In March of 2012, the rare-wine collecting world was shaken by the arrest of Rudy Kurniawan. His crime? Wine-fraud. Kurniawan had bought and sold millions of dollars worth of rare wine over the years, but many of the wines he sold were fakes. The FBI found a counterfeiting operation in Kurniawan’s home. They confiscated bottles in the process of being turned into knockoffs of desirable wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux, along with counterfeit labels.
It was the labels on the wine he was attempting to sell that in 2008 tipped off Laurent Ponsot, proprietor of Domaine Ponsot in Burgundy. Kurniawan was trying to auction bottles of wine that Domaine Ponsot never made. The dates were wrong — sometimes 40 years off. Ponsot instigated a four-year investigation of Kurniawan, which eventually led to his arrest for what many believe is the largest case of wine fraud in history.
For years, Kurniawan had duped many of the wine world’s biggest spenders. But collectors who invest millions in rare wines aren’t the only ones that need to be concerned with wine fraud. It can happen to anyone in a restaurant.
Check the Year
A standard wine menu will always list a vintage year. Sometimes, a server will present a bottle that’s a different year than the one on the list. Since the quality of wine varies from year to year, not all vintages are equally valuable. A restaurant may try to serve an inferior vintage, purposefully or simply by oversight. A quick look at a presented wine’s label to double check the vintage is a good idea when ordering a bottle. If the year differs from that on the wine list, point it out to the server before the bottle is opened.
A bottle that arrives at the table already opened is another indication the wine in it may have been switched. In inexpensive or chain restaurants, it could also be an indication that the server is inexperienced at opening wine and had someone else open it in the wait station. In a fine restaurant, however, an already opened bottle brought to the table is a red flag. An empty bottle may have been filled with less expensive wine.
By the Glass
When wine is served by the glass, fraud is even easier to pull off. If wines on the menu are unfamiliar, it’s difficult to determine if what is served is what was ordered. The bartender may send out the $7 glass of Chianti when the $12 glass was requested. Short of watching the bartender pour the wine, this type of fraud is hard to catch.
It’s good to remember that being brought the wrong wine can be a mistake and not necessarily a deliberate fraud attempt. Suspected wine fraud should be brought to the manager’s attention discreetly, giving the restaurant a chance to correct the problem. However, if it happens at the same restaurant more than once, definitely pick a different restaurant next time.
Are you tired of sipping on your cocktail? Try breathing in your cocktail instead at this new London bar....read more ›
The All-INNclusive Dogfish Experience is the perfect way to make the most of your beercation. ...read more ›
Firestone Walker made an announcement late last week that they had been "invested in" by Duvel Moortgat. But w...read more ›
The GABF has sold out in well under and hour for the past six years. Tickets to this year's event go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, July ...read more ›
Put the Steamboat Wine Festival on your summer travel calendar, because events are selling out quickly and you...read more ›
Writers and musicians have a long, storied history with alcohol, and that intimacy with the bottle shows through in the memorable lines these artists ...read more ›
Grab some of these refreshing brews for your next beach trip or cookout....read more ›
Urine from the Danish Roskilde Festival is being used to fertilize barley which will be turned into beer in a ...read more ›
The country's second oldest beer festival is back July 22 through 26 and is still going strong after 28 years. ...read more ›
WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey 10 Year is well worth seeking out. ...read more ›
Craft brewery teams up with local farmer to brew a carrot beer and help raise awareness of local produce....read more ›
With this men's beauty line, you can literally bathe in beer. ...read more ›