Longtime Burgundy wine collector Douglas E. Barzelay provides a detailed and perceptive account of the Rudy Kurniawan saga of alleged wine counterfeiting. He recounts his brushes with Kurniawan in the rare Burgundy collector and auction circuit, and his own part in the story. Kurniawan was indicted last year by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on four counts of mail and wire fraud, including selling counterfeit wine and scheming to defraud a wine collector and an auction house.
Mr. Barzelay carefully and at length documents the growing suspicions he and some fellow collectors had about the authenticity of wines supplied by Rudy Kurniawan. And ultimately his own part in bringing these concerns to light both to auction houses and wine producers whose wines were apparently being faked, including a damning bottle that counterfeited a wine that was never made.
Most interesting are the details he provides on how the alleged scheme may have played out by mixing faux bottles with superb authentic bottles. The brass tacks of how it apparently worked are fascinating. But perhaps most trenchent is his lament of how the arcane world of rarified Burgundy moved from small circles of impassioned devotees to a more conspicuously consuming international audience, who have helped fuel unbridled price hikes.