Up for auction at Christie’s in 1985 came a wine that supposedly belonged to a Thomas Jefferson collection. The wine in question was a 1787 Château Lafite Bordeaux. The bottle had the initials “Th.J” and was engraved “1787 Lafitte”. The wine sold for $156,000 (which by the way is equal to 78,000 bottles of Trader Joe’s 2-buck chuck) to a member of the Forbes family.
The wine was presented to Christie’s by Hardy Rodenstock a former pop band manager and collector of rare wines. Rodenstock refused to share how he came into possession of the wine. All we know is that it was allegedly found along with 25-30 other bottles behind a false wall in the basement of a house being demolished in Paris.
Even though the wine was authenticated by Christie’s historic wine department, it seems some very simple facts were never checked. More than 20 years later questions were still being asked about where the wine came from and why the secrecy surrounding it. Was it really a wine from Thomas Jefferson’s collection or was it a brilliant forgery with a persuasive story?
Narrated expertly by author, Benjamin Wallace, this book is actually a great story that is infused with fascinating facts about American history, the wine world and the sub culture of rare wine collectors and of course it underlines the ways that even the smartest people can be fooled and for a very high price.
Fantastically detailed for those wanting to learn more about the history of wine. The Billionaire’s Vinegar is a gripping mystery, very funny in parts and a real page turner, especially at the beginning. The ending of the book did drive me a little crazy because it was completely inconclusive and had me scouring the Internet to find out if it really was a fake. I am sure most of you now know the story but I will not spoil it.
A fascinating read for both wine and non-wine lovers alike.