The trial of alleged wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan began earlier this week in Manhattan and yesterday jurors heard testimony from top winemakers, who provided compelling evidence against the wine dealer. Kurniawan has been accused to selling counterfeit wine to eager, rich oenophiles looking to add rare, expensive wines to their collections. How rich? Well, if the wine had been real, it would have been worth $1.3 million.
Representatives from acclaimed French vineyards Domaine Ponsot, Domaine Georges Roumier and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, all owned for generations by families in Burgundy, France, testified for the prosecution. (Wine Spectator dubbed them, "Burgundy All-Stars.") Laurent Ponsot claims he knew Kurniawan's vintages were fakes following a 2008 auction in New York, where the dealer was attempting to sell a Clos Saint-Denis 1945. According to Ponsot, the vineyard did not start using that name until the '80s; "The Clos Saint-Denis is an appellation that we started in 1982," he explained. "This cannot exist. It's obvious." He also pointed to a fake label of 1949 Clos de la Roche, conceding that though it was a forgery, "it's very close." Aubert de Villaine of DRC also presented fake labels as evidence for the court.
Further, Kurniawan apparently tried to sell a 1929 bottle of Domaine Ponsot—even though they didn't start bottling until 1934.
Federal officials say Kurniawan turned his California home into a "wine factory" where he not only printed phony labels but also mixed inexpensive wines from France and California to mimic rare vintages. It's the first criminal case of vintage-wine counterfeiting and has offered a peek into the world of fine wine, where single bottles of vino can fetch thousands or millions at auction. If the idea of paying out big bucks for intoxicants shocks you, you're not alone; a dispatch from the courtroom revealed that "at least one juror gasped audibly upon hearing the cost of some of them, and shook her head." Pass the three buck Chuck, please.