A federal grand jury in New York has just indicted Rudy Kurniawan on four counts of mail and wire fraud. Recently, I detailed my brief experience with Rudy Kurniawan in an article entitled “One Winedrinker’s Observations Over Nearly 30 Years. Two Faces of Fraud. More to Come?” (To read that article click here )
Then Underground has been writing about wine fraud for nearly 30 years. A major article was published again online in January of this year. (To read that article click here ) In that article there was an outline of how fake bottles might be created. It was written by Underground Contributing Editor, Geoffrey Troy and is reproduced below:
The outline of how to produce fake bottles of old wines is straightforward:
- Find an empty bottle of an old vintage of Bordeaux. It should preferably be pre-phylloxera as these vintages are worth a great deal of money and relatively few people know what they should taste like. The bottle should have an original label in good condition, if possible, because this adds greatly to the value of rare old wines.
- Fill the bottle with a carefully made combination of young Bordeaux, Rhone, Beaujolais, Crème de Cacao, etc. Use your imagination to make a good blend!
- Remove the cork from a bottle of young wine of the same chateau as the empty bottle you plan to recork. Do not use a conventional corkscrew, as that will ruin the cork, however an Ah-So cork puller that has the two prongs that slide down the side of the cork would work fine. It is very unlikely to damage the cork.
- Carefully sand the vintage date off the cork.
- Brand the correct “new” date on the cork to match the label of the old bottle being recorked.
- Recork and recapsule.
Now you have a beautiful bottle of rare old claret and you can make your haul as soon as an unsuspecting collector can be found who will purchase your fake bottle!
This article was first written over 20 years ago. Since that time the “art” of faking wine bottles has advanced to a very high level. The allegations in the indictment against Rudy Kurniwan are really interesting. Dubbed as “Dr. Conti” and “Mr. 47” by his swooning admirers, the details are evidence of the gullibility of many. If the allegations are proven to be true, how embarrassing that must be for those who were drinking all of these “rare” bottles and proclaiming them to be great! And, what about all the outlandish and absurd tasting notes posted all over the internet on these grand tastings of dozens of bottles that were all so fabulous? There was a seemingly continuous banter of publicity for Rudy’s wines leading up to the large auction sales and a lot of people drank the kool aid! Now the hangover!! The trial will be forthcoming and who knows what that will bring? Will others be implicated? The indictment seems to point to that conclusion. So stay tuned! “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
The indictment was recently posted on Mike Steinberger’s Wine Diarist.com. The indictment is a totally fascinating read. I highly encourage you to read it. (To read the indictment click here) 
In Vino Veritas,