The Billionaire's Vinegar


Eat your hearts out, you thriller writers. My holiday read has been Benjamin Wallace’s extraordinary The Billionaire’s Vinegar.

Beautifully written, this is the gripping story of the greatest wine con perpetrated to date. For anyone interested in wine I can’t recommend this more highly.

For those of you looking for a profitable sideline it also gives Geoffrey Troy’s tongue-in-cheek recipe of how to fake old bottles of wine.

“1. Find an empty bottle of an old vintage of Bordeaux. It should preferably be pre-phylloxera as these vintages are worth a great deal of money and relatively few people know what they should taste like. The bottle should have an original label in good condition, if possible, because this adds greatly to the value of rare, old wines.

2. Fill the bottle with a carefully made combination of young Bordeaux, Rhone, Beaujolais, Crème de Cacao, etc. Use your imagination to make a good blend.

3. Remove the cork from a bottle of young wine of the same chateau as the empty bottle you plan to re-cork. Do not use a conventional corkscrew, as that will ruin the cork, however, an Ah-so cork puller that has the two prongs that slide down the side of the cork would work fine. It is very unlikely to damage the cork.

4. Carefully sand the vintage date off the cork.

5. Brand the correct “new” date on the cork to match the label of the old bottle being re-corked.

6. Re-cork and re-capsule.

Now you have a beautiful bottle of rare old Claret and you can make your haul as soon as an unsuspecting collector can be found who will purchase your fake bottles!”

Not only are Hardy Rodenstock, the seller, and William Koch, one of the buyers, locked in a legal battle. Michael Broadbent, the highly respected wine writer and former director of Christie’s, is suing the publisher, Random House, for defamation of character in relation to allegations in the book. For the full Decanter article click here.