I will forewarn you that this post is actually a book review, but the book itself encompasses all things related to wine and I took a lot away from it when I finished. This is the true story of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine ever sold. It’s a mystery that slowly unravels to reveal another layer of truth behind some bottles that were thought to be owned by Thomas Jefferson back in 1787.
The author, Benjamin Wallace, is cerebral without being condescending. He begins with the history of Thomas Jefferson’s love of wine and finishes with present day wine collectors who unearth some very interesting information about the infamous bottles and the aged liquid inside of them.
Without revealing the ending, because I strongly recommend this book to anyone itching to know more about wine regions (France, in particular) and basic knowledge about it, here are a few fun facts I learned.
- We have probably all heard that a Magnum of wine is the equivalent of 2 bottles, but a Nebuchadnezzar holds 20 and a Melchior holds 24! That must be quite the party if someone is opening up one of those bad boys. The author pointed out that wine ages more slowly inside the bigger bottles which makes sense, but I had never considered that before.
- Wine truly is a symphony of different components. Besides, the age, there’s the type of wine glasses to pair with each wine in order to maximize aromas and flavors. In France, they labeled their wines and glasses by region rather than by grape like we do here in the States. So there was a Bordeaux glass, a Champagne glass, etc. The game changer occurred when a glass artist created hand blown glasses for each kind of grape and brought a new element to wine tastings that made even famous wine critics rethink their reviews prior to the introduction of these glasses.
- Another great element in wine tasting is the actual description of the wine. These days, we use an aroma wheel that was created by Ann C. Nobles, a sensory chemist in CA back in 1984. Before this wheel was invented, wine was described as simply dry, sweet, semisweet, and so on, but her invention included nutty, woody, spicy, floral, etc to describe the wine. Genius!
- Besides wine, I learned a lot about Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Michael Broadbent – the auctioneer, wine critics and the notorious wine collector, Hardy Rodenstock.
- Lastly, I realized that even so-called experts in the wine field are dependent on their sense of smell which can be extremely inconsistent and easily swayed by information fed to them.
This book was not exactly a fast read, but definitely worthy of your time. Savor it like you would a glass of Yquem or Lafite. No idea what I am talking about? Read the book!!
In case you need further convincing, a movie is in the works starring Matthew McConaughey.
Oh, and remember, the next time you drink a glass of wine and taste something different than the rest of your compadres, don’t let it shake your confidence or your change your mind. You taste what you taste. Period.
Cheers my dears!