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.
©2008 Benjamin Wallace; (P)2008 Random House Audio
"Part detective story, part wine history, this is one juicy tale....as delicious as a true vintage Lafite." (Business Week)
"Splendid...A delicious mystery that winds through musty European cellars, Jefferson-era France and Monticello, engravers' shops, a nuclear physics lab, rival auction houses and legendary multi-day tastings conducted by the shadowy German who had discovered the Jefferson collection...Ripe for Hollywood." (USA Today)
"Wallace's depiction of rabid oenophiles staging almost decadent events to swill rare wine, knowingly depleting the reserves, are as much fun as the mystery." (The New York Daily News)
There are no listener reviews for this title yet.
"Not just for enophiles"
Very interesting and often jaw-dropping account of how the uber-rich live. I may not be able to relate to the lives of the tiny and rarified circle of people (Dodi al-Fayed, Malcom Forbes,et al) who can afford to pay $100,000+ for one bottle of wine, or who buy entire houses to hold their rare wine collections, or who hold "vertical winetastings" lasting days at which a succession of vintages of the same vineyard (from the 1700s through the early 1900s) are tasted, but I can nevertheless savor their smashed hubris when their "investments" in antique wines turns out to be . . . just a bunch of vinegar. Side trips in the narrative explaining Thomas Jefferson's self-education in the subtleties of the fermented grape, his mania for detailed bookkeeping, and the business of the auctionhouses that sell antique wines will fascinate not just enophiles, but anyone with a passing interest in history and an appreciation for ironic payback.
"Fascinating story, great characters"
yes, fun and interesting-great characters
I found this book while listening to a book about the Koch brothers, as one of them got caught up in this mystery
There were a lot of characters and his caricatures were great.
Frustrating because of how stupid people were because they wanted to protect what they "knew".
"It will go to your head!"
Aside from being an entertaining "story" that reads like a mystery (which it is, really) I learned a good deal about wine. It's fascinating and reveals a world about which most of us know very little, that is, the "wine market."
This reminded me very much of another of my favourite "true-life-mysteries," "The Island of Lost Maps" about discovering a "serial thief" of rare maps. Lots of info imparted in a fascinating and fascinatED way. Great read...pour yourself a nice glass of something lovely and dig in!
The information about wines and the market.
Not so much "scenes" in here as it is not fiction. Love the parts set in the auction-houses, tho.
well, no, other than just enjoying it thoroughly.
A great listen!! Excellent narration. It's hard to read something factual without sounding like a lecture, but, the narrator here does a great job of making it sound exciting and adventurous.
This is not a great book but it's a great story. It is so fascinating to see the inside of the wine collector's world, a scene about which I had no experience. So I really enjoyed reading it.
"Very interesting for all wine lovers"
Recommended for anyone who likes to drink wine. The author explains the wine industry in an informative way while not drifting off from the main story. The narrator was good and this is fully worth a credit.
"A Wine Lovers True Crime Story"
Deception and luxury wrapped up into one piece of well read story telling. As an oenophile, I recommend this book.
Well written, well researched, and well read. Only complaint is that I wish they didn't have the abridged version. For what it's worth, though, the abridger did a good job and the book flows smoothly.
"Long but informative"
Being in the wine industry, this was interesting and informative but confusing at times because of all the players the game. Glad I downloaded the audio book because I would've never been able to get through the actual book.
"A Bit Disappointing"
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I came away feeling like the book had dragged at times and my interest waned - which rarely happens when listening to an audio book. I generally reserve history books for print reading and indulge more of my guilty pleasures like Stephen King with audio or very long novels for audio. Maybe I should have went for the print version as opposed to audio. I don't think the narrator injected any energy either. He wasn't bad, just not lively.
"The fascinating business of vintage wines"
This is a book which is entertaining and gives an insight into a world most people don't know or probably can't afford to know - the buying and selling of wines at extraordinary prices. Like every business where the price paid is not related to intrinsic value, the sophisticated fraudster finds an opportunity.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.