Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Benjamin Wallace's "The Billionaire’s Vinegar"

Benjamin Wallace has written for GQ, Details, Food & Wine, Salon, and the Washington Post. In 2002, the Columbia Journalism Review named him one of “ten young writers on the rise.”

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine, and reported the following:
The Billionaire’s Vinegar tells the true story of the longest-running mystery in the modern wine world: the origin of a famous cache of extremely rare wine known as the Jefferson bottles. Supposedly discovered in a bricked-up cellar in Paris in the mid-1980s, they were said to have belonged to Thomas Jefferson before being lost for 200 years. The story embraces an international cast of larger-than-life characters, a subterranean laboratory where cutting-edge technology is used to date wine (think of it as CSI: Bordeaux), and the eccentric world of the very rich and wine-obsessed. Page 99 does contain many of the book’s essential elements: from pop-science narration of how wine ages and why it can improve over time, to a bit of the history of Thomas Jefferson’s well-documented connoisseurship, to the ratcheting up of the 21st-century mystery at the heart of the book, which ultimately leads to a far-flung investigation by ex-FBI and Scotland Yard agents. And three of the story’s principal characters appear on the page: Kip Forbes, the publishing heir who bought one of the bottles for a record-setting price ($156,000!); Michael Broadbent, the bicycle-riding English auctioneer who vouched for the bottles’ provenance; and Hardy Rodenstock, the shadowy German dealer who “found” the bottles. Out of curiosity, I looked to see whether I could make the “representative-page” case just as well for 98 or 100, and I actually could not. So, for this book at least, the test passes.
Read an excerpt from The Billionaire’s Vinegar, and learn more about the book and author at Benjamin Wallace's website.

--Marshal Zeringue