Top Burgundy Winemakers Will Testify Against Alleged Counterfeiter

Prosecutors in Rudy Kurniawan trial will depose heads of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Georges Roumier and Domaine Ponsot
May 8, 2013

Federal prosecutors have begun to show their hand in the upcoming prosecution of alleged wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan. On May 6, federal judge Richard Berman granted U.S. attorneys permission to present videotaped testimony from three of Burgundy's top winemakers: Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Christophe Roumier of Domaine Georges Roumier and Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot. The three men are expected to testify on allegedly fake bottles sold by Kurniawan.

Lead prosecutor Jason Hernandez had hoped to bring all three winemakers to New York to testify in person. But since the trial, scheduled to begin Sept. 9 in a Lower Manhattan courtroom, coincides with the start of harvest, Roumier and Ponsot are unwilling to interrupt their work by traveling to New York. De Villaine has not yet indicated whether he will appear at trial or also be deposed by videotape. The depositions, for which Kurniawan and his lawyers will be present, are to be taken in the United States.

De Villaine is expected to testify that a bottle of purported Romanée-Conti 1934, consigned by Kurniawan to an Acker Merrall & Condit auction in 2006, was fake, according to a federal indictment. That bottle was purchased by an unnamed Florida collector for $12,925. De Villaine is further expected to testify that a jeroboam of Romanée-Conti 1962, sold at an Acker auction later in 2006, was also fake. It was sold to an unnamed New York collector for $48,259. Kurniawan frequently claimed to be an expert on DRC wines, earning the nickname "Dr. Conti" from some fellow collectors.

According to Hernandez, Roumier is expected to testify that six bottles of purported G. Roumier Bonnes Mares 1923, consigned by Kurniawan to an Acker Merrall & Condit auction in 2006, cannot be authentic since the domaine only started making wine in 1924. The six bottles were purchased by an unnamed collector from New Jersey for $95,000.

Ponsot has tangled with Kurniawan before. In April 2008, he flew to New York to block the sale of 109 bottles of purported Domaine Ponsot wines offered at an Acker auction at a time when Kurniawan was a well-known collector and consigner. The bottles, consigned by Kurniawan and estimated to sell for as much as $602,000, were mostly fake, according to Ponsot. A bottle of Clos de la Roche 1929, for example, was a clear fake because, as Ponsot told Wine Spectator at the time, "My grandfather Hippolyte did not begin estate bottling until 1934." Purported bottles of Ponsot Clos St.-Denis, ranging from vintage 1945 to 1971, also had to be fakes because, Ponsot said, "My father, Jean-Marie, didn't begin to produce our Clos St.-Denis until 1982."

The two-count indictment of Kurniawan charges him with scheming to sell counterfeit wines and to defraud a finance company. FBI agents arrested Kurniawan at his home in Arcadia, Calif., early on the morning of March 8, 2012. He is being held without bail at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

Collecting Auctions Crime Fraud France Burgundy News

You Might Also Like

Chef John Fraser Opens Aegean-Inspired Iris in New York City

Chef John Fraser Opens Aegean-Inspired Iris in New York City

The 701West owner has a new restaurant fusing Greek and Turkish fare. Plus, Tom Colicchio …

May 6, 2021
Destin Charity Wine Auction Raises $2 Million in Hybrid Live-Virtual Event

Destin Charity Wine Auction Raises $2 Million in Hybrid Live-Virtual Event

The 16th annual northwest Florida auction marked a new beginning for in-person events while …

May 4, 2021
David Bruce, Pioneer of Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir, Dies at 89

David Bruce, Pioneer of Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir, Dies at 89

Raised a teetotaler, Bruce balanced a medical practice with a life in wine, cultivating …

May 4, 2021
Finding Home Again: Kyle MacLachlan Chats Live About Making Wine Where He Grew Up

Finding Home Again: Kyle MacLachlan Chats Live About Making Wine Where He Grew Up

The Golden Globe-winning actor and Washington vintner talks about growing up in an …

Apr 30, 2021
A Second Life for Winemaking's Leftover Grape Skins

A Second Life for Winemaking's Leftover Grape Skins

A study found that pomace—the grape skins, stems and seeds left behind after winemaking—con…

Apr 28, 2021
Chasing Burgundy: Kurt Russell Chats Live About His Pinot Noir Project

Chasing Burgundy: Kurt Russell Chats Live About His Pinot Noir Project

The award-winning actor and Santa Barbara vintner talks about his film career, falling in …

Apr 26, 2021