The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine
On Sale: May 13, 2008
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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
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
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