Let's Go to the Movies With Our Wine Glasses
Hey, y’all! Please take this opening paragraph as something wistful, heartwarming and encouraging, like every other email you’re getting this week. In these troubled times...here’s some crap you can buy. And so forth.
Anyway, I also crave variety, and my liver craves a little vacation. So I’m going to be interspersing my regular drink reports with wine-related media you can enjoy from the comfort of your underground bunker. First up is one of the best documentaries that isn’t about toothless hicks illegally raising exotic animals. It’s Sour Grapes, available in the US on Netflix!
Sour Grapes first introduces us to some winebros, a group of very rich white guys in and around Hollywood who spent the early 2000s buying $5,000 bottles and making fun of their “friends”’ wine choices. These are guys who say things like, “In champagne, drink ‘96. If you can't afford ‘96, drink ‘02. If you can't afford ‘02, drink fucking beer.” Real fun guys.
Into this world of way more money than sense came Rudy Kurniawan, a young apparently Crazy Rich Asian from Hong Kong? Indonesia? No one was really sure, and no one knew how he could afford all those rare expensive Burgundies. He was said to be on an allowance from his mysterious wealthy family, and could only spend $1 million a month on wine. Filmmaker Jef Levy remains in awe of Kurniawan’s “absolutely correct palate.” (Which, what does that even mean, Jef. Do you mean he was really good at identifying wines by blind tasting the way that experienced sommeliers can? Do you mean he had a very well-developed palate? If you’re going to club people over the head with the game, then use the words. Jef.)
Young Rudy gets into the fine wine auctioning biz, selling $35 million worth of wine through Acker Merrall & Condit. And then cracks in the Rudy facade begin to show. Bespectacled Laurent Ponsot, now-former head winemaker at Domaine Ponsot, pops up to insist the wines be withdrawn from auction. He pages through the glossy Acker Merrall catalog and points to each page. “This is fake, this is fake.” He points to a spread of 1929 and 1945 vintages bearing his winery’s name. “We didn't start bottling this till 1982.”
What follows is a wild exploration of where did Rudy get his money and his wines, how much did the auction houses know about his wine’s provenances, and how the heck do you get so rich that you drop $1 million on wine without even knowing what you’re buying? Looking at you, Bill Koch (yep, as in related to those Kochs).
While it’s great fun to see Jef Levy’s face deflate when someone tells him one of his Rudy wines is fake (I may have rewound that a couple times), the film shows it’s the winemakers who suffer when fakes flood the market. Ponsot has the prestige, and the connections and the money, to jet around the world and conduct his own investigation. But just as he’s making progress, he has to cut it short and head home, because as he says “it's harvest time,” and he needs to go back to his actual job.
Highly recommended, and not a malnourished tiger in sight.
What are you watching/drinking/watching while drinking? Let me know!