Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Friday, 22 June 2012

Wine fraud: some weekend reading

Labels seized by the US authorities at Rudy Kurniawan's home in Los Angeles  

It has been a bad few months for the fine wine sector, especially Burgundy. At the end of March an unnamed Beaune, but believed to be 63-year-old, Bernard Gras, was arrested after an investigation into false labelling and mixing Burgundy with wine from further south. Then in mid-May Rudy Kurniawan was arrested, charged and detained for alleged massive frauds stretching back over a number of years. Most recently four people, including the two owners, from Labouré-Roi, Burgundy's third largest négociant, were arrested. 

How widespread is counterfeiting is one still unanswered question hanging over the fine wine sector along with the supplementary question: what checks do merchants carry out to check provenance and right of title to the wines they buy?

The good news is that Rudy Kurniawan's arrest and exposure has prompted some good reading from Benjamin Wallace (New York Times magazine), Mike Steinberger (Vanity Fair) and Doug Barzelay (oldvinenotes). Barzelay is particularly interesting as he is a Burgundy collector, met Rudy on a number of occasions and is able to tell part of the inside story.          

Château Sucker bBenjamin Wallace
'Rare-wine collectors are savvy, competitive guys with a taste for impossible finds. The biggest hoax in history took place right under their noses.'
Published May 13, 2012

A Vintage Crime bMichael Steinberger
'Collecting vintage Burgundies, Rudy Kurniawan drove the rare-wine market to new heights, then began selling his treasures. Or so it seemed. Michael Steinberger uncorks what may be the largest case of fine-wine fraud in history.'

The rise and fall of a wine counterfeiter by Doug Barzelay 
June 18, 2012
'With the arrest of Rudy Kurniawan (on March 8, 2012), an extraordinary chapter in the history of wine fraud has begun to close. Two recent articles, Mike Steinberger’s A Vintage Crime in Vanity Fair, and Ben Wallace’s Château Sucker in New York, have ably chronicled the facts as we now know them, though I strongly suspect that further revelations may emerge.'

There is also the continuing thread on WINEBeserkers called Rudy Kurniawan Spectrum/Vanquished Wine Auction that was started by Don Cornwell on Saturday 4th February 2012. It now runs to 102 pages.

Two alleged Burgundian frauds:

Beaune negociant – 31st March 2012
Beaune Fraude aux AOC Bourgogne : un négociant mis en examen
le 31/03/2012 à 05:00 par Anne-Françoise Bailly
'Jeudi en fin d’après-midi, à l’issue de sa garde à vue, un négociant en vins, dont le siège de la société est à Beaune, a été présenté au Parquet de Dijon, qui a demandé une ouverture d’information au cabinet d’un juge d’instruction. Le procureur de la république Eric Lallemand a confirmé hier que ce négociant, qui possède par ailleurs trois boutiques en Saône-et-Loire, avait été mis en examen pour « tromperie sur la nature et la qualité substantielle des produits », « pratiques commerciales trompeuses », « achat et vente de produits sans facturation conforme », et « utilisation frauduleuse.'

An interesting discussion here from La Passion du Vin on the wines of Bernard Gras. 

Fraudes sur les vins : Labouré-Roi dans la tourmente.
le 13/06/2012 à 05:00 par GILLES DUPONT
'Quatre dirigeants de la maison de négoce nuitonne Labouré-Roi ont été placés en garde à vue la semaine dernière par les gendarmes. Ils ont été entendus sur une impressionnante série de tricheries.' 

Finally Doug Barzelay looks at how wine frauds might be reduced. 
Wine Fraud (oldvinenotes)
February 15, 2012
A few years ago, after having played some role in exposing the attempted sale of a substantial number of fake Ponsot wines at auction, I recounted that story, with indignation, to a friend of mine who is a senior executive at a consumer products company. Why, he asked, was I surprised that people were faking expensive bottles of wine? “They’re out there faking our toothpaste.”

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