By Dan Clendenin
Sour Grapes (2016)
This 90-minute documentary on Netflix features the rise and fall of Rudy Kurniawan (born 1976). Friends remember Rudy as a skinny wine geek who had an extraordinary knowledge of wine, an “insane” palate that could identify arcane vintages, a generous personality, and a mysterious background. Where did he get the money to collect and then sell a wine inventory worth a record-breaking $35 million? Somewhere in this world of elite collectors, anomalies started to appear with Rudy’s wines — labels, corks, wax seals, non-existent production years, misspellings, errors in auction catalogs, and even Elmer’s glue that was not invented until 1970 but was used for wine labels ostensibly older than that. In 2012 the FBI raided Rudy’s home and discovered that he was mixing his own blends from his kitchen sink and selling them as rare collector’s items. The billionaire Bill Koch, for example, had at least 400 bottles of Rudy’s fake wine for which he had paid $4 million. In 2014 Rudy was convicted of fraud. He is now serving a ten-year sentence for the largest case of wine counterfeiting in history. He was also ordered to repay his victims $28 million. The movie interviews numerous people: collectors like Koch who were duped, Koch’s private investigator, FBI agents, a federal prosecutor, defense attorneys, wine writers and consultants, a sommelier, and friends who still defend their beloved Rudy. There might be as many as 10,000 bottles of Rudy’s blends still in private collections.
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