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The titular bottle, from a cache of allegedly fine, allegedly French wine, allegedly owned by Thomas Jefferson in the 1780s, set a record price when auctioned in 1985. The subsequent brouhaha over the cache's authenticity takes wine journalist Wallace on a piquant journey into the mirage-like world of rare wines. At its center are Hardy Rodenstock, an enigmatic German collector with a suspicious knack for unearthing implausibly old and drinkable wines, and Michael Broadbent, a Christie's wine expert, who auctioned Rodenstock's lucrative finds. The argument over the Jefferson bottles and other rarities aged for decades, flummoxed a wine establishment desperate to keep the cork in a controversy that might deflate the market for antique vintages. (In the author's telling, a 2006 lawsuit almost settles the issue.) Wallace sips the story slowly, taking leisurely digressions into techniques for faking wine and detecting same with everything from Monticello scholarship to nuclear physics. He paints a colorful backdrop of eccentric oenophiles, decadent tastings and overripe flavor rhetoric (Broadbent describes one wine as redolent of chocolate and schoolgirls' uniforms). Investigating wines so old and rare they could taste like anything, he playfully questions the very foundations of connoisseurship. (May)
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Benjamin Wallace’s magazine background helps him keep the many narrative threads in The Billionaire’s Vinegar tight and engaging. In addition, Wallace exhibits a sharp eye for detail and character: Hardy Rodenstock, in particular,comes across as deliciously deceptive. Exploring what Jefferson’s European tour of 1787 must have been like will likely interest even readers without a taste for wine, though connoisseurs will savor the author’s descriptions of the clubby (and sometimes comically extravagant) society of high-dollar wine collectors. Wallace raises questions about the wine’s authenticity that will linger on the palate, despite a perhaps unsatisfying ending. Or, as collector Ed Lazarus wrote of his experience with the discovered cache, “I had never experienced anything remotely similar in an older Bordeaux, or in fact anywhere else, except perhaps at a Baskin-Robbins.”
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
For the wine aficionado, this book is like a's well-written spy novel that educates as you enjoy it. It was like a college level course in old world wine and its customs. Read morePublished 18 hours ago by D. Smith
I really liked this book. I read it for my book club and didn't expect to like it, but It kept me turning the pages. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Lou
The history is interesting. If you're not an oenophile when you start reading the book, it is probably not sufficiently compelling to make you become one. Read morePublished 8 days ago by M. P. Henley
I didn't read more than the first several chapters. Not enough story and way too much technical detail about the wine process for me.Published 11 days ago by susan
It was not at all what I expected. It was just a continuing dialog about wines. No real suspense or plot, but rambling story on wines and how they may not be all they are cracked... Read morePublished 13 days ago by terri quinton
How did I miss this happening? And how could all those "experts" be so naive?Published 14 days ago by Kaye G.
While interesting; the writing was disorganized and in need of a good editor.Published 14 days ago by Irene Paino