From the Publisher
"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.
From the Jacket
"Part detective story, part wine history, this is one juicy
tale….as delicious as a true vintage Lafite."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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
"A riveting wine history, wine mystery, and more."
-Dana Cowin, editor in chief of Food &
"For anyone with at least a curiosity about precious old wines
and the love of a good story, this well-crafted piece of journalism
may prove as intriguing and enjoyable as a fine old Bordeaux."
"The season's wine reading cannot get off to a better start
than with The Billionaire's Vinegar, one of the rare
books on wine that transcends the genre ...Though the story is the
collector's world, the subject is also greed and how it can contort
reality to fit one's desires. It's been optioned for Hollywood. I
hope the movie's as good as the book."
-Eric Asimov, The Pour, New York Times
"It is the fine details--the bouquet, the body, the notes, the
finish--that make this book such a lasting pleasure, to be savored
and remembered long after the last page is turned. Ben Wallace has
told a splendid story just wonderfully, his touch light and deft,
his instinct pitch-perfect. Of all the marvelous legends of the
wine trade, this curiously unforgettable saga most amply deserves
the appellation: a classic."
-Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman
and A Crack in the Edge of the World
"The Billionaire's Vinegar is the ultimate page-turner. Written
with literary intelligence, it has a cast of characters like
something out Fawlty Towers meets The Departed. It takes you into a
subculture so deep and delicious, you can almost taste the wine
that turns so many seemingly rational people into madmen. It is
-Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights
From the Hardcover edition.
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.
About the Book
In 1985, a nearly 200-year-old bottle of wine rumored to have once been owned by Thomas Jefferson sold at auction for $150,000. The subsequent brouhaha over the cache's authenticity takes Wallace on a journey into the mirage-like world of rare wines.