Benjamin Wallace is a journalist and author of The Billionaire's Vinegar, the true story of the world's most expensive bottle of (possibly phony?) wine. He's been a contributor to GQ, Details, Salon and The Washington Post.

Why you should listen

A Washington D.C. native and a current Brooklynite, Benjamin Wallace is fast establishing himself a master of the brainy nonfiction thriller, rooting up feuds and controversies in pop and less-than-pop culture while buddying up with their embattled and larger-than-life personalities (whom he sometimes meets on their way down). He profiled conserative mouthpiece Glenn Beck for GQ in 2007 shortly after the pundit landed a controversial slot on CNN, and in 2002 looked at chef Georges Perrier of Philidelphia's then-five-star restaurant, Le Bec-Fin.

Wallace's orderly, deadpan writing style hints at one of his secrets: his love (and talent) for playing the straight man to the once-mighty in downfall, right as they go aflame in tragicomic hubris. (The Billionaire's Vinegar is simply a pleasure, not least to schadenfreude junkies.) It's easy to imagine him, the bespectacled wallflower, watching as brouhaha over a wine bottle once valued at $165,000 -- the highest price fetched for a bottle, ever -- culimates in a court trial that reveals at least two of its main characters, a wine collector and a wine expert, to be frauds. Or at least emperors with no clothes.

What others say

"Ben Wallace has told a splendid story just wonderfully, his touch light and deft, his instinct pitch-perfect." — Simon Winchester, author, The Professor and the Madman

Benjamin Wallace’s TED talks

Benjamin Wallace on the TED Blog

Choosing and buying happiness

December 17, 2008

There’s a fascinating conversation going on right now around Dan Gilbert’s latest TEDTalk, “Exploring the frontiers of happiness,” posted yesterday. In the talk, Gilbert goes into detail on his research into choice, satisfaction and happiness. Several commenters are suggesting the headline is inaccurate, because the talk isn’t about happiness, per se, as much as about […]

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Does happiness have a price tag? Benjamin Wallace on TED.com

December 17, 2008

From Taste3 2008: Can happiness be bought? To find out, author Benjamin Wallace sampled the world’s most expensive products, including a bottle of 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc, 8 ounces of Kobe beef and the notorious Kopi Luwak coffee. His critique may surprise you. (Recorded July 2008 in Napa, California. Duration: 14:40.) Watch Benjamin Wallace’s talk […]

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