read online Audiobooks The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of WineAuthor Benjamin Wallace –

The New York Times Bestseller, Updated With A New Epilogue, That Tells The True Story Of A Ch Teau Lafite Bordeaux Supposedly Owned By Thomas Jefferson That Sold For , At Auction And Of The Eccentrics Whose Lives Intersected With It Was It Truly Entombed In A Paris Cellar For Two Hundred Years Or Did It Come From A Secret Nazi Bunker Or From The Moldy Basement Of A Devilishly Brilliant Con Artist As Benjamin Wallace Unravels The Mystery, We Meet A Gallery Of Intriguing Players From The Bicycle Riding British Auctioneer Who Speaks Of Wines As If They Are Women To The Obsessive Wine Collector Who Discovered The Bottle Suspenseful And Thrillingly Strange, This Is The Vintage Tale Of What Could Be The Most Elaborate Con Since The Hitler Diaries

10 thoughts on “The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine

  1. says:

    Instagram Twitter Facebook PinterestI love wine love it but I honestly don t get this fascination with drinking 50 year old bottles And I m saying this as someone who lives in California and drinks good wine all the time As I sort of alluded to in another book about wine I reviewed, HEDONIST IN THE CELLAR, I think there comes a point where it stops being about the wine and about the moolah Perhaps an eighteenth century bottle of wine tastes amazing I can barely force myself to drink milk that s a week too old, so I am the wrong person to judge Considering how much those bad boys sell for, it s unlikely I will ever find out As this book points out, there is a science to the aging process, but a lot of it also seems to be showboating with your money and agreeing with people whom you consider to be generally superior and in the know when it comes to wine knowledge Think Emperor s New Clothes except instead of, Wow, that guy is naked it s wow, that guy is naked and drinking fresh poured Scam Wine THE BILLIONAIRE S VINEGAR is a delightful comedy of errors about innocent and perhaps not so innocent people we never really know for sure who end up getting Scam Wine instead of the miraculously well preserved historical wine they thought originally belonged to Thomas Jefferson When a well preserved wine cellar is unearthed in France bearing many popular old wines from the 19th century, everyone is excited and quick to bid But then the taste of the wines and the look of the bottles is called into question and suddenly, everything comes down like a house of cards and friends become enemies, and trustworthy wines become Scam Wines Benjamin Wallace crams the whole sordid saga in here, starting with the wine s high octane auction, descriptions of lavish wine tastings and food pairings, why people buy old wine spoiler bragging rights , what these people are like spoiler rich , the quest for the wine s provenance, and then, lastly, a quiet epilogue I honestly had no idea that wine forgeries were such an issue I guess it makes sense, though Anything high in demand is usually in short supply, to there s a temptation to artificially manufacture additional copies of these high price items and cash in It was fascinating to read about how Scam Wine is made, and the lengths people go to make them look authentic, some going so far as to stain the labels and pit the glass and then coat them with convincing artificial dust Scam Dust I also enjoyed learning about the history of some of these wines For example, prior to reading THE BILLIONAIRE S VINEGAR, I did not know about the great French wine blight For those of you who do not know, an aphid called phylloxera attacked the roots of many French grapes in the late 19th century, causing many of the plants to die American grapes were apparently immune to the aphids, so the roots of these American grapes were grafted onto the French plants, changing the taste of the grapes some say for the worse Scam Grapes So apparently, pre phylloxera wines are a class of their own and many people seek them out as being pure than modern strains of grape.It s been a while since I read a good nonfiction book about history and THE BILLIONAIRE S VINEGAR was the perfect return to that type of book The writing style is great colorful and vivid, but not veering into sensationalism and remaining relatively impartial at most times It s like reading a very fun journalistic piece that continues for almost 300 pages, except wine is involved and you get to experience it vicariously I read the gripping climax with a glass of petit verdot in hand read violet notes , and as I was reading, it occurred to me that the oldest wine that I have ever put into my mouth was only about twelve years old, and even that was almost too strong When I was telling one of my friends about this book and the old wines mentioned inside, and asking rhetorically what they might taste like, she made a hilarious face and said, I bet it would taste like balsamic vinegar I would cook with it I said, I bet that would legitimately make someone cry 4 stars

