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The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Wine

Book Tour is a Web feature and podcast. Each week, we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.

Benjamin Wallace's best-selling first book, The Billionaire's Vinegar, is at once a detective story and a sensational history — of wine, wine snobs and the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold.

Wallace begins his story in 1985, when a 1787 bottle of Chateau Lafite Bordeaux was sold at auction for a record-setting $156,000. Rumors about the bottle's provenance began to swirl in the wine world. Did it truly come from a bricked-up cache formerly belonging to Thomas Jefferson? Was it part of a Nazi stash? Or was it a fake?

As Wallace attempts to unravel the mystery, he introduces a cast of eccentric characters — billionaires, shady dealers and obsessed oenophiles -– along with their peculiar world of decadence and deceit.

Movie rights for the book have already been purchased by Will Smith's production company. One producer told Variety, "For me, [it] is the unraveling of a mystery that comes down to a guy who punked the wine world."

This reading of The Billionaire's Vinegar took place in May 2008 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.