Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book Review: The Billionaire’s Vinegar

Something that I haven’t written a lot about is my fondness for wine. Now that I think about it, I need to write a post or two about how I really enjoy a good bottle of Meritage. Either way, over the past few weeks, (like most of my book reviews, I actually finished the book about a month ago) I have been reading another advanced copy: The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace. This book is part history novel, part mystery novel, and part wine nerd manual. I have to admit, this book was one of the best ones that I have read in a while.

It starts off in France where a German wine broker, Hardy Rodenstock, claims that he found a cache of 200 year old bottles of first growth Bordeaux wine that were owned by Thomas Jefferson. (Yes, THAT Thomas Jefferson). Needless to say, there is quite a response to his claim. Ultimately one of the first bottles sells at auction for an unheard of $200,000+ to Malcolm Forbes.

As more bottles are sold (nearly 30 in total) and consumed, the murmurs that they are too good to be true grow to a roar. Christie’s auction house supported Hardy’s claim that they were genuine – but of course Sotheby's claimed that they were not from the 1700’s and worked to prove their counterfeit history.

(Spoiler alert) While the book is slightly ambiguous in the end, ultimately I think that it concluded that the wine was faked. Through carbon dating among other methods, they determined that the wine was likely spiked with wine from the late 1800’s. Old wine to be sure, but not 1700’s wine.

Overall, I really liked this book and gave it 5/5 Shakespeare heads. The reason that this book received such a high rating was mostly due to the wine nerd factor. I honestly think that someone who wasn’t as involved in wine wouldn’t like it nearly as much as I did due to its deep dive into the various chateau’s of Bordeaux. However, if you are in for a history lesson and like a good mystery novel, The Billionaire’s Vinegar is a can’t miss.


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