Thursday, March 3, 2011

Great Wine, Greed, and Truth in Drinking

Among wine lovers, certain bottlings enjoy a mythical, almost mystical status: Cheval-Blanc '61, Lafite '82, and Petrus '47 immediately come to mind when considering the wine pantheon of the last century. And it’s the last bottle, reputedly the greatest Pomerol ever produced, that concerns us today.

In January, Mike Steinberger published a piece on dealing with this and other wines that most people will never have a chance to see in person, much less taste. What makes the article so interesting is its dealing with the intersection of connoisseurship, investigative journalism, and that oldest of all motivating factors, greed.

As with so many stories about counterfeit wine these past several years, this one involves Hardy Rodenstock, the man who may or may not be responsible for the presence of countless fake bottles of great old Bordeaux, including the so-called Jefferson bottles made famous in the excellent Ben Wallace book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar.

Rather than paraphrase Steinberger’s wild ride of a column, I’ll just strongly recommend carving out 15 minutes of your day to read it. While it may deal with wine that most people will never lay a single taste bud on, it’s fascinating stuff, seriously entertaining storytelling, and in unexpected meditation on the nature of greed, reputation, and how the pleasures of the senses are affected by them. It’s linked up right here.


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