• The Billionaire's Vinegar

  • The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine
  • By: Benjamin Wallace
  • Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris
  • Length: 5 hrs and 49 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 29-08-2008
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.7 (6 ratings)

Publisher's Summary

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.
©2008 Benjamin Wallace (P)2008 Random House Audio
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Critic Reviews

"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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Julie W. Capell on 03-06-2009

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.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Nancy on 21-12-2013

It will go to your head!

What did you love best about The Billionaire's Vinegar?

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!

What did you like best about this story?

The information about wines and the market.

Which scene was your favorite?

Not so much "scenes" in here as it is not fiction. Love the parts set in the auction-houses, tho.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

well, no, other than just enjoying it thoroughly.

Any additional comments?

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.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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