Wine Talk

Snooth User: GregT

Is there a such thing as label bias? (In case you haven't followed the story.)

Posted by GregT, May 19, 2012.

Don't know if you all have been following this interesting saga, but for those who haven't, here's a pretty good summary.  Nothing really new, but nicely written up.  And of course, the story continues.  At any rate, the recently revived thread on CA Pinot Noir vs Burgundy reminded me to post this.

To summarize, he has conclusively

  1. demonstrated that most people in the wine biz don't know squat, (esp Christies)
  2. demonstrated the effect of label bias,
  3. destroyed the market for old wine,
  4. perverted the wine market in general, and
  5. seriously jacked a few blowhards.

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Reply by JonDerry, May 19, 2012.

Wow. Thanks for posting, I guess I didn't know the gist of this story, hardly at all.

Reply by dmcker, May 19, 2012.

"Most wealthy collectors want to spend big and drink famous labels, not necessarily ask questions or hear the answers. Guests at tastings don’t want to bite the hand that quenches them. Auctioneers may not want to risk losing consignments by nitpicking ambiguous bottles. Winemakers don’t like to talk about counterfeiting, for fear of the taint. Also, one thing not high on the FBI’s list of investigative priorities: billionaires getting snowed by wine forgers. It’s clear to everyone on this rarefied circuit that wine fraud is rampant. It’s also clear not many insiders feel an urgency to do anything about it."


Thanks for sharing the link, Greg. Good article with both an overview and plenty of crackfilling to the story. This level of first-rate journalism really makes me sigh, as I realize four-or-five-paragraph blogs (whether standalone or on a portal) will ultimately replace oldskool newspapers.

Knew this would be an ongoing saga, spiralling worse all the while, at least to the point where it was so bad people went into denial. Skeletons that'll be shut away into dark closets as soon as allowed.

Sounds like there also may be a growing consultancy niche for wine provenance troubleshooters, serving those collectors and middlemen and producers who are concerned in their backroom discussions about fraud even if they don't want to talk about it publicly.

We've already had a couple of forum posts on this a little while back (most recently Fox's in March), but thanks for bringing it back to the fore in dedicated fashion.


In closing, my favorite quote from the article:

'As Wasser­man told a popular online wine board a few days later, “Rudy has become quite an expert on the subject.”'

Reply by EMark, May 20, 2012.

Very interesting article, Greg.  Thank you, very much, for posting.  I had only peripheral knowledge, or, for that matter, interest since I am not buying these wines, in Rudy K.  I had no idea he was, apparently, the sole participant in this deception.  The next thing I wonder about is how much more of this is going on that has yet to be detected.

Dm, your comment on modern journalism is spot on and very much appreciated.  You can probably tell that I'm the guy who is mocked (albeit, good naturedly) in the local coffee shop because I bring a newspaper to read in the morning instead of a tablet. 

Reply by GregT, May 20, 2012.

That's because you can still read the small print!

Anyhow, I don't buy those Burgundies either, as you might have guessed. It's been fascinating however, to see how people who were once defenders increasingly backed away from Rudy as his activities became harder to ignore.  The various other wine boards were really fun as people who angrily defended him slowly but surely started denying connections and/or went silent.

Rudy is in an Oklahoma prison, or was, most recently and now there's some story that his mother and others may have been involved. There's some mystery as to where his first money came from.  Great stuff of course, but I do feel for the people who got burned because all they wanted was to try some wine they'd heard of so they saved up to buy a bottle and it was phony.

Reply by EMark, May 20, 2012.

Harkens to well-founded financial advice:  It it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Reply by zufrieden, May 20, 2012.

“I don’t know why it matters how much of a dick he was, but it matters a lot,” he says. Perhaps Kurniawan had been driven to counterfeiting by recent money pressures. “But if it was cold and calculated from the beginning? Whoa.”  

Perhaps you're not an ethical genius, Wasserman, but you're pretty good at rationalisation after being exposed as something of  a knucklehead.  By your silly standard,  even the likes of Bernie Madoff can be consolingly understood (if not actually forgiven)  for being compelled to meet his "money pressures" with various Ponzi schemes.  

Clearly, wine collecting of the kind investigated here is a kind of OCD-driven activity.  Septigenarians with 43,000 bottle collections containing not a few items of Kurniawan provenance might want, in future,  to create an empire of possessions they can actually manage and understand.  

