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The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine par [Wallace, Benjamin]
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The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine Format Kindle

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Longueur : 338 pages Word Wise: Activé Composition améliorée: Activé
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Description du produit


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 impressions in slender red hardcover notebooks. Those unassuming scribblings amounted to the most comprehensive diary of wine ever recorded. That diary now consisted of sixty of the Ideal notebooks, and he had collected them in a published tome that was the standard reference on old wines. Under Broadbent's direction, Christie's had largely invented and come to dominate the global market in old and rare wines. While Christie's as a whole was smaller than its great rival, Sotheby's, its wine department was more than twice as big, bringing in 7.3 million the previous season.

Broadbent's peers in the trade acknowledged that his palate was the most experienced in the world. His pocket textbook on wine tasting, the definitive work of its kind, was in its eleventh edition, having sold more than 160,000 copies, and had been translated into eight languages. Any collector hosting an event that aspired to any seriousness made sure to invite Broadbent and his famously sensitive nose. When he arrived at a wine gathering, if so much as a trace of woodsmoke or the merest whiff of cigarette ash besmirched the air, Broadbent would scrunch up his nose, and everything would come to a halt while windows and doors were flung open.

A lean six feet tall, Broadbent had a fringy sweep of whitening hair, and his smile, distinctly hail-fellow-well-met, was tempered by the cocked eyebrow of a worldly man. He looked more aristocratic than many of the dukes and princes alongside whom he sat on Christie's board of directors.

When Broadbent tasted, he would lay his wristwatch next to his little red notebook, so that he could time the wine's changes in the glass. During lulls, if a piano was on hand, he might charm guests with some Brahms, or he might go off by himself to sketch the local scenery.

He was happy to opine, at these tastings, on the wines under consideration. He had a knack for putting wine into memorable words. Sometimes he borrowed from literature, describing one wine as "black as Egypt's night." More often, he minted his own rakish descriptions, seeing a woman in every wine. A '79 P€trus reminded him of Sophia Loren: "You can admire them, but you don't want to go to bed with them." A double magnum of '47 Cantenac-Brown evoked chocolate and "schoolgirls' uniforms."

The taste of the wine he was selling right now in London, just past 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, 1985, was impossible to know. December 5 had special meaning for Broadbent; it was the same date that James Christie, in 1766, had held the auction house's very first sale. Moments earlier, Broadbent had stepped up to the rostrum in a three-piece suit with a pocket square, and peered out at the room through his eyeglasses.

Lot 337 was the first item of the afternoon session and had been carefully removed from its green felt berth in a glass case nearby. Lucy Godsal, a secretary in Broadbent's office, held the bottle aloft for the room to see. She looked very Christie's--blond, headband, pearl necklace--and Broadbent liked her; she was smart, hardworking, and pretty.

Broadbent had never sold anything quite like this before. A Ch€teau Lafite from 1787, it was the oldest authenticated vintage red wine ever to come up for auction at Christie's. And that was the least of its merits. The bottle was engraved with the initials "Th.J." As Broadbent had described it in the auction catalog, "Th.J. are the initials of Thomas Jefferson." Almost miraculously, the bottle was full of wine and appeared to have survived two centuries intact. The container itself was beautiful and distinctive. "This is one time," Broadbent quipped to the crowd, "when the buyer will get something back on the bottle."

The admittedly fragmentary tale of how the bottle had been found only added to its mystique. According to Hardy Rodenstock, the German collector who had consigned the bottle to Christie's, in the spring of 1985 workers tearing down a house in Paris had broken through a false wall in the basement and happened upon a hidden cache of extremely old wines. The Lafite, inscribed with the initials of the Founding Father, who had lived in Paris from 1784 to 1789 and was the foremost American wine connoisseur of his day, had been among them.

The integrity of the seals, and the high fill levels, Rodenstock had told Broadbent, were remarkable for their age. The cellar had been almost hermetically preserved, its steady temperature in the sweet spot of 50 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit. Rodenstock theorized that the bottles had been walled up to protect them during the chaos of the French Revolution, and had lain undisturbed for two hundred years.

