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Top Winemakers Testify Against Alleged Counterfeiter

Photo: Romanée-Conti
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

The trial of wine collector/accused wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan — the man alleged with perpetuating "the biggest wine hoax in history" in selling over a million dollars worth of fake bottles — marches on. Yesterday the prosecution called three top French winemakers to the stand to testify. Decanter reports that Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti's Aubert de Villaine, and Christophe Roumier of Domaine Georges Roumier were all witnesses for the prosecution. And they were not amused.

Ponsot testified that he was onto Kurniawan well before the arrest two years ago because Kurniawan attempted to sell fake bottles of Domaine Ponsot at an auction in 2008. Apparently Kurniawan was offering bottles of Clos Saint-Denis 1945, which Ponsot immediately identified as fake because that appellation wasn't created until the 1980's. There were fake bottles from 1959 and 1962 as well. Ponsot also testified that a 1949 Clos de la Roche label was phony though nearly perfect. In a boon to the Kurniawan's predicted defense strategy, Ponsot also testified that when he talked with Kurniawan about the fakes, the collector said he got a lot of wines from Asia and admitted he was "unsure of the wine's authenticity and wanted Ponsot's opinion." On why Ponsot was investigating Kurniawan on his own, he said: "It's dirtying the spirit of the appellations of Burgundy."

Villaine testified that a bunch of labels with his Romanée-Conti name on them were fake. He told prosecutors that the labels were obviously fake. "They are a fantasy," he said. Roumier's testimony was similar to Ponsot's in that he testified that Kurniawan was selling bottles that couldn't have existed. Apparently Kurniawan tried to sell a Bonne-Mares 1923, but Domaine Roumier was not yet established in that year. The defense is expected to present its case next week. After the testimony of wine heavy weights, and the prosecution's evidence like photos of a "wine factory" in Kurniawan's home, they have their work cut out for them.

· Kurniawan trial: 'This wine cannot exist', winemaker Ponsot tells court [Decanter]
· Alleged Wine Counterfeiter Stands Trial for Selling Millions in Fake Bottles [-E-]
· All Rudy Kurniawan Coverage on Eater [-E-]