinner, this book will keep you interested and turning pages!


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