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I Soured on The Billionaire's Vinegar #FoodieReads


I really wanted to like The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace*. I mean, it's a mixture of history, wine, and mystery. You read 'wine', right? I will usually read through just about any book that includes food and/or wine. Add history and mystery to that and I thought this would be a winner.

But here's an analogy for you: If you spent an exorbitant amount of money on a bottle of wine and, at first sip, realize it's soured, would you still finish your glass...much less the bottle? I think not.

I felt the warning signs at the beginning of the book, thinking it might be a tedious read. But I persisted, hoping that I was wrong and that I was just not giving it a fair change. So, I pressed on, really gained nothing, but lost several evening's worth of reading time. Perhaps it just wasn't to my tastes as many others rave about it. But I soured on the book less than halfway through.

I hear that the rights to this story have actually been optioned for a Hollywood production. Oddly, I think I might prefer a movie version of this story. Maybe.

I thought I might write about a wine pairing, wine tasting, or Riedel wine glasses with this post, but - honestly - I just wanted to be done with this entire book.

Here's the idea...
This is a work of non-fiction, centered around the world of wine collecting and a German wine dealer named Hardy Rodenstock who acquires and sells extremely old, rare bottles of wine. There is a lot of intrigue surrounding some bottles that he purported to have belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Wallace goes into meticulous detail to catalog all the aspects of the bottle, including the engraving of “Th. J” on each bottle that Monticello historians contest fervently; the antiquity of the cork; the wax seal around it; and the provenance of the wine itself. 

Rodenstock, in his bid for authenticity, enlists the help of Michael Broadbent, Christie's auction house's in-house wine expert. Broadbent gives it his nod and that approval ignites bidding wars and fans the flames of intrigue and speculation. In fact, the first bottle that went up for auction was eventually acquired by Christopher “Kip” Forbes for more than $150,000.

From there Wallace delves into the world of rare wine tastings and collectors and, most interesting to me, wine forgery albeit unproven.

Here's what I didn't like...
While Wallace provides enough circumstantial evidence to implicate Rodenstock - in my mind - the mystery itself remains unsolved. Additionally, I'm of the mindset that wine should be enjoyed, savored, and shared with good food and great friends. I can't imagine buying a bottle of wine just to have it on display. What a waste of a vintner's efforts, right?

This was an unrewarding and frustrating read. I'm happy to be done with it and looking forward to diving into other books on my stack!

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Here's what everyone else read in November 2017: here.

Comments

  1. I think the most disturbing part of this story would be that someone would spend that kind of money on a bottle of wine they are not even going to drink when there are children in this world that don't have potable drinking water....I wonder how much water could be provided for 150K?!

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