On December 10, 2015 in Creedmor, Texas, the U.S. government destroyed more than 500 bottles of wine. The image of a massive sledge falling upon bottles of wine, and the resultant destruction elicits pain in our boozy bosoms. WHY, OH, LORD, WHY?
This was not a prohibitionist pique. The wines were destroyed because they were counterfeits. They came from the collection of Rudy Kurniawan, who was convicted of trafficking millions in bogus, rare wines. (Note: Kurniawan should not be confused with Hardy Rodenstock, another wine fraudster whose mega-mischief was described in the book The Billionaire’s Vinegar. Hollywood isworking up a flick starring Matthew McConaughey regarding the scandal.)
Kurniawan, whose rocket-climb to the top of high society was detailed by Vanity Fair, produced fake uber-rare wines by creating faux-aged corks and pouring plonk. He had quite the operation going, reported one special agent:
“There were old bottles soaking in the sink. There was fresh wax dripping off bottles in another room. There were piles and piles of corks, and on the kitchen counter there were 30 to 50 open bottles with a funnel and re-corker next to them. We found fake labels going back to 1899. He could make any label going back to the end of the 1800s.”
Presently, Kurniawan is residing in a California prison, where he may stay for a decade. He has been ordered to pay $28.4 million in restitution.
Masochists who wants to see more photos of the wines being destroyed can surf over to U.S. Marshall’s Flickr page of the tragic event.
Kevin R. Kosar is a senior fellow at the R Street Institute and the author of Whiskey: A Global History. He is the editor and founder of AlcoholReviews.com and a frequent contributor to The American Spectator’s Saloon Series, a cultural investigation of the modern drink.