This week in wine fraud

wine fraud denmark
What, just because Rudy Kurniawan is behind bars you think wine fraud is kaput? Think again! Here is the latest in wine fraud this week:

1. Rudy Kurniawan, found guilty by a jury of wine counterfeiting late last year, had his lawyers lodge a letter with the judge prior to his May 29 sentencing. In it, they claim, essentially, that fakes are pervasive in the world of high-end wine, Kurniawan was a big buyer, and, even though he did sell some wines that ended up being fake, it’s not the worst thing in the world since the victims were rich. Oh, and he loved the adulation from collectors and hanging out with the Burghound Allen Meadows and Jackie Chan.

2. The Danish magazine “gastro” has published a piece on a Danish couple they say scammed the wine world with–wait for it–cheaper wine in expensive bottles. According to this account on (using the estimable Google Translate), they had a wine club dubbed The White Club that carried about $25,000 a year in dues for lavish dinners staged around the world. Attendees thought were tasting the finest wines including one DRC blowout in December 2012.

3. “Fake Bordeaux in China being made on offshore boats,” says a headline in Decanter. Not too many details on this nautical-vinous scheme, however, as the story veers into the machinations of building a third-party certification against fraud. Bonne chance, mes amis!

Eataly Vino turns into a Nutella bar

eataly nutella

Remember Eataly Vino NYC? Yes, the wine shop that is serving six months in the penalty box for liquor law infractions. Well, the at-grade storefront on the 23rd St. side of Eataly New York has been transformed at least temporarily into…wait for it…a Nutella bar!

Eater reports that, building on the success of a Nutella bar in Eataly Chicago (pictured above; Eater credit), the Italian gastroplex will roll one out in NYC on Monday. The Chicago spot offers Nutella on rustic bread, square pastries and crepes for prices ranging from $2.80 – $5.80 (see menu). Eater says that the line on weekends is 45 minutes long. Nuts!

State dinner w Filipino food: Somm U

obama jiro
President Obama just wrapped up a four-country swing through Asia. There was lots of diplomatic talk, to be sure, but inquiring food minds want to know what of the local cuisines Obama got to sample. Thanks to the official food feed (?) of the White House on Twitter, Obamafoodorama (aka Eddie Gehman Kohan), we have some of the foodie details of his trip. The real culinary highlight must have been dining at Sukiybashi Jiro where owner and sushi master Jiro Ono served Obama and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. Must have been tough to score that rez!

We always enjoy taking a look at the wines poured at state dinners at the White House. But at the state dinner in Manilla, we have the official menu but no wines listed. You know what that means: “impossible food-wine pairings” meets “leaders and liters”! Readers new and old are no doubt salivating as if it were grower champagne and kumamoto oysters! In the absence of word on the actual wines served, here is a combination of two of our favorite themes and the chance for you to play sommelier! Un, deux, trois: voila! The menu from the Philippines: Read more…

Mathieu Lapierre and 2013

lapierre morgon
Mathieu Lapierre said that the 2013 showed more “Burgundy influence.” At the Kermit Lynch portfolio tasting in New York yesterday, he elaborated briefly that given the location of Beaujolais, vintages can oscillate between “Rhone-influenced” (e.g. 2009) and “Burgundy-influenced.” He said 2013 for him ended without hail, the grapes were healthy and they harvested as late as October 28, a record.

The Raisin Gaullois 2013 is a vin glouglou from the estate’s youngest vines, bottled en screw. (Too bad that the 5L bag-in-box is not imported!)

The Morgon, always a reference point for the region, has a beautiful poise between come-hither fruit of the semi-carbonic macerationo and tannic structure from the granite soils in the 2013 wine. The “Cuvée MMIX” (2009) was a tad ripe for me (Rhone-ish, if you will), but the “Cuvée MMXI” (2011) more successfully combines the ripeness of the wine with intriguing structure. Thing for my “to do” list: taste this MMXI with the Foillard Pi Morgon wine for a fuller understanding of their differences and similarities.

Asked if he prefers to drink the Morgons now or with some age on them, Mathieu replied that with friends he prefers young wines but that for more serious occasions, he’s currently drinking the 2007s. He invoked the late Henri Jayer, saying “a good wine must be good young and old for different reasons.”

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Put a Burg on it: d’Angerville Jura

pelican jura

Guillaume d’Angerville has made sophisticated and elegant wines at his family domaine in Volnay since he took over in 2003. But recently, the story goes, his curiosity was piqued in the wines of the Jura: a Parisian sommelier poured him a chardonnay from the region blind and d’Angerville took it to be a white Burgundy. And we all know that happens with a successful and ambitious vintner who has his curiosity piqued: before long, d’Angerville had purchased two estates in the Jura.

