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The Billionaire's Vinegar Audiobook

The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine

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Publisher's Summary

It was the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold.

In 1985, at a heated auction by Christie's of London, a 1787 bottle of Château Lafite Bordeaux - one of a cache of bottles unearthed in a bricked-up Paris cellar and supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson - went for $156,000 to a member of the Forbes family. The discoverer of the bottle was pop-band manager turned wine collector Hardy Rodenstock, who had a knack for finding extremely old and exquisite wines. But rumors about the bottle soon arose. Why wouldn't Rodenstock reveal the exact location where it had been found? Was it part of a smuggled Nazi hoard? Or did his reticence conceal an even darker secret?

It would take more than two decades for those questions to be answered and involve a gallery of intriguing players - among them Michael Broadbent, the bicycle-riding British auctioneer who speaks of wines as if they are women and staked his reputation on the record-setting sale; Serena Sutcliffe, Broadbent's elegant archrival, whose palate is covered by a hefty insurance policy; and Bill Koch, the extravagant Florida tycoon bent on exposing the truth about Rodenstock.

Pursuing the story from Monticello to London to Zurich to Munich and beyond, Benjamin Wallace also offers a mesmerizing history of wine, complete with vivid accounts of subterranean European laboratories where old vintages are dated, and of Jefferson's colorful, wine-soaked days in France, where he literally drank up the culture.

Suspenseful, witty, and thrillingly strange, The Billionaire's Vinegar is the vintage tale of what could be the most elaborate con since the Hitler diaries. It is also the debut of an exceptionally powerful new voice in narrative non-fiction.

©2008 Benjamin Wallace; (P)2008 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"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)
"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (229 )
5 star
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4.1 (160 )
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4.1 (161 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 06-03-09
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 06-03-09 Member Since 2007

    The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not just for enophiles"

    Very interesting and often jaw-dropping account of how the uber-rich live. I may not be able to relate to the lives of the tiny and rarified circle of people (Dodi al-Fayed, Malcom Forbes,et al) who can afford to pay $100,000+ for one bottle of wine, or who buy entire houses to hold their rare wine collections, or who hold "vertical winetastings" lasting days at which a succession of vintages of the same vineyard (from the 1700s through the early 1900s) are tasted, but I can nevertheless savor their smashed hubris when their "investments" in antique wines turns out to be . . . just a bunch of vinegar. Side trips in the narrative explaining Thomas Jefferson's self-education in the subtleties of the fermented grape, his mania for detailed bookkeeping, and the business of the auctionhouses that sell antique wines will fascinate not just enophiles, but anyone with a passing interest in history and an appreciation for ironic payback.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kate M. 09-28-14
    Kate M. 09-28-14 Member Since 2016
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    "Fascinating story, great characters"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    yes, fun and interesting-great characters


    What other book might you compare The Billionaire's Vinegar to and why?

    I found this book while listening to a book about the Koch brothers, as one of them got caught up in this mystery


    What does Dennis Boutsikaris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    There were a lot of characters and his caricatures were great.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Frustrating because of how stupid people were because they wanted to protect what they "knew".


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy 12-21-13
    Nancy 12-21-13

    Francophile/phone

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    "It will go to your head!"
    What did you love best about The Billionaire's Vinegar?

    Aside from being an entertaining "story" that reads like a mystery (which it is, really) I learned a good deal about wine. It's fascinating and reveals a world about which most of us know very little, that is, the "wine market."
    This reminded me very much of another of my favourite "true-life-mysteries," "The Island of Lost Maps" about discovering a "serial thief" of rare maps. Lots of info imparted in a fascinating and fascinatED way. Great read...pour yourself a nice glass of something lovely and dig in!


    What did you like best about this story?

    The information about wines and the market.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Not so much "scenes" in here as it is not fiction. Love the parts set in the auction-houses, tho.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    well, no, other than just enjoying it thoroughly.


    Any additional comments?

    A great listen!! Excellent narration. It's hard to read something factual without sounding like a lecture, but, the narrator here does a great job of making it sound exciting and adventurous.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Molly-o Seattle 11-29-11
    Molly-o Seattle 11-29-11 Member Since 2007

    English major. Love to read

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    "Memorable"

    This is not a great book but it's a great story. It is so fascinating to see the inside of the wine collector's world, a scene about which I had no experience. So I really enjoyed reading it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam SingaporeSingapore 09-15-09
    Adam SingaporeSingapore 09-15-09
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    "Very interesting for all wine lovers"

    Recommended for anyone who likes to drink wine. The author explains the wine industry in an informative way while not drifting off from the main story. The narrator was good and this is fully worth a credit.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nick 10-31-16
    Nick 10-31-16 Member Since 2015
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    "A Wine Lovers True Crime Story"

    Deception and luxury wrapped up into one piece of well read story telling. As an oenophile, I recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen J Lee 08-03-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Excellent"

    Well written, well researched, and well read. Only complaint is that I wish they didn't have the abridged version. For what it's worth, though, the abridger did a good job and the book flows smoothly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alize Lonewolf SACRAMENTO, CA, US 11-21-15
    Alize Lonewolf SACRAMENTO, CA, US 11-21-15
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    "Long but informative"

    Being in the wine industry, this was interesting and informative but confusing at times because of all the players the game. Glad I downloaded the audio book because I would've never been able to get through the actual book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Philadelphia, PA, United States 07-10-12
    Scott Philadelphia, PA, United States 07-10-12 Member Since 2009

    Scott P

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    "A Bit Disappointing"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Billionaire's Vinegar to be better than the print version?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I came away feeling like the book had dragged at times and my interest waned - which rarely happens when listening to an audio book. I generally reserve history books for print reading and indulge more of my guilty pleasures like Stephen King with audio or very long novels for audio. Maybe I should have went for the print version as opposed to audio. I don't think the narrator injected any energy either. He wasn't bad, just not lively.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MR B RANALOW 10-28-11 Member Since 2005
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    "The fascinating business of vintage wines"

    This is a book which is entertaining and gives an insight into a world most people don't know or probably can't afford to know - the buying and selling of wines at extraordinary prices. Like every business where the price paid is not related to intrinsic value, the sophisticated fraudster finds an opportunity.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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