I Give Up Book Review: “The Billionaire’s Vinegar” by Benjamin Wallace (2008)

“The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine”

What initially drew me to The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace was more the genre—“the biography of things,” as I like to call it—than the subject matter itself. While I’m virtually illiterate in all things “wine,” I was intrigued by this tale of history, mystery, and bidding wars for the most expensive caches of wine in existence. The promising build up towards a climax got me started, but over time that sort of fizzled out.

After finishing half the book, I’ve learned a lot of useless info about wine, auctions, and rich snobs who buy more than they could ever enjoy. Overall, it has proven to be nice boredom reading, especially the extensive passages on the history of Thomas Jefferson’s obsession with proper wines and the mysteries behind hidden or forgotten cellars filled with the rarest of bottles, some of which were Jefferson’s own and which get auctioned off at more and more obscene, record-setting prices.

Despite all this, however, I’ve paused at the halfway mark and I’ve chosen to give up on it. I am myself no wine nut, and since I can’t conceive of any situation where I’ll actually use this trivial knowledge, I’ve come to wonder “What’s the point in continuing? In finishing?” Because the title kind of gives me a clue of what to expect in the end, that the oldest and most expensive “Th.J.” bottle doesn’t come out tasting as well as they’d hoped, the climax I had hoped for is no longer such a draw. And honestly, I’m not even invested in any of the characters enough to wonder who “the billionaire” of the title might be. Scenes that describe the characters and their backgrounds have been generally skimmable for me anyways, so I’ve literally got no investment in the book, despite the few hours I’ve already wiled away on it.

If you’re a sommelier or a rich collector of rare wines (or an armchair wannabe of either), you might be more drawn to this book than I. I’ve got nothing against Wallace’s writing, it should be noted, just the useless nature of the subject matter.

©2016 E.T.

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