He placed them under the name Domaine du Pélican complete with a pelican on the label. You might think that because the Jura is the ultimate wine for hipsters that, in deference to Portlandia, he had to “put a bird on it.” But apparently it is a reference to the coat of arms of Arbois, where the wines are made. Burgundy…Jura…is this a match made in sommelier heaven or what?

D’Angerville settled on the two properties after an extensive search. Even though Arbois is only an hour from Volnay, it gets twice the rainfall. Also, some of the plots can be quite windy, given the rolling countryside. Throw in his high standard for excellence and it’s no surprise that it took d’Angerville a few years to find the right spots. Wink Lorch has a detailed backgrounder (pdf) about the new domaine and writes that they are looking for yet another vineyard parcel in the area. They are also experimenting with the local “sous-voile” style of winemaking, wherein white wines mature under a natural yeast blanket giving them an oxidative quality.

The current wines are made in a Burgundian style, which is to say that the white barrels are topped up and not oxidative. The 2012 Chardonnay has a vibrancy and elegance with layers–strata?–of minerals and a lingering finish. The 2012 Savagnin Ouillé is richer, with a faint nutty character, and big dose of minerals (can’t vouch for vitamins). The red 2012 Trois Cépages is a blend of Pinot Noir, Trousseau, and Poulsard (60-35-5) that has the terrific acidity you would expect as well as lively, prickly tannins that give it good structure.

These exciting wines are hard to find but worth seeking out. (Find these wines at retail)

Palcohol, a powdered alcohol, surrenders labels

Yesterday, the approval of a powdered alcohol called “Palcohol” got a lot of media attention. You could add it to food. You could smuggle it into stadiums. You could snort it.

However, the story got a little ahead of itself.

An attorney at bevlaw posted the original item noting that the TTB, a division of the Treasury that approves all things alcohol at the federal level, had approved seven labels for Palcohol. The labels included “Powderita” and “Cosmopolitan” with the words “Just add water for an instant cocktail.”

When I checked the TTB site for label approvals yesterday afternoon, the labels were all listed as approved as of April 8 (good thing it wasn’t April 1 since it reads like an April Fool’s prank) yet were currently “surrendered.” I wrote Mark Phillips the developer of Palcohol and he told me via email that the “seven labels have been surrendered due to an issue with the fill level.” He added that he did receive a separate approval for the “formula” so, he says, “powdered alcohol is still approved…We’re still moving forward and will submit new labels.” The alcohol powder is derived from vodka and rum.

Mark Phillips is the author of “Swallow This: A Progressive Approach to Wine.” His web site claims that his television show “Enjoying Wine with Mark Phillips” is “one of the most-watched wine shows ever.” Episodes include microwaving and freezing wines.

Tom Hogue, a spokesman for the TTB, responded to a query from the Associated Press that the Palcohol labels were approved in error. Palcohol’s web site posts that gave up the labels through a “mutual agreement.”

It is unclear what led the Palcohol applicant to surrender the labels nor what made the TTB do a 180. But one thing is for sure: powdered alcohol donuts are still a ways off.

Early tip-off means no popping corks for Popovich

popovich wine

Gregg Popovich joked his pre-game press conference yesterday that the early start had put a dent in his wine consumption the night before.

You probably know that Popovich is one of the winningest coaches in NBA history who fosters team play that is unparalleled in today’s NBA. But you may not know that he went to the Air Force Academy and was stationed in California where he got into wine. He has a 3,000-bottle cellar and is a partner in A to Z Wineworks and Rex Hill in Oregon.

The Spurs won their early start yesterday. Given that they had the best record in the deep Western Conference, Popovich may well be the coach popping bottles after the Finals are over (they don’t call him “Pop” for nothing). Unless Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls can take it all!

“Popovich loves his wine”
“Pop art” []

LVMH enters Burgundy via Clos des Lambrays

clos des lambrays
LVMH, the luxury goods company whose portfolio ranges from Louis Vuitton handbags to Dom Pérignon champagne, has made their first acquisition in Burgundy. The group has purchased Domaine des Lambrays just outside of Morey-Saint-Denis with its 21.9 acres of vineyards, including the Clos des Lambrays grand cru as well as several premier cru sites. Although the Clos des Lambrays has produced wine since the 14th century, the sellers were the Freund family who have owned it since 1996. The price was not disclosed. Production is about 35,000 bottles with an average retail price of $165 according to LVMH. Thierry Brouin, the estate’s chief winemaker who has overseen the last 35 vintages, will stay with LVMH.

Even though the holding is relatively small for the publicly-traded LVMH–a bauble for owner Bernard Arnault–it does signal a possible shift to corporate ownership. Part of Burgundy’s appeal to wine enthusiasts is that, in contrast to an area of corporate ownership such as the Médoc, the owners actually live on the ground and make the wines. Whether this is the thin edge of the wedge of corporate ownership remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: LVMH is not a discounter, so don’t expect any price declines.
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