Energy magnate William Koch is suing Internet tycoon Eric Greenberg for selling him $300,000 worth of vintage “as-is” bottles of wine that he claims are fakes. But if Greenberg didn’t knowingly auction off phony, sour bottles, is he guilty of fraud? This is a serious issue for high-rollers — last year, New York profiled Rudy Kurniawan, who ran one of the biggest wine hoaxes in history, receiving a $35 million cash windfall before getting indicted.* The problem is that the value placed on wine has more to do with exclusivity than drinkability. It’s also difficult to prove the authenticity of some vintage wines, and people can’t taste wine nearly as well as they think they can. This isn’t even the first time Koch’s wasted his money — in 2005, he realized that wines said to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson were fake. “This is a pattern and practice that has to stop … you can’t put a Porsche chassis on a Volkswagen and call it a Porsche,” Koch’s spokesman eloquently said, in an analogy that exactly captures how the one percent thinks. [NYM, Earlier, NYDN]
*This post has been updated to include New York’s story on Rudy Kurniawan.