Catch Him If You Can (And They Did, Eventually)
Sorry for the long hiatus here; it’s been a busy last few months. I will update you on things in my next post, which should be sometime around February or March (I’m joking—I think!). Anyway, a tweet the other day by New York sommelier extraordinaire Michael Madrigale reminded me that I’d neglected to post the photo below. Madrigale tweeted a picture of two bottles of 1971 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la Roche, one of which he confirmed to be a fake. The picture below is one that Laurent Ponsot shared with me back in the spring, and it shows two bottles of 1973 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la Roche, one of which was also a fake (it’s the one on the left). You will notice that there is a gentleman in the photo whose face is obscured by one of the bottles: that’s Rudy Kurniawan.
The backstory: In May 2009, Ponsot had dinner with Kurniawan in Los Angeles. It was a year after the Acker Merrall auction at which Kurniawan had attempted to sell those fake Ponsots, and Laurent Ponsot was still trying to get him to say where he had obtained the counterfeit bottles. True to form, Kurniawan came to the restaurant bearing wines—in this case, two bottles of 1973 Ponsot Clos de la Roche. One had the normal Ponsot label, the other had a label indicating that it was a special bottling for the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. Why would Kurniawan have brought two bottles of the same wine? Ponsot told me that he thought Kurniawan was testing him to see if he could pick out a counterfeit of his own wines. The Confrérie bottle was legitimate, but immediately upon tasting the other bottle, Ponsot judged it to be a fake—it was a Burgundy, but neither a Ponsot nor a Clos de la Roche.
At one point, Ponsot decided to take a picture of the two bottles and surreptitiously tried to include Kurniawan in the frame. However, just as Ponsot was about to snap the photo, Kurniawan saw what he was doing and turned his face to the side. I love the resulting picture: the caption almost writes itself—catch me if you can. It was the only good thing to come out of the dinner. Kurniawan refused to cough up any information, and the evening ended in angry silence. Ponsot had arrived at the restaurant still uncertain about Kurniawan’s role in the scandal: had the young collector unwittingly purchased the fake Ponsots and then tried to dump them via the Acker auction, or was he the source of the fraudulent bottles? When Ponsot left the restaurant, he was no longer uncertain: he was now convinced that Kurniawan was the counterfeiter.