How an illegal immigrant pulled off the greatest wine scam in US history

Earlier than Rudy Kurniawan was 30, he had risen to grow to be a kingpin purveyor of wines that have been the rarest of the uncommon. Then, one Friday night in 2008, he made a mistake that shattered his profession.

It occurred at a wine public sale held at Greenwich Village restaurant Cru, a hangout for deep-pocketed winolas (shuttered in 2010). Auctioneer Acker Merrall & Condit’s catalog listed 22 numerous pink wine from Domaine Ponsot, a Burgundy producer adored by collectors. Six of these tons have been touted as Clos Saint-Denis, one of many 32 biggest Burgundy appellations. They have been being provided in vintages 1945 to l971, all mythic vintages within the area. Their estimated costs reached an eye fixed-popping $70,000 per case. All had been consigned from what Kurniawan referred to as his “magic cellar.”

There was only one drawback, in response to fourth-era proprietor Laurent Ponsot: His father had no entry to Clos Saint-Denis vines till 1982 — which means these Domaine Ponsot vintages couldn’t exist. “I didn’t ever need anybody to purchase a wine which had my household’s identify on it and be disillusioned,” stated Ponsot.

Taking an pressing name from Ponsot only a day earlier than the public sale, Acker president John Kapon assured the winemaker that he would withdraw all 22 tons. To make certain Kapon adopted via, Ponsot flew from France and grabbed a taxi on to Cru. He arrived a couple of minutes after I did — a effective featured man with cool blue eyes and self-described “Jesus size” blond hair. Trophy wine flows freely at Acker auctions, and the temper was merry, however Ponsot didn’t share in it. He settled right into a nook banquet and stonily awaited his tons to return up.

Domaine Kurniawan’s counterfeit bottles revealed him to be a pretend. Ponsot by no means made a 1945 bottle of Clos Saint-Denis (left), and the purple wax sealing (proper) was by no means utilized by the vineyard.Maureen Downey/

Halfway via the public sale, Kapon stored his promise, pausing the quick-paced motion from the rostrum. “We’ve acquired somewhat uncommon state of affairs right here,” he stated. “On the request of the area, and with the consent of the consignor, we’re withdrawing tons 414 by way of 434 [all the Ponsot lots]. “I assume there have been a few inconsistencies right here, so we needed to pull ’em.”
“F–okay you,” yelled a collector who had traveled from Los Angeles to bid on the by no means-earlier than-seen Ponsots.

Extra “f–okay you” days have been about to hit Wall Road. The subprime mortage market had imploded the earlier yr, and…

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