Who really made money out of Rudy Kurniawan’s fake wine?

… A key question for many fine wine collectors now is where the rest of Kurniawan’s fakes are lurking.
Some information may yet emerge from billionaire collector Bill Koch, who bought many wines off Kurniawan. The Indonesian has agreed to pay Koch $3m in damages and tell ‘everything he knows’ as part of an out-of-court litigation settlement.
There are fears the pyschological damage caused to fine wine buyers will be difficult to reverse, but many of the major auction houses have cautioned that counterfeiting still represents a small part of the market and stringent checks are in place. 
‘People have been robbed of the joy that is old and rare wines,’ said Maureen Downey, of Chai Consulting and who has inspected Kurniawan wines for several clients, including Koch. ‘They simply do not trust the system. That is the real tragedy of this debacle.’ 
Just read this extract from this Decanter news item and pause over the bit that I’ve highlighted. Wealthy fine wine buyers have, it seems, been “psychologically damaged” by paying hundreds of thousands of whatever currency they favour on wine that evidently tasted fine but turned out to have been blended in an illegal immigrant’s kitchen.

Pull the other one.

Wine has probably been faked and adulterated since man first started pressing grapes. According to Pliny the Elder, 2,000 years ago, Roman nobles were being efficiently fooled by fake Falernian wine. The ancient author unfortunately refrains from informing us whether the aristos in question rushed off to seek psychological treatment.

I can readily imagine that the elderly people who were duped into investing their life savings into fraudulent wine investment schemes may genuinely be feeling some justified pain, but the billionaires who flocked around Mr Kurniawan and his friends and associates were no more or less badly treated than all of the people who, over the years, have bought and hung forged paintings on their walls.

The scandal of the Rudy Kurniawan case about which rather less fuss is being made, is that most of the $20-30m of wines he is believed to have produced, passed through other sets of hands on their way to the final buyer. Lots of people have taken a margin on those sales. Where is all that money now? How many of those experts are lining up to return their share of the rotten gains?

2 comments

  1. David Vergari · ·

    Debacle? Absolutely. Tragedy? Methinks a bit more perspective is needed.

  2. Thanks David, I think we're in perfect agreement.

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