Wine appreciation is (or should be) par excellence an amateur affair. When the kind of money discussed here enters the picture, all bets are off.

Reply by dmcker, May 21, 2012.

"Septigenarians with 43,000 bottle collections containing not a few items of Kurniawan provenance might want, in future,  to create an empire of possessions they can actually manage and understand."


And drink, as well. Wonder a) how good sensory perception remains in one's 70s unless in the best of health, and b) how many of those bottles still need age before reaching their peak--long after the owner has left this orb. Guess that leaves a) a lot of gifting and tossing bottles into entertaining occasions, and b) leaving it to wrestling matches between heirs as to how and when the bottles actually get drunk.

Reply by GregT, May 21, 2012.

Zuf - I agree with pretty much everything you said.  What's the dif if Rudy planned it all along as a game or if he did it because he screwed up something else? 

D - I don't know that you lose all that much in your 70s. I think a lot depends on the person. Some lose more of their senses - hearing, sight, etc., than others.  Some people are quite fine well into their 70s. I'd suspect it depends much on genetics, but also on what kind of care one takes for the years prior, and OK, you might be right. Looking at the average American, and even a lot of my wine-drinking friends, they may be in rough shape come their seventies! 

Anyhow, if you guys want to see an interminable thread about this somewhere else, the one that's referenced in the article and linked to several others, check out this one:

Reply by dmcker, May 21, 2012.

Don't think Zuf's going to like the length (and age) of that WB thread! 

It does provide ample support for what Mark and I were discussing above about the value of good oldskool journalists. Someone who does 50 column inches on a story warranting it, but whose every five paragraphs blows away the five paragraphs of almost every blogger's entire blog post. And who also in that 50 inches provides both a better overview, and clearer details to fill the cracks than 87 pages filled with 3038 forum posts...  ;-(

Glad you talked yourself around to my view about our 70s, Greg. Always fun to watch your dance steps!  ;-) 

As I mentioned, 'health' is the key, as well as the genetics you mention. No way (hearing and eyesight and) smell and taste are as intense then as in our 20s. Our ability to synthesize knowledge and provide proper context and wise condensation of it may be better, though. Fortunately still quite a ways off from trying to confirm that from within my own skin, but I have found that the 50s seems to be the great watershed dividing who ages well and who poorly. Such a radical difference between people of the same age at 50 then at 60 who have lived well and healthily, or not, and who apparently have good genes, or not.

I'm now raising my glass to all of us having the physical wherewithal to enjoy all sorts of wine in our 70s! And I'm not talking about just getting a buzz, either. My maternal grandfather and grandmother never served alcohol in their house until one of their kids who had married into Europe would come home for visits (and this grandkid who had married into Asia later, too). Mateus rose was the norm, though, until I enforced a new regime. My grandfather, in his 80s, kept asking for second glasses (and even a third on occasion when my grandmother was out of the room). However, I suspected it was more for the buzz, which he'd never really done much enjoying of in his younger decades. I was providing damned fine bottles of wine, though, so who knows, maybe it was more than that.....

Reply by shsim, May 23, 2012.

Wow great discussion guys! I was reading this sometime ago..

from NIH

The number of taste buds decreases beginning at about age 40 to 50 in women and at 50 to 60 in men. Each remaining taste bud also begins to atrophy (lose mass). The sensitivity to the four taste sensations does not seem to decrease until after age 60, if at all. If taste sensation is lost, usually salty and sweet tastes are lost first, with bitter and sour tastes lasting slightly longer.

No matter, cheers to enjoying wine with friends and family! It is always the best.

Reply by EMark, May 23, 2012.

Shi, thank you very much for the NIH info.  I knew that the sense of taste degraded as individuals age, but the info that you have provided is not as frightening as I thought.

Reply by Terence Pang, May 28, 2012.

I have on several occassions been laughed at by the company of older drinkers who were part of a drinking party that I have since excused myself from.

The reason: disagreeing on the quality of an older bottle of wine. I say it's average, they say 'you just don't get the older style of wines'.

My response: 'well perhaps I don't, but don't you get it that it's bloody oxidised?!'

Admittedly, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir really does my head in, especially in a line-up of Burgundy mixed with Australia and US wines. When you have you go through a lineup of wines in a relatively short period of time, it is the New World wines with the most abundant flavours that stand out on my palate. But given the time to swirl it on my deck, I tend to enjoy drinking Burgundy (esp St Aubin and Echazeaux) more.