Not surprisingly, Rodenstock refused to divulge the precise location, the exact number of bottles, or anything else about the discovery, despite Broadbent's entreaties. Rodenstock was the leading private collector in Europe, and he had already made a name for himself in rare-wine circles as an unusually skilled bottle hunter. Though he was a longtime customer of Christie's, Rodenstock was a competitor when it came to obtaining private cellars. Private-cellar purchases were often cash deals that went unreported to tax authorities. A certain reticence about his sources was to be expected.

Broadbent felt there were a couple of possibilities. One was that the bottle had indeed been discovered during the excavations of the old Marais district in Paris, much of which had recently been torn up and redeveloped. A rumor less credited by Broadbent, and which he had no intention of putting in the catalog copy, was that the bottle had been part of some sort of Nazi cellar.

Broadbent knew Rodenstock well, trusted him, and would not normally be too concerned with how he had obtained the bottle. But to Broadbent's annoyance, a historical researcher in America had recently been making noises in the press, questioning whether the bottle was in fact Jefferson's. Broadbent had conducted his own research and was satisfied that the circumstantial evidence argued overwhelmingly in favor of the attribution. He couldn't prove it, but on balance, the inducements to proceed outweighed any risk of embarrassment.

The auctioneer's delight in an object that would sell itself accounted for only half of Broadbent's excitement. There was also the oenophile's anticipation, for Lafite was Broadbent's favorite wine. He loved the way it developed in the glass, revealing new depths and facets as it breathed. He thought Lafite the acme of elegance, a racehorse beside the thoroughbred of Mouton and the carthorse of Latour. But to open a bottle as old as this was to play roulette; Broadbent couldn't help wondering what it might taste like. And how to price such an object? When cataloging it for auction, Broadbent gave the estimate as "inestimable." He was rather pleased with his pun.

A number of commission bids--those placed in advance by bidders who could not, or didn't want to, attend--had come in. Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, modern successor to the eighteenth-century vineyard, had placed a 5,000 bid; this had been so eclipsed by other advance bids that the Chateau was out of the running before the session even began. Broadbent could feel confident that a new single-bottle price record was about to be set.

In the West Room, he opened the bidding at 10,000. At first the bids came slowly, moving in 2,000 increments. A paddle would rise here. Another would bob up there. But things quickly heated up, and soon several people were raising paddles at every step.

Broadbent knew everyone in the London trade, and many of them were here in this room, but he reserved his greatest expectations for the Americans. The Jefferson connection, the strength of the dollar (it had hit a historic high earlier in the year), recent auction history--all these factors would surely tempt a deep-pocketed Yank to repatriate the bottle. Marvin Shanken, publisher of the magazine Wine Spectator, was here today, but Broadbent's highest hopes were aimed at the fellow who sat left of the center aisle from where Broadbent stood: Christoper "Kip" Forbes, the thirty-five-year-old son of publisher Malcolm Forbes.

Broadbent didn't think much of Malcolm Forbes, finding him to be a mean sort of chap. He knew that the American publisher collected first growths, the top-ranked Bordeaux reds, though only in lousy vintages. But it was undeniable that Forbes had money and would spend it for something he wanted, and Kip soon entered the bidding.

The price volleyed remo...

Revue de presse

“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

“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.”
The Economist

"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.”
Seattle Times

"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

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 3664 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 338 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0307338789
  • Editeur : Broadway Books; Édition : 1st (13 mai 2008)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B0013TRRSA
  • Synthèse vocale : Non activée
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  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Lecteur d’écran : Pris en charge
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5 1 commentaire client
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°223.905 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Format: Relié
This book retraces the fraud-story (or is it one....?) behind the rare XVIIIth century bottles attributed to Thomas Jefferson when he was living in Paris and sold at eye-popping prices up to now.
Superbly documented, with first rate insight into the rare-wine auction world, the selective group of tasters of the rare and expensive wines, the competition between Sotheby's and Christies, this book literally reads like a thriller. Impossible to put it down, before we understand what finally happened.
For all those who love wine, and have been eyeing conspicuously towards old bottles covered with mould and dust....
Very highly recommended !
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) (Peut contenir des commentaires issus du programme Early Reviewer Rewards) 3.9 étoiles sur 5 282 commentaires
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Whining 19 octobre 2015
Par Robert P Gelms - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Wine Whines
By Bob Gelms

The Billionaire’s Vinegar

How many out there like to drink wine? I thought so, me too. Well this book is an entertaining tome about mega rich people behaving over the top about super rare wines that, in the grand scheme of things, shouldn’t really be all that important. It’s also about super rich people getting ripped off for a mega amount of money and that’s always very entertaining.

