What Can We Learn From Rudy Kurniawan?

December 20, 2013Articles

Rudy Kurniawan is a man of firsts. On Wednesday, December 18, 2013, he became the first person ever tried and convicted of selling fake wines in the U.S. He had been arrested in March of the previous year.

Now, we all save labels from our favorite wines, but unpasted, new looking labels going back many years? And instructions on fabricating labels for 1962 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la Roche? That and other exhibits lead to a jury verdict of guilty in less than two hours. It is reported by Wine Spectator that his lawyer stated “He comes up with some wines that were truly rare. Suddenly people want to be with him. When he couldn’t find more, he made it.” Seems as though his lawyer does not plan on an appeal.

Sadly, many people may have bought the fabricated wines. In 2006, he had set a record for the largest auction total for a single consignor at $24.7 million. It is not known when he first began his counterfeiting, and we can’t calculate how much people lost due to his acts.

Some counterfeits are obvious and buyers who pay attention can tell.

For the more savvy counterfeiters, it is often difficult to tell by view. How are the wineries reacting? Many wineries are experimenting with laser etching and holographic seals to be placed on wines. They acknowledge that sophisticated crooks can duplicate those markings as well.

The key is to understand both the dealer and the bottle history. Some sophisticated dealers have been duped, so even that can lead to trouble. Education on what you are buying is essential. For example, some of Mr. Kurniawan’s wines were in formats not actually produced in the years stated on the label. Also, if you expect to spend significant money, ask for the backup showing the source of the wine. Study wines from that producer. Look for a product chain with the distributor. A, get assurances from your seller that they will stand behind the accuracy of the bottle.