  2. says:

    As wines are often described as drinkable, this book is eminently readable If you liked the 1998 film The Red Violin , or if you are ever even occasionally drawn in by Antiques Roadshow you will love this book And if you haven t seen The Red Violin , you really should The epitome of narrative non fiction, The Billionaire s Vinegar is the tale of a world gone mad with wine lust, historical infatuation and drunk on self importance The Billionaire s Vinegar is much than the story of a bottle of wine, but how circumstances were ripe for the old guard elite and nouveau riche to be seduced by the siren s call of a new, highly indulgent, rare and collectible international craze that swept them away.Before I read this book, all I really knew about wine was that I liked to drink it and, if I had too much, it caused a headache unlike any other Now, though hardly an expert, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for a much complex and interesting process Terms and situations are explained clearly, with no hint of snootiness which I find near miraculous given the subject.The characters are intriguing and as the book progresses, you understand how so many individuals were duped, besotted or obsessed in earlier chapters I felt the desire to build a time machine to transport myself to a time when such exquisite wine was sold in supermarkets for 8 a bottle And as the mystery starts to become unveiled, you join the crowd yelling, The Emperor wears no clothes Full of blunders a poor rich fool breaks a priceless bottle of wine while showing it off , masochistic dedication the wine taster who flew in last minute after a liver transplant and priceless charm, I laughed aloud, winced and was kept guessing to the last chapter.A very strong caution You will want to drink wine will reading this book It is inevitable So, stock up.

  3. says:

    What a fun read I didn t know much about the central characters before I dived into this nonfiction book, so each page was a surprise I also learned an enormous amount about wines, how they age, The book read a bit like a suspense novel, with and allegations piling up to condemn various members of the inner circle It s too bad that most of the pivotal characters were men, except for the despised Serena Sutcliff and the ignored woman from Monticello, but I did get a peek into the strange world of wine super collectors This book also made me interested in reading about Thomas Jefferson, whose meticulous attention to detail is awe inspiring, among his many, many other awe inspiring qualities I recommend this book to wine drinkers, connoisseurs, and fans of movies similar to Catch Me If You Can Cheers

  4. says:

    My knowledge of wine is similar to the guy from Sideways who guzzles the glass down and declares tastes pretty good to me For the reader who knows little about wine, this is a good introduction to the high end world of wine collecting The first 2 3 of the book is interesting and informative and reads like a good mystery, but the last chapters seem hastily thrown together The book misses making some important conclusions about the ramifications of the Jefferson bottles on not only wine collection but the average wine drinker who depends on certain critics to select their wines.

  5. says:

