Friday, 1 August 2008

Book : The Billionaire's Vinegar

I just finished reading my copy of The Billionaire's Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace; it is subtitled The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive bottle of Wine. It is published by Crown Publishers of New York. I picked my copy up at Chapters in Montreal for 29.35 Canadian Dollars but I have seen it at NK here in Stockholm.

The most expensive bottle of wine was a 1787 Chateau Lafite sold in 1985 to Malcolm Forbes who stored the bottle in unfriendly conditions leading to the wine turning to vinegar.

This bottle and other bottles purporting to have been ordered by Thomas Jefferson were discovered by Hardy Rodenstock who had been given them by somebody who found them behind the wall of a bricked-up cellar in Paris. Hardy Rodenstock has never given out the source of these bottles, he is also vague about the number of bottles found.

There are two questions, were these bottles really ordered by Thomas Jefferson? , and are they really what they say they are ?.

Christies and Broadbent should never have sold these on the premise that they may have been destined for Thomas Jefferson; this book presents no evidence of such a fact.

This book does not present Michael Broadbent in a good light. He comes across as an old woman, jealous of Sothebys and far too friendly with Rodenstock.

It is noted in the book that Rodenstock was found guilty of wine fraud by a court in Munich. The bottles were not found at the house that Jefferson lived at since that had been knocked down a logn time before the discovery. Also there is no mention of these bottles in any records produced by the meticulous Jefferson. All of this is hardly compelling evidence and would have been knows to Broadbent and Christies at the time of the sale.

The fight against Rodenstock is currently being led by William Koch who claims that the engravings on his four bottles are modern in origin whilst Christies are still claiming that they are genuine, despite not making public their report.

Colour photographs of all the so-called Jefferson bottles, at least the Koch ones, would have been a nice extra.

Website : Benjamin Wallace
Website : The Crown Publishing Group

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