The Billionaire's Vinegar

  • by Benjamin Wallace
  • Narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris
  • 5 hrs and 49 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

It was the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold.In 1985, at a heated auction by Christie's of London, a 1787 bottle of Château Lafite Bordeaux - one of a cache of bottles unearthed in a bricked-up Paris cellar and supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson - went for $156,000 to a member of the Forbes family. The discoverer of the bottle was pop-band manager turned wine collector Hardy Rodenstock, who had a knack for finding extremely old and exquisite wines. But rumors about the bottle soon arose. Why wouldn't Rodenstock reveal the exact location where it had been found? Was it part of a smuggled Nazi hoard? Or did his reticence conceal an even darker secret?It would take more than two decades for those questions to be answered and involve a gallery of intriguing players - among them Michael Broadbent, the bicycle-riding British auctioneer who speaks of wines as if they are women and staked his reputation on the record-setting sale; Serena Sutcliffe, Broadbent's elegant archrival, whose palate is covered by a hefty insurance policy; and Bill Koch, the extravagant Florida tycoon bent on exposing the truth about Rodenstock. Pursuing the story from Monticello to London to Zurich to Munich and beyond, Benjamin Wallace also offers a mesmerizing history of wine, complete with vivid accounts of subterranean European laboratories where old vintages are dated, and of Jefferson's colorful, wine-soaked days in France, where he literally drank up the culture.Suspenseful, witty, and thrillingly strange, The Billionaire's Vinegar is the vintage tale of what could be the most elaborate con since the Hitler diaries. It is also the debut of an exceptionally powerful new voice in narrative non-fiction.

More

What the Critics Say

"Part detective story, part wine history, this is one juicy tale....as delicious as a true vintage Lafite." (Business Week)
"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)
"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)

More

See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not just for enophiles

Very interesting and often jaw-dropping account of how the uber-rich live. I may not be able to relate to the lives of the tiny and rarified circle of people (Dodi al-Fayed, Malcom Forbes,et al) who can afford to pay $100,000+ for one bottle of wine, or who buy entire houses to hold their rare wine collections, or who hold "vertical winetastings" lasting days at which a succession of vintages of the same vineyard (from the 1700s through the early 1900s) are tasted, but I can nevertheless savor their smashed hubris when their "investments" in antique wines turns out to be . . . just a bunch of vinegar. Side trips in the narrative explaining Thomas Jefferson's self-education in the subtleties of the fermented grape, his mania for detailed bookkeeping, and the business of the auctionhouses that sell antique wines will fascinate not just enophiles, but anyone with a passing interest in history and an appreciation for ironic payback.
Read full review

- Julie W. Capell

Fascinating story, great characters

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

yes, fun and interesting-great characters


What other book might you compare The Billionaire's Vinegar to and why?

I found this book while listening to a book about the Koch brothers, as one of them got caught up in this mystery


What does Dennis Boutsikaris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

There were a lot of characters and his caricatures were great.


Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Frustrating because of how stupid people were because they wanted to protect what they "knew".


Read full review

- Kate M.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-29-2008
  • Publisher: Random House Audio