    Somewhere around two thirds of the way through this entertaining account of the controversy surround possible counterfeit antique wines, I began to hope that there d be a definitive answer The book seems to fall on the side of very, very strongly suggesting that all the rare old vintage wines produced by the book s villain, Hardy Rodenstock, one time pop band producer turned rare wine dealer, were fakes, but for obvious litigation issues stops just short of outright accusation I didn t want to know the answer because of a curiosity about the truth of the matter The real reason I wanted an answer was because I wanted all the rich pricks in the book to get owned and hard.To back up a bit first, though.We start with the alleged rare wines The most notable wines procured by Rodenstock are supposedly from a cache of bottles from one of the homes where Thomas Jefferson lived in France Widely regarded as America s first wine fancier of note, Jefferson s memorabilia and documents depict a man who wished to turn his fellow countrymen away from the brutality of corn liquor and on to the finer vintages of Europe He also was a staunch advocate of home grown experimentation in wine production According to Rodenstock, a wrecking crew breaking through a plaster wall in a home scheduled for demolition found the wines, walled up to prevent their theft by revolutionary peasants after Jefferson s departure back to America.Wallace goes into great detail cataloguing the aspects of the bottle, the fine engraving of Th J on each bottle, an inscription greatly contested by Monticello historians, the antiquity of the cork and the wax seal around it, and the provenance of the wine Rodenstock, in his bid for authenticity, enlists the help of Michael Broadbent, in house wine expert for Christie s auction house whose seal of approval on the mystery bottles ignites bidding wars and much speculation The first bottle to go up for auction is eventually snagged by Christopher Kip Forbes for 157,000 Subsequently, this idiotic family with their mania for collecting put the bottle up for display in a lighted glass case where the heat ruined whatever was inside the bottle and accelerated the rot in the cork, leading to it falling into the bottle where it floated for however many hours it took for someone to notice Further bottles from this supposed cache were purchased by the American editor of Wine Spectator magazine, by a mysterious man from the Middle East rud to be a frontman for Dodi Al Fayed, and by tycoon Bill Koch whose eventual lawsuit against Rodenstock brought the entire matter to a head In the intervening years between Forbes purchase and Koch s lawsuit, Rodenstock came under increasing suspicion for his facility with finding incredibly rare fine vintages and their amazing drinkability He regularly discovered long lost stashes laden with dramatic historical value, though his finds often were of bottle types which disputed as ever having been produced, such as imperial magnums of certain years when vintner records reveal no such bottles.Wallace tells the story in well spaced intervals, pausing for chapters to detail Jefferson s trip through France, the history of the vintners most usually faked, the debate between the pre and post phylloxera years, and about the growing market of wines in England and America It is this latter side note that leads to Koch s interest in wines and the book s most aggravating personalities.Not exactly wine snobs, these mostly American collectors joined by similar types from around the world prove to be a trial to endure reading about Hosting lavish tasting parties of verticals, that is, parties featuring one vintage over several decades and horizontals a single year s great wines from various vintners, these wine collectors seem less interested in taste and flavor and enjoyment than impressing each other with the rareness of their cellars The love of wine rapidly morphs into dick measuring contests whose appeal is lost on those of us who aren t involved Wallace lovingly portrays their orgiastic excesses to such a degree that my inner Marxist was sliding well into Trotskyite bloodlust just to hear of their fancy balls.That the book s late middle section becomes dominated by these assholes is a fatal flaw in the story, but nonetheless an important one, because it is through Rodenstock s desire to impress at these gatherings of wealthy experts the better to tempt them to buy his suspect wares that his eventual exposure as a likely fraud is made possible It is through such events that Rodenstock tangles with Koch, a litigious bastard if ever there were one.To get to the bottom of the matter, Kohc hired a team made up of a retired FBI agent and his private investigators, scientists versed in the art of chemical analyses based upon radioactive isotopes, and David Molyneux Berry, the former head of Christie s rival auction house, Sotheby s wine department Koch has filed suit in several jurisdictions against Rodenstock, cases that have yet to be decided.In this sense, the book feels incomplete, as if the story was rushed out in anticipation of something We end without any definitive proof that Rodenstock was completely faking these wines and without any on record resolution to the court cases The overwhelming bulk of the circumstantial is damning enough in my mind, but the book stops just centimeters shy of making such a claim.This is dissatisfying for obvious reasons, but so the book leaves me with a sense of unalloyed frustration While I relish con artists who practice the short and long term grift and live on their wits, Rodenstock is an unappealing faker without much in the way of charisma as he s portrayed by Wallace To some degree, this must be an authorial flaw, as such high stakes and such long lived forgery schemes can t survive solely based on the marks gullibility The conman must have a charm that is obvious and compelling As painted by Wallace, Rodenstock lacks this fundamental virtue His victims, such as extravagant prick Bill Koch, are likewise repulsive creatures full of money and unattractive personal qualities Shed a tear please for the Forbes family if you can.With unpleasant players on both sides of the fence, Wallace s book lacks a compelling figure for reader sympathy save for Michael Broadbent A stronger focus on Christie s wine expert and how damaged his reputation emerged from the scandal might have carried the day, but caught up in the fancy dress balls of the upper class wine fetishists, Wallace loses sight of his ace in the hole Sidelined as a bit player for the book s second half, Broadbent as figure of semi tragedy could have added a pleasing top note of pathos to the work As it is, the book is good enough for quaffing, but lacks what all wine makers hope for, cellar appeal.

