Format: Trade Paperback
Dimensions: 336 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.7 in
Published: April 14, 2009
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0307338789
ISBN - 13: 9780307338785
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.
Read from the Book
Chapter 1 Lot 337 A hush had come over the West Room. Photographers'' flashes strobed the standing-room-only crowd silently, and the lone sound was the crisp voice of the auctioneer. To the world, Michael Broadbent projected a central-casting British cool, but under the bespoke suit, he was practicing a kind of mind control that calmed him in these situations. The trick was to focus narrowly, almost autistically, on numbers: lot number, number of bidders, paddle numbers, bid steps. Even after all these years, he still found it bracingly creative to conjure excitement out of a heap of dirty old bottles. No matter how many of them the fifty-eight-year-old Broadbent might see, he retained his boyish sense of marvel at the longevity of wine. Inert antiques were all very well, but there was magic in old wine--a mysterious and wonderful alchemy in something that could live and change for two hundred years and still be drinkable. Auctioneer was Broadbent''s most public role, but it was only one of his distinctions in the wine world. In London he cut a familiar figure, pedaling to work each day on his Dutch ladies'' bicycle with basket, legs gunning furiously, a trilby hat perched on his head. Often he was elsewhere, and he kept up a brutal schedule. As founding director of the Christie''s wine department, he had spent the last two decades crisscrossing the planet, cataloging the dank and dusty contents of rich men''s cellars, tasting tens of thousands of fine wines, and jotting his
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, now a New York Times bestseller, 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 & Wine
"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 superb nonfiction.”
—Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
BENJAMIN WALLACE, a New York Times bestselling author, 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.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER “Captivating.” — New York Times Book Review “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.” — New York Times “This is a captivating tale, even if you care nothing about wine.” —Wall Street Journal “Entertaining.” —Washington Post “Fine writing, great reporting, and a story so delicious you could have it for dessert.” —Fortune “Part detective story, part wine history, this is one juicy tale….as delicious as a true vintage Lafite.” — Businessweek “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 “A gem of a book...Mr. Wallace answers questions raised about Rodenstock and his remarkable find with a narrative that moves slowly and gracefully through lively and interesting informa