Synopses & Reviews
“Part detective story, part wine history, this is one juicy tale, even for those with no interest in the fruit of the vine. . . . As delicious as a true vintage Lafite.” —BusinessWeek
The Billionaire’s Vinegar tells the true story of a 1787 Château Lafite Bordeaux—supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson—that sold for $156,000 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. Updated for paperback with a new epilogue.
"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
"This is a gripping story, expertly handled by Benjamin Wallace who writes with wit and verve, drawing the reader into a subculture strewn with eccentrics and monomaniacs...Full of detail that will delight wine lovers. It will also appeal to anyone who merely savours a great tale, well told." The Economist
"A page-turner — What makes Wallace's book worth reading is the way he fleshes out the tale with entertaining digressions into Jefferson's wine adventures, how to fake wines (who knew a shotgun blast could make a bottle look old?) and dead-on portraits of several major wine personalities who intersected unhappily with the wines." Bloomberg
"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
The Billionaire's Vinegar
tells the true story of a 1787 Chateau Lafite Bordeaux — supposedly Thomas Jefferson's — that sold for $156,000 at auction, and the eccentrics who 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 Michael Broadbent, the bicycle-riding British auctioneer who speaks of wines as if they are women; to Serena Sutcliffe, Broadbent's elegant archrival at Sotheby's; to Hardy Rodenstock, the obsessive wine collector who discovered the bottle; to Bill Koch, the Florida tycoon who is bent on exposing the truth about Rodenstock.
About the Author
BENJAMIN WALLACE has written for GQ
, the Washington Post, Food & Wine
, and Philadelphia
, where he was the executive editor. He lives in Brooklyn.
Visit his website at BenjaminWallace.net.