By Benjamin Wallace - The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine Hardcover – 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
The central charlatan in this tale is a master at exploiting the wishes of collectors and even the experts that should know better. Or perhaps that do know better and just let their own egos persuade them that in spite of zero evidence the product is real, and worse, valid sources that explain there is nothing to suggest the wine's legitimacy, never slow down. On with the auction!
The book is not just about human nature and its dimmer moments, there is a great deal of information on wine production, wine history and enough wine tasting descriptions for the most avid connoisseur. Or if you find the whole field a bit pretentious and tedious you might still be entertained by the likes of what follows "the art of drinking the very oldest rarities required an extra degree of connoisseurship-almost a kind of necrophilia".
I look forward to many more from the pen of Mr. Wallace. This is a very good offering that should find a wide audience whether you are an avid wine drinker or you feel the 18th Amendment was a great idea.
Apart from being saddened by the discrediting of one much loved personality in the trade I enjoyed the discomfort of the exposure of a well known charletan and the unveiling of the enormous vanity of his hugely wealthy clients whose judgement deserted them when social acceptance was the carrot. To be the owner of a bottle of wine more than 230 years old with ownership attributed to Thomas Jefferson but without any clear provenance distorted the sensibilities they would regularly apply to their own businesses.
These bottles included the most expensive ever sold, which was a direct consequence of the self same vanity of the purchasers. But it was an enormous confidence trick that was compounded by the greed of the subject's clients as they increasingly fell under the spell cast by the opportunity to own a priceless, but also probably worthless bottle of wine.
Speculation was rife because of the age and importance of this bottle, not just for its qualities as wine but also because of its historical importance. The bottle had been consigned to Christie's by Hardy Rodenstock, a German wine collector who refused to say exactly where it had come from, revealing only that it was from a hidden cellar in an unidentified 18th century house in Paris. The cellar supposedly contained a hundred bottles, two dozen of which, all from 1784 - 1787, were engraved with the initials "Th.J." After a bidding war, Kip Forbes, son of publisher Malcolm Forbes, was declared the winner with a bid of $156,000.
Questions began to arise about this bottle almost immediately. There was no evidence that Jefferson had ever purchased a 1787 Lafite, and in fact, Jefferson had recorded the purchase of only two of the four wines that Rodenstock had found.Read more ›
"In a Stanford/Caltech study by neuroeconomists, published in January 2008, subjects were given several glasses of the exact same wine, each with a different price tag. Believing that they were drinking different wines, the subjects described the `more expensive' ones more favorably. Moreover, brain scans showed the subjects to actually experience more pleasure from the nominally pricier stuff." - from THE BILLIONAIRE'S VINEGAR
On December 5, 1985, Michael Broadbent, the founding director of the wine department of Christie's auction house, auctioned off Lot 337, a bottle of Chateau Lafite red vino, vintage 1787, inscribed with the initials "Th.J." which had ostensibly been discovered, along with 25-30 others so marked - the exact count always remained vague - behind a false wall in the basement of a house being demolished in Paris. The bottle had been consigned to Christie's by the German wine collector/seller, Hardy Rodenstock, who had acquired the entire cache and claimed that the initials on the bottles were those of Thomas Jefferson, a wine connoisseur in his own right, a President of the United States, and a resident of the City of Light during his time as minister to France.
Lot 337 - a SINGLE bottle, mind you - sold to the American Kip Forbes for $156,000 (or the rough equivalent of 48,800 bottles of 2-quid plonk from the local Tesco).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great Read! didn't know the story as I was quite young at the time, but still gripping.Published 15 months ago by AG
Most boring book I have ever tried to read, could not even get to 25%.Published 17 months ago by D. Fellows
Very slow to start but that's due to the writer needing to educate those readers unfamiliar with the world of wine and the history of Jefferson. Read morePublished on 8 Mar. 2014 by G. E. Downie
Very intriguing and thought provoking! Only took two days to read it. Very informative and gives a good idea of how these events changed the world of rare (and some not so) wines... Read morePublished on 14 Feb. 2014 by PaulPontius
Prompt delivery, thanks. One of the books (a little) more worn than I had anticipated, always difficult to gauge usage.Published on 29 Nov. 2013 by J M M PYE
A very interesting and well-written account of a fine wine scam. There is some fascinating historical background about Thomas Jefferson.Published on 4 Sept. 2013 by Roger Cavanagh