Wine counterfeiting on CBS Sunday morning


CBS Sunday Morning ran a 10-minute segment on wine fraud yesterday. The full segment is embedded above.

It centers on Bill Koch, including having the CBS correspondent walking around his cavernous cellar at his Palm Beach home, discussing his various counterfeit bottles. The segment also mentions the Kurniawan trial, talks with Maureen Downey, and examines some anti-counterfeiting technology at Opus One.

While it is an important and interesting subject, the piece could have been stronger. Interviewing other collectors, auction houses, some of the three Burgundy producers who testified at the trial or a wine critic would have made for a stronger segment–while Opus One may be faked in China, Bill Koch does not complain of having fave bottles of it in his cellar, so it would have made a tighter segment to have one of the producers involved his his story.

At any rate, it’s good to see the story getting reaching a broader audience. I was at a Christmas party over the weekend where people were talking about the trial, so it’s good the story is getting out there. A lot of people said it would make a great movie and I agree–maybe one day it will reach the silver screen.

Outtakes from the RudyTrial

rudy kurniawan trial For eight days at the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl St., proceedings were underway in the important and interesting trial of US vs Kurniawan. I attended for three days. Here are some outtakes from my time at the #rudytrial:

* Bill Koch, billionaire, testified that he liked “kiwi wine” as well as Spanish wine and doesn’t drink DRC every night from his 43,000 bottle collection. Alert John Hodgman to alter his billionaire schtick to include the everyday drinking wines of mere mortals!

* Bill Koch said the best wine he’s ever had was a bottle of 1853 Margaux at the chateau. Read more…

“Prolific wine counterfeiter” Rudy Kurniawan found guilty

rudy kurniawan The jury has returned a verdict: Rudy Kurniawan has been found guilty of selling counterfeit wine through the mail and engaging in wire fraud. Judge Richard Berman will announce the sentencing on April 24; Kurniawan could spend 40 years in federal prison. Read more…

Rudy Kurniawan trial, Day 5

rudy kurniawan home
A piece of evidence shown the jury: a scene from Kurniawan’s home on the day of his arrest last year.

There was talk about guns from the witness box today, in the fifth day of the Rudy Kurniawan trial. And they might as well have been smoking guns.

Of the four witnesses today that included billionaire Bill Koch, David Parker had the moment of greatest drama. Parker owns two wine business in LA that sold Rudy seven bottles of 1962 Domaine de la Romanée Conti – Romanée Conti Read more…

Dispatch from the Rudy Kurniawan trial

rudy kurniawan Rudy Kurniawan sat with his back to the gallery, his Men’s Warehouse suit bunching up below his neck. Some have said he’s lost weight since he’s been in jail; never having seen him before, I can’t confirm that. But he is a slight man with a young face behind his thick-framed, black glasses.

And it was a dour face today at the US District Court in lower Manhattan. In case you haven’t heard, Kurniawan is standing trial this week, with the Department of Justice accusing of selling counterfeit wines. Although one of the auctions in focus, Acker’s “Cellar II” sale in October 2007, grossed almost $25 million, the amount of fake wine he is alleged to have sold is $1.3 million. Read more…

How Scratch and Sniff wine soared to the NYT bestseller list

scratch sniff wine

The hottest wine book of 2013 might take you by surprise: it’s a scratch and sniff wine guide that’s printed on the stiff pages of a board book. The book has caught fire and reached #13 overall in book sales on Amazon and #10 in the “Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous” portion of the NYT bestseller list. As you would expect, it is both skimmable and sniffable but it is also brilliant in its own small way; kudos to author Richard Betts for writing what might well be the shortest wine book in history.

To find out more about how “The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert” came about and the vertiginous rise on the sales charts, I caught up with Betts by phone as he was driving in the Northern Rhone. Read more…

John Kerry says cheers with Moldovan wine

kerry moldovan wine It’s not every day you hear urging Americans to drink wine. But that’s what John Kerry did today during a brief stopover in Moldova.

The Secretary of State wasn’t modeling his actions on Thomas Jefferson. Instead, by visiting a winery and raising a glass of Moldovan red, he was trying to help the agrarian economy of the Europe’s poorest country, one glass at a time.

Wine plays a central part in foreign trade for the landlocked country sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania where the GDP per capita of just over $2,000. But the lion’s share of those exports have gone to Russia, which has blacklisted Moldovan wine in a trade dispute. So Kerry’s trying to create a new market for Moldovan wine and announced a trade mission that will bring Moldovan wine makers to the US to learn about the American wine market. Look out for a merry band of Moldovans at your local wine shop–it may be as riotous as the Borat wine tasting.

More: “Why John Kerry Wants You to Drink Moldovan Wine” [ABC News]
“Russian media deride Kerry visit to Moldova” [LA Times]

Would Amazon Drones give a lift to wine?

amazon drone Jeff Bezos had some crazy talk for Charlie Rose at the end of a 60 Minutes segment: Amazon is working to deliver some items in 30 minutes or less via unmanned, aerial drones.

It’s not April Fool’s Day; Amazon tweeted a link to a picture of the “octocopter” delivery vehicle and published this futuristic video on YouTube. Bezos did concede to Charlie Rose that the plan, possibly 4-5 years off, “requires more safety testing and FAA approvals.”

If Amazon drones were approved, this delivery method would have enormous implications. But since we’re a wine blog, we’ll focus on the wine angle here: getting wine in 30 minutes would give a lift to your Friday night. And since the Octocopter delivers to GPS coordinates, it could conceivably track your phone and deliver your whole picnic right to where you are. Hopefully, there will also be a robotic sommelier to pop and pour.

Or is it so futuristic, unworkably weather- and regulation-dependent, that the main triumph is just to give a lot of buzz (without rotors) during the busiest shopping time of the year?


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