The story in The Billionaire’s Vinegar dizzyingly revolves around a cache of Bordeaux wine from a superb Chateau circa 1788. That in itself would make this story drink splendidly. The real kicker in all this, and the aspect that had everyone connected to it panting like a thirsty man just in from the desert willing to drink just about anything, is that these bottles were owned by Thomas Jefferson. Wait for it – he also initialed all the bottles.

The man who found the Jefferson bottles, Hardy Rodenstock, is a rather mysterious German wine dealer with a suspicious past and a knack for discovering tremendously rare bottles of some of the world’s best wines. At the time of the Jefferson discovery, an American family with a love for all things Jefferson was supporting an exhibit of Jefferson memorabilia from their vast collection of Jefferson items. The family scion was sent to purchase the bottle at auction. He did and spent $165,000 for the one bottle of wine. I need to mention right here that we are talking about the Forbes family as in Malcolm Forbes and his son Christopher. They were hoodwinked.

There was suspicion from the beginning that Hardy Rodenstock had counterfeited the Jefferson bottles. There wasn’t any proof but there was plenty of suspicion. If you have the desire to counterfeit a bottle of wine The Billionaires Vinegar has a chapter or two on how you can do it and probably get away with it.

This is an intriguing peek into the highbrow world of rare wines and the super rich and what they like to do in their spare time. I was amazed at how cavalier the bottles were treated by the people who bought them. It was as if paying $100,000 for a bottle of wine was an everyday thing and once they had it, it wasn’t interesting any more. I don’t get it but I sure as hell would drink a glass if it was offered to me.

Shadows In The Vineyard

Maximilian Potter has written a riveting tale about a true-life criminal escapade perpetrated on one of the world’s great wineries, Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine.
Oenophiles have, more or less, treated the wine region of Burgundy as the bastard stepchild of its more famous sister over in Bordeaux. Those in the know, however, say that wines from Burgundy regularly outperform wines from any other region in France.

There is one Chateau that sits at the top of the pyramid. It is the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, simplified to DRC. Wine experts consider wines from this Chateau to be the finest in the world and the most expensive wines from the Burgundy region. The terrior of DRC sits on the best wine growing dirt on planet Earth. It’s hard to deny this when you taste their wine.

The crime was a simple one. Blackmail. A mysterious villain, Jacques Soltys, living the life of a hermit in the woods, decides to cash in for the big score. He seems, to me, to be part chemist, botanist and vintner. He is a failure at almost everything he has tried including bank robbing, kidnapping and other illegal schemes.

Now comes Aubert de Villaine, the aristocratic headman and owner of DRC. He receives a puzzling letter that, at first, he disregards. It is, of course, a ransom note. De Villaine will pay the criminal €1 million. If not, the vines themselves will be poisoned. This scheme attacks the basic values and principles of what it means to be French. It is a crime so preposterous as to be almost unthinkable. It can be likened to blowing up the Jefferson Memorial unless you were paid $3 million.

This is a real crime that occurred in 2010 and, sad to say, it partially succeeded. There is a confluence of brilliant detectives, chemists and botanists who try to defeat Soltys. The good guys set up a very clever sting operation to catch Mr. Soltys. A lot happens; a lot.

In the annuls of true crime books this is right up there. It has a literary quality that is matched with Mr. Potter’s exceedingly dramatic pacing that creates tension you can swat at with a grape vine. This is for both lovers of wine and the folks who like true crime. This crime is dastardly and its solving is both clever and timely. I sure enjoyed Shadows in the Vineyard and I’m thinking you will as well.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 "In May 1945, when allied forces liberated Hitler's mountaintop redoubt in Bavaria, they found half a million bottles of wine." 9 février 2013
Par Mary Whipple - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Could the bottle of Lafite, with the initials of Thomas Jefferson and dated 1787, awaiting auction at Christie's in London in 1987, possibly have been part of a newly discovered Nazi hoard? As Michael Broadbent, the head of the wine department of Christie's, prepared to auction off this bottle, the oldest authenticated bottle of red wine ever to come up for auction at Christie's, he knew that it would become the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold. Parts of the Old Marais district in Paris had recently been torn down, and some wondered if the bottle was found walled up in a basement. Others suggested that it had a Nazi history. Then again, Thomas Jefferson had sent hundreds of cases of wine home to Monticello when he left his job as Minister to France, and one of these cases may have been lost or stolen.