Reply by edwilley3, May 29, 2012.

My buddy and I found a dummy bottle of 1946 Macallan yesterday in a small shop.  When we told the owners what it really was, they were very, very disappointed.  Someone had sold them 2 bottles for $3,000 each.  Having watched prices skyrocket (now up to $12k), they thought that they really had something good.  Alas...quite the opposite. 

Reply by dmcker, Nov 23, 2015.

Anyone care to take a plunge??    (oh, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Marshals' sales slogan at end: "America’s Oldest Federal Law Enforcement Agency").





For Immediate Release

Contact: November 20, 2015 Lynzey Donahue (202) 307-9075
U.S. Marshals Office of Public Affairs (202) 307-9065


U.S. Marshals to Sell Thousands of Bottles of Wine from Rudy Kurniawan Case   Washington - The U.S. Marshals will auction approximately 4,711 bottles of wine, deemed authentic, that belonged to Rudy Kurniawan, the man convicted of fraud in federal court in 2013 for producing and selling millions of dollars of counterfeit wine.

The wine will be sold in two online auctions, one starting Nov. 24 and one starting Dec. 1, at

“It may sound ironic that we are selling wine that belonged to a convicted wine counterfeiter,” said Assistant Program Manager Jason Martinez of the U.S. Marshals Service Asset Forfeiture Division, “but we are duty-bound to recoup as much value from the sale of these authentic wines as possible to compensate those who were victims of his fraud.”

The wine was being stored by Kurniawan in a California wine storage facility. It is believed that much of it was used in the production of fake high-end wines in his now-infamous scheme. In addition, a number of authenticated high-value wines that Kurniawan stored at the facility are included in the auction. Net proceeds from the sale of the wine will be made available to the court to ultimately be returned to victims in the case.

The Marshals contracted for the wine authentication and appraisal. The contract was awarded to Stephanie Reeves, of Houston, who worked with a team that included Michael Egan of Bordeaux, France. Egan was involved in the Kurniawan federal court case as the principal expert witness for the prosecution at trial. Specifically, Egan inspected the bottles with the most risk of being counterfeit, and he uncovered a quantity of counterfeit bottles that were removed from the collection being sold.

Kurniawan, 39, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and is serving his sentence at Taft Correctional Institute in California.
Some of the wines for sale include a 1970 Romanée-Conti, a lot of three French bottles from Chateau Haut Plantey and Hospices de Nuits, and a lot of six bottles from Aves Riverbed Vineyard in California and Gevrey-Chambertin in France.
Additional photos and descriptions of the wine are available at

For more information on the case:

The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program is a key component of the federal government’s law enforcement efforts to combat major criminal activity by disrupting and dismantling illegal enterprises, depriving criminals of the proceeds of illegal activity, deterring crime and restoring property to victims. The U.S. Marshals Service plays a critical role by efficiently managing and selling assets seized and forfeited by DOJ. Proceeds generated from asset sales are used to operate the Asset Forfeiture Program, compensate victims and support various law enforcement and community initiatives.

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at


America’s Oldest Federal Law Enforcement Agency


Reply by JonDerry, Nov 23, 2015.

Browsed a couple pages...what a funny situation.

That 1916 La Mission Haut Brion should be singing. Did not find any of the burgs to be of much interest.

Reply by dmcker, Nov 23, 2015.

Interestingly, I can't get into the auction site, perhaps because I'm overseas...

Reply by JonDerry, Nov 23, 2015.

The link isn't working for me now that I try it again.

Anyhow, didn't look very organized, or visually appealing, but serviceable enough. Kind of like old ebay, a really small picture, then description, and price. Saw more Champagne than I would have guessed, particularly 1999 Cristal.

Reply by GregT, Nov 24, 2015.

There's a story about the Champagne - I'll tell you next time I see you. The feds already auctioned off his cars and it's kind of interesting that they're selling the wine. I hope they got Burghound to verify that it's all the real deal!! He can just taste it and tell.

Just read "The Billionaire's Vinegar" a few weeks ago. Apparently there are a lot of experts who, shall we say, are less than expert.

The link isn't working for me either D.

Reply by dmcker, Nov 24, 2015.

The auction was supposed to start 11/24 so their webmaster seems to be falling down on the job...

Reply by outthere, Nov 24, 2015.

Works fine if you copy and paste, Snooth somehow screws up the link. You have to have a liquor license in order to purchase.


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