Case Against Wine’s Biggest Counterfeiter Goes to Trial

Will the real Ponsot please stand up.
Will the real Ponsot please stand up. Photo: Flickr

Yesterday marked day one of the trial of Rudy Kurniawan, the bogus wine dealer who made millions perpetrating what some have called the biggest wine hoax in history. Kurniawan faces four counts of mail and wire fraud after years of fooling the industry’s biggest experts, a racket chronicled in a New York profile last year, in which “wine royalty” Paul Wasserman said, “I don’t know why it matters how much of a dick he was, but it matters a lot.”

The trial is expected to drag some skeletons out of this mystery man’s closet, and among those scheduled to take the stand is Bill Koch, the billionaire who recently won $12 million in damages from a prior squabble with Internet mogul Eric Greenberg over a cellar of fakes, some of which came from Kurniawan.

Wine fraud is rampant in the industry, but because the crimes typically conjure images of helpless billionaire connoisseurs, reported incidents barely raise any eyebrows. This trial marks the first criminal wine-counterfeiting case in New York; the industry is making moves against rising fraud as well with a number of high-tech would-be solutions, like introducing radioactivity tests, hologram labels, and laser-engraved serial numbers. The end result, experts say, will help improve the overall nose of something like a 1982 Pétrus, which comes with a $5,000 price tag.

Wine dealer on trial for faking labels and selling counterfeits [Chicago Tribune]
Chateau Sucker [New York]
As wine counterfeiting gets more sophisticated, the industry fights back [NYDN]
Earlier: Two Billionaires Fighting Over Expensive, Rare Wine That Tastes Like Vinegar

Case Against Wine’s Biggest Counterfeiter Goes to Trial