I’m in the middle of reading Benjamin Wallace’s newly-released book, The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine. The bottle referred to in the title is the 1787 Lafite Rothschild, supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson, that sold for a record price of $156,000 at a 1985 Christie’s Auction.
So far it is fascinating and I plan to do a full review of the book as soon as I am entirely finished (which ought to be soon).
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to taste really old wines. The thought of sampling a wine from the 18th century is mind-boggling. I would think that wines that had any sort of age on them, much less 200 years, would be fragile, very much at the mercy of the environment they were in.
Yet it sounds to me like these old treasures that are put up for auction are not handled very well. They may have been resting peacefully in someone’s cellar for eons, but when discovered and placed in the sales process, it seems they are subjected to less-than-ideal temperatures and lighting conditions. Wouldn’t you think the sellers and purchasers of such expensive items would take steps to insure a temperature-controlled journey for the wines from discovery to final destination? Why would I want to spend thousands of dollars on something that had not been handled properly?
Then on the other hand, I guess many collectors buy these wines for trophies. My two cents is, a wine is to drink. Why buy a bottle of wine just to put under a spotlight? Well I know why some people do it, but to me that’s a shame. No matter how expensive a wine may be, the thrill is in drinking it, not in looking at it or enjoying bragging rights to it.
Anyway, so far the book is a real page-turner (especially since I don’t know the real story behind this bottle) but I keep going back to thoughts about what a shame it is to buy a bottle of wine and not enjoy it by drinking what is inside.