“[Hellman] presents . . . the macho, competitive, one-upmanship world of the collectors, an atmosphere that perhaps contributed to their gullibility in the high-rolling economy of the early 2000s.”—The New York Times
“Heady, intoxicating . . . shines a light on the esoteric and intriguing world of ultrarare, ultrafine wines.”—Foreword, starred review
“In Vino Duplicitas is a cautionary tale of how we can let the romance of wine get the better of us. . . . None of us are immune.”—Washington Post
Few gain entry to the privileged world of ultrafine wines, where billionaires flock to exclusive auction houses to vie for the scarce surviving bottles from truly legendary years. But Rudy Kurniawan, an unknown twentysomething from Indonesia, was blessed with two gifts that opened doors: a virtuoso palate for wine tasting, and access to a seemingly limitless (if mysterious) supply of the world’s most coveted wines.
After bursting onto the scene in 2002, Kurniawan quickly became the leading purveyor of rare wines to the American elite. But in April 2008, his lots of Domaine Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis red burgundy—dating as far back as 1945—were abruptly pulled from auction. The problem? The winemaker was certain that this particular burgundy was first produced only in 1982.
Journalist Peter Hellman was there, and he would closely investigate as a singular cast of characters—including a Kansas-born billionaire and self-proclaimed “hoarder,” a dignified Burgundian winemaker, a wine-loving young prosecutor, and a crusty FBI agent who prepared for the case by reading French Wine for Dummies—worked to unravel the biggest con in wine history. Whether driven by the love of wine or of justice, all were asking the same question: Was the mild-mannered Kurniawan himself a dupe? Or had one young man—with little experience and few connections—ensnared the world’s top winemakers, sellers, and drinkers in a web of deceit?
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About the Author
Peter Hellman, a New York–based journalist and author for more than 40 years, has been a contributor to Wine Spectator for more than a decade. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, and many others. His books include When Courage Was Stronger than Fear, Chief!, and Fifty Years After Kitty Genovese. He and his wife, Susan, live in New York City.
Table of Contents
Author's Note ix
Chapter 1 Becoming Dr. Conti 1
Chapter 2 Underside of an Auction 27
Chapter 3 The Man from Morey-Saint-Denis 43
Chapter 4 The Auctioneer 61
Chapter 5 Collapse of the Con 77
Chapter 6 The Sheriff 103
Chapter 7 The Takedown 125
Chapter 8 Before a jury of His Peers 153
Chapter 9 Aftershocks 193
Photo Credits 247
About the Author 248