  6. says:

    So I recently spent a few days in the hospital with literally nothing to do so I packed oodles and oodle of books I had a bag just for my books because I am currently too poor to purchase a Kindle Barnes and Noble had recently had a Summer Reads Buy Two, Get One Free Sale and I found this book s blurb intriguingI should have picked something else to buyat least I keep telling myself it was the free book so I didn t pay any money for it It wasn t a terrible bookif you love wine beyond life itself and know virtually everything there is to know about it If you don t, this book was a total snore The mystery of the Thomas Jefferson bottles of wine are they aren t they wasn t even enough to help me find interest in the book Miraculously, I did finish it constantly hoping it would get better and peppered with many, many naps, but in the end I was unable to find the passion I should have felt for the history of wine nor the manufactured drama of the Jefferson bottles of wine The book was about a long long, history of wine.

  7. says:

    A fascinating read A great cast of characters that expose you to grand egos, a new depth of greed, big boy playground bravado and a desire to possess the best and rarest, no matter what the cost On a broader stage, I think it serves as a parable of how the current economy meltdown didn t only happen in the housing market Build the hype, create a competition, snag the greedy, and leave before the clock strikes midnight The plan was pure genius How can you judge something to not be what you think it is, when you have nothing to compare it against What does a wine from the 1780s taste like anyways That, and if there was a crime, the evidence is now gone, drunk the night before On the other hand, could it have been from the famed lost wine lot of Thomas Jefferson Hard to tell, hard to prove Will those who have done wrong get caught Did they do wrong I learned a lot about rare wine and the world of high stakes auction houses from this book, as well as family relationships and that famous truism of P T Barnum.

  8. says:

    The disappointing think about this book is that the story isn t finished Litigation is ongoing, and the book ends rather abruptly Also, the author skips around chronologically fairly liberally, presumably to enhance the narrative flow, but sometimes it feels disjointed or just doesn t make sense Despite these complaints, this book is an engrossing read As an amateur wine enthusiast, the subject matter was interesting to me and the character sketches were engaging It also proved a great validation of my wife Autumn s career choice, as the book serves as an indictment of the practice of previous employer Christie s, while validating the work of researchers at Monticello Overall, I recommend it

  9. says:

    Not really sure why I read this Very interesting for a while, but ultimately goes on too long without being able to reach a firm conclusion The old wine was faked, no doubt, but it remains not completely proven Still, an interesting look at the behavior of the ultra wealthy Would be better as a magazine article.

  10. says:

    I read this book Seriously, I did not finish it I read about half of this book and decided it is not for me While it is well written, the entire book mainly consists of wine and rich people names thrown at me that it made it bit of a slow read I did not know who is important and besides the Forbes and Thomas Jefferson, I did not know any of the other people being mentioned Jefferson was apparently a huge wine fan, taking trips all around the Europe and sending big boxes of wine back home to himself and to the other fathers of Deceleration of Independence Besides the notes on his journeys, the majority of the book consisted of rich people or wine shop owners opening random old bottles of wine and recording their taste, smell, texture, look, etc I did not find this very fun as I will never have a chance to try such a luxury as a 10,000 bottle of wine so I gave up on it I also heard the ending is quite abrupt, finishing a story without any sort of a buildup to a climax I feel like I did not miss much by giving up on this book.