In The Billionaire’s Vinegar, Benjamin Wallace investigates one of the largest, if not the largest, alleged frauds in the wine business. The Billionaire’s Vinegar is a fascinating look into the world of high stakes, high priced wine. Loads of wine obsessed rich people looking to possess rare and elusive bottlings. You can see why this book is fascinating – it quickly caught my attention, and I was engrossed to the end.
The Billionaire’s Vinegar examines the alleged cache of wines collected by Thomas Jefferson and discovered by Hardy Rodenstock, a German wine collector. Mr. Rodenstock stumbled upon the cache in the 1980’s when the house that entombed them for almost 200 years was being remodeled. In 1985, the first of these bottles made its way into auction at one of the famed Christie’s wine auctions. Malcolm Forbes snapped it up for the impressive sum of $156,000 after getting into a bidding ware with Marvin Shanken, owner of the Wine Spectator.
In the years after the famed Forbes sale, Mr. Rodenstock continued to sell bottles of fabulously old wine. However, pesky issues over the the provenance and the true age started to sprout. Some collectors soon doubted the age of their wines. The researchers at Monticello continued to question whether Thomas Jefferson had ever owned such wine. For a man who documented almost every element of his life, there was no mention of the wines that Rodenstock happened across in Paris. It look years for the enigma to unfold and much drama that accompanied it. Eventually, most grew to believe that the wines were well heeled fakes. For your own foray into Mr. Rodenstock’s stock and the intertwining of centuries of American oenophiles and a few Brits and Germans thrown in for good measure, read The Billionaire’s Vinegar.