Who knew? It turns out that even FBI agents can distinguish the rarest of prestige-labeled wines from plonk. Or so the agency would have us believe. This very day the gumshoes rattled the world of wine to its wormy roots by announcing the arrest of uber-salesman Rudy Kurniawan, whose clients have included billionaire William I. Koch, with trying to sell counterfeit wine. Can’t you see it? Bunch of guys in fedoras sitting around a conference table on Pennsylvania Avenue? Their boss in a feather boa, lifting a flute, sniffing deep, saying, “Oh, a pretentious little wine, hints of pomegranate and pine cone. But a 1929 Domaine Ponsot?”
It didn’t happen quite like that. It seems somebody in a suit noticed that Domaine Ponsot did not begin estate bottling until 1934. Then, when agents questioned Mr. Kurniawan about the discrepancy, and about his source for the vintages in question, he referred them to someone at two different phone numbers in Asia. When called, one number turned out to be a shopping mail in Jakarta and the other was for a regional Indonesian airline. Bit isn’t it conceivable that Kurniawan himself was taken in? After all, he’s sold as much as $35 million worth of wine in a single year. His client list includes dotcom geniuses, Hollywood royalty and any number of very rich old men. Was he expected to authenticate every single bottle? What is “counterfeit wine” anyway? Is the FBI going after Yellowtail next?