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Sour Grapes (2016)

TV-14 | | Documentary | 16 September 2016 (UK)
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Documentary about the fine and rare wine auction market centering around a counterfeiter who befriended the rich and powerful and sold millions of dollars of fraudulent wine through the top auction houses.
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Laurent Ponsot Laurent Ponsot ... Himself, wine producer in Burgundy, France
Jay McInerney ... Himself, novelist and wine columnist
Jefery Levy ... Himself (as Jef Levy)
Maureen Downey Maureen Downey ... Herself, wine consultant
Rudy Kurniawan Rudy Kurniawan ... Himself, convicted wine counterfeiter (archive footage)
Rajat Parr Rajat Parr ... Himself, sommelier
Arthur M. Sarkissian ... Himself
Corie Brown Corie Brown ... Herself, food and wine writer, Zester Daily
Don Cornwell Don Cornwell ... Himself, lawyer and burgundy wine expert
David Fredston David Fredston ... Himself, private equity investor, Sole Source Capital
Bill Koch Bill Koch ... Himself, businessman and collector (as Bill Koch)
John Kapon John Kapon ... Himself, wine merchant and auctioneer (archive footage)
Brad Goldstein Brad Goldstein ... Himself, Bill Koch's spokesperson
Percy Percy ... Himself, Brad Goldstein's dog
James P. Wynne James P. Wynne ... Himself, FBI agent specialized in counterfeit goods (as Jim Wynne)
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Storyline

Documentary about the fine and rare wine auction market centering around a counterfeiter who befriended the rich and powerful and sold millions of dollars of fraudulent wine through the top auction houses.

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Documentary

Certificate:

TV-14 | See all certifications »
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Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 September 2016 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Bittra druvor See more »

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References Scarface (1983) See more »

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User Reviews

 
At the end of every (not-so-hard) day, people find some reason to believe
13 January 2017 | by paul2001sw-1See all my reviews

The fine wine market is a very peculiar one. Firstly, fine wine is arguably an acquired taste: many people can't tell that good wine is good. You could say that people learn, but you could also say that an elite group have unilaterally determined what fine wine actually is through the simple expedient of being prepared to spend large sums of money on it. Secondly, there's a lot of ritual involved in wine drinking, and those who can wine connoisseurs would actually be very unhappy if fine wine could be bought cheaply, even if it allowed them to drink it more often: a wine bottle is definitely a fetish object, not just the container for some fermented grape juice. And finally, the supply of old wines is finite. If enough rich people want to own (and drink) them as status objects, there's almost no limit to how high the price for a bottle could go. Rudy Kurniawan appeared in the US wine collectors' market in the early 21st century. Apparently a rich kid with a fantastic palate (i.e. he could spot the same differences in taste of the most renowned experts), he soon developed a reputation as a devoted collector of the rarest wines. He was generous in sharing these with his friends (mostly fellow collectors), but he actually bought so much wine that they didn't benefit from his presence overall – the market itself moved under his influence. And when he started to sell from his cellar, you might have wondered if he wasn't just a naive enthusiast overpaying for his hobby, but actually someone smart (and brave) enough to hope to generate (through buying) an enthusiasm for rare wines that could outlast his subsequent selling, the classic technique employed by sellers of penny stocks and many other types of huckster (though it's not necessarily illegal to try and make a market in this way).

What is illegal, of course, is putting new wine in old bottles; and in the event, it transpired that this was what "Rudy" (in fact, not his real name) had done. With the aid of his genuinely good sense of taste, and with the backing of relatives belonging to Indonesian organised crime, Rudy was blending wines to match the taste of the most famous (and expensive) vintages. Because he bought so much real wine, he was able to flood the market with fake. Nonetheless, the story of his ten-year goal sentence leaves a slightly sour taste in the mouth: it seems excessive for the harm caused, the crime being to spoil a game played by rich people for little ultimate effect. One can also note that no-one other than the foreigner has been prosecuted for the fraud: its hard to believe there were others who did not suspect and/or collaborate, but it's possible to conclude that the American establishment has ultimately protected its own. Oddly, some of those defrauded are inclined to cut Rudy more slack than perhaps he deserves. In any case, I strongly recommend this intriguing documentary, a perfectly paced tale whose minor subject is wine: it's major subject is what, and why, we choose to believe.


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