Kurniawan was a regular on the US fine wine auction scene and bought and sold tens of millions of dollars worth of wine. It now seems that most of what he sold was concocted, most likely by labelling ordinary AOC wine with famous labels such as La Tache.
What rumbled him was a batch of Clos St Denis consigned for auction at New York auction house Acker Merrall & Condit, which had to be fake as the producer on the label did not actually make wine from that vineyard until many years later. The fact that the auction house didn’t carry out basic checks is an even bigger scandal in my view.
Wine fraud has been a problem since Roman times (Pliny the Elder complained about fake Falernian in 71BC) but now that famous old wines sell for tens of thousands of euro the stakes have been raised considerably.
A film about Kurniawan is said to be in the works and Brad Pitt is due to star in a film based on the book The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace, which details the efforts of US Billionaire Bill Koch’s attempts to get convictions over a number of fake wines he purchased at auction, including some 18th Century bottles that were supposed to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson (one holds the auction record for a single bottle at £105,000 Sterling).
Thankfully you can be fairly sure that wines costing under €25 are all likely to be genuine (although Gallo were fooled into selling over 18 million bottles of fake Languedoc Pinot Noir a few years ago).
The big scandal we have to contend with in Ireland is the unjust wine taxation, but console yourself with the following wines to suit the late summer weather.
Finding good fully sparkling wine under €15 has become virtually impossible outside the large supermarkets. This is worth trying and is surprisingly one of the few Crémant d’Alsace on the market. Ripe lightly floral aroma with a lovely peachy quality on the palate while remaining dry on the finish.
Stockist: Carry Out Shops, CostCutter
Mallow based Barry Group that owns the Carry Out and CostCutter brands have been slowly building up their wine portfolio (and their range of beers). I’m a fan of Gascon whites and this is no exception – pear drop and peach aromas with a fresh mineral palate and a refreshing stony quality perfect for warm late-summer evenings.
Stockists: Thomas Woodberrys Galway, Hole in the Wall, Vintry Rathgar
I haven’t mentioned a Gruner in a while and this is one of the best I have tasted this summer. Classic white pepper and citrus nose with a good touch of spritz on the palate and a fine mineral fresh finish. This could be drunk on its own or with some grilled fish.
Stockists: Jus de Vine, Drink Store D7 www.drinkstore.ie , www.thewinestore.ie
This is made by Irish wine importer Simon Tyrrell. The wine is made by slow gentle extraction (pumping over but no punching down of the cap) and is unfiltered and unfined. Fresh red fruits with a hint of plum; floral red fruit flavours but a bit of tannic steel in its backbone mingles with the juicy finish.
Stockist: Karwigs, www.KarwigWines.ie
Yet another new Albarino on the Irish market. This has a very attractive label with glittering rocks and an evocative poem on the back about the influence of the sea. Light floral peach aromas and fine crisp pear and peach flavours on the palate with a mineral and slightly salty finish. Try with some Asian style fish.
Stockists: No. 21 Midleton, Cheers The Laurels and The Coach House, La Touche Greystones
It is a while since I recommended a New Zealand Sauvignon but late summer suits them well. Last year was the 40th anniversary of this family run producer in Nelson which makes them veterans in this young wine region. Crisp light lemony, clean aromas and flavours with touches of lime and grapefruit.