I recently read an article on the New York Times about a man named Rudy Kurniawan. Mr. Kurniawan was born to an extremely wealthy Chinese family and for the past decade had been using his fortune to establish himself as one of the premier wine dealers in the United States. His collection of high-end wine bottles had brought in millions of dollars and he was regarded for his distinguished palate and ability to acquire rare wine bottles. Last Thursday Kurniawan turned from famous to infamous when the FBI, for allegedly selling over $1.3 million of counterfeit wine, arrested him in Los Angeles.
The specifics of the complaints were that in 2008 he had put up for auction 84 bottles claiming them to be from Domaine Ponsot a famous vineyard in Burgundy, France along with a bottle he claimed to be a 1929 Domaine Ponsot, even though Ponsot did not began estate bottling until 1934. Kurniawan was such a reknowned wine dealer that even if you had attended a Buenos Aires wine tasting you probably wouldn’t question the authenticity of his claims. Along with selling counterfeit wine bottles Kurniawan was also charged with obtaining fraudulent loans to maintain his upscale lavish lifestyle. When questioned by the FBI, Kurniawan claimed he obtained all of his wine from a contact in China but that was never proven to be accurate. I wonder if he every tried to counterfeit an Argentine wine.
Kurniawan’s arrest is said to have come at the height of rumors about the veracity of his wine collection. Sommeliers and wine collectors always questioned how it was that such a young collector was able to obtain such a rare collection of wines. Kurniawan’s case is the most recent high profile case of wine fraud but since it’s origination in the Ancient Roman Empire wine has always been adulterated or counterfeited. These illegal practices have ranged from simply diluting wine with water and label fraud to “stretching” or “cutting” wine, the process of mixing a cheaper bottle of wine with a more expensive one to increase quantity. Nevertheless, the vast majority of wines are completely authentic.
So if after reading this you’re worrying about the authenticity of a vintage bottle of Malbec or Bonarda varietal wine you just purchased, to you I say attend an argentine wine tasting and learn more about wine! The more you know about the easier it will be for you to be sure that what your drinking is actually an argentine wine.