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. The engraving style on the auctioned bottle had never before been used by Jefferson, and all the other Rodenstock wines had exactly the same engraving style. "It seemed odd [too] that whoever first found the bottles would not have shopped them to the highest bidder, instead of automatically selling to Rodenstock." As several more of the Jefferson bottles came up for auction over the next couple of years, each one setting a new record, questions continued to arise about the bottles themselves, the amount of evaporation, and ultimately, even the instruments used to engrave the bottles. Unusually, at every tasting Rodenstock sponsored, his men secured the corks and sealing wax after the bottles were opened, and no one had access to them for testing purposes.

In the second half of the book, author Benjamin Wallace takes the reader from 1987 to the present, detailing the new techniques which can now be used (and were later used on the Jefferson bottles) to date bottles, wine, sediments, engraving, wax, and corks. High tech labs, with experts on everything from tests for germanium, thermoluminescence, carbon, and lead, create a fascinating story of how the wine market has evolved to the present and the safeguards now in place to prevent fraud of this nature. Benjamin Wallace keeps the excitement high as he details the search for information about the Jefferson wines and the eventual outcome regarding their "rightness." Well researched and filled with details about the wine industry, the book bears reading now, in light of recent decisions in the lawsuits brought by William Koch and the auctioneer, Michael Broadbent.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 An awfully good portrait 1 janvier 2013
Par J. Hundley - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
As a non-drinker who couldn't tell a Haute-Brion from Martini and Rossi, I still found myself intrigued by the premise here and so I thought it would be a good, entertaining read. And indeed it is. A crazy-quilt of eccentrics people the world of collectable, rare wine. From the way more money than sense types who pay upwards of 20K for a bottle of something they don't actually have any idea of what it will taste like, to the haughty taste-maker / experts who's nod or frown determine such things, there is no end of curious individuals on display here.

But distant as this world may be to you, or at the very least, me, there is much to recognize here in the way of human nature: greed, deceit, wishful thinking, hubris, dissembling, decadence, foolishness, and one-upsmanship on a grand scale. Wallace delves deeply into the mysteries of the "Jefferson" bottles and their fabricated history. The story is compelling, highly-readable and full of twists and turns that lead from dusty, 18th Century cellars to modern physics laboratories. All along the way, Wallace makes the action (or in some cases, inaction) comprehensible and entertaining. Lots of reviews here, and most of them positive. All add my voice to chorus. A fine, engaging read.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Hardy Rodenstock and his old-wine bottles. 28 décembre 2014
Par LB Hialeah - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I no longer read fiction. I like wine, thus this books was a good fit for me. The prose reads like forensic fiction; it is an enjoyable and never boring read. Even though the ostensible focus of the book is on the "Jefferson" wine bottles from the 1700s, the book's real subject is rare-wine purveyor Hardy Rodenstock.

Along the way you will learn a bit about how fine rare wine (real and fake) is traded around the world at exorbitant prices. You will almost get a sense of glee upon discovering that a bunch of very wealthy people got suckered into paying tons of money for age-ravaged juice that was not quite what they though they were buying.

If you are interested in the Jefferson bottles' history and dealings, as you read make and keep a list of them as they are introduced in the text. Otherwise you will have a hard time keeping track of which are being discussed. This is my only and very minor knock on the book.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A must read for any real wine snob. 30 mars 2014
Par Simon S. - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I'm a wine snob, I admit it. This was a great read. I love wine but more so I love reading about the secrets of the industry. This book focus on a niche market of ultra old, incredibly rare and outrageously expensive wines sold, auctioned and traded from the late 70's through the mid 90's. The main focus is one individual who always had an unlimited supply of these old wines. The books also focuses on some of the key players involved with this individual. I don't want to divulge to much info here, just read the book!
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