Sour Grapes tells the story of Rudy Kurniawan, the convicted (spoiler alert!) wine counterfeiter. We in the wine world know the story of how he came from nowhere in the early 2000s, ingratiated himself with some of the biggest collectors in the land, poured tens of millions of dollars into fine wine at auction, and then reversed and sold tens of millions of dollars of wine wine, including many fakes passed off as the world’s top wines.
But what is particularly compelling here is a trove of video of Kurniawan in action. Not only does he actually speak as opposed to the many court drawings we have seen of him, they actually have him utter the priceless line–in jest!–“I refill and put the cork back”! This old footage alone is reason for wine enthusiasts to see it. It’s fun to see some cameos for people in the wine world. (Though I still would like to see a movie version of this story told as fiction, with actors.)
It works as a movie too. I had a non-wine friend check out the film and he gave it a thumbs up. The film crew decamps to Burgundy to get some beautiful B roll footage; Laurent Ponsot comes off great in his role as inspecteur.
So put it in your queue, make some popcorn cooked with extra virgin coconut oil, and pop some champagne–just make sure it’s not a fake.
Sour Grapes, a new documentary about wine fraud, is being released on Netflix next month.
The movie centers on the case of convicted wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan. In fact, the film’s two directors, Jerry Rothwell and Reuben Atlas, met at Kurniawan’s trial in Manhattan where they had ventured separately, each with an eye to making a documentary. In a phone interview, Rothwell said they quickly decided to join forces after speaking with witnesses who had testified in the trial.
One of those was Laurent Ponsot who welcomed them and the camera crew to his Burgundy domaine. Rothwell says that the film “a bit like a detective story.” Ponsot is positioned in the film as one of the detectives, trying to solve the mystery of fake bottles and the perona of Rudy Kurniawan. Others include the investigative team of Bill Koch as well as Maureen Downey and Don Cornwell.
One of the things about the film that is apparent from the trailer (above in case you get this via email and the youtube clip doesn’t render) is that they have real clips of Kurniawan walking and talking as opposed to those courtroom drawings that made him look like an alien life form (but courtroom sketches don’t do anybody favors, just ask Tom Brady). At one point he even jokes “I refill and put the cork back”! Rothwell says much of this footage came from another documentary about wine collectors shot in 2002 but that didn’t see the light of day.
Rothwell says that the Netflix came on board early, as well as ARTE, the Franco-German TV network. He says that he started the project just after Kurniawan was arrested but work and filming in earnest lasted about a year, which is fast. Working with Netflix streamlined it too and made for fewer headaches.
The Kurniawan story seems a perfect fit for TV or movies. The rights to a dramatic version of the story were sold in 2012.
Gérard Depardieu (The Belgian resident and Russian citizen) will star in a new buddy film set on the wine route in…Beaujolais.
The film, entitled Sait-Amour after the Beaujolais appellation, is evocative in theme to Sideways, the 2005 Oscar winner. In Saint-Amour, Depardieu plays a farmer who seeks a rapprochement with his son by taking a tour along a wine route–a real one, not just doing the circuit of wine stands at the agricultural fairs. Throw in a young driver named Mike and a love interest…et voila.
It will be interesting to see if the film, released in March of this year in France, will have as big an impact on the Beaujolais region and wines as Sideways did for Santa Barbara and Pinot. I’m guessing no. First, it’s a French release and the French already know the charms of Beaujolais. It could go some distance raising the reputation of the region, which for many people, remains tethered to the quick-to-market Beaujolais Nouveau. Second, for it to have much of an impact here, it would have to be remade in English, which would probably mean shifting the location to the US. Oh, but wait–we already had that with Sideways. So, yeah, I don’t see this as providing much of a fillip to Beaujolais in the US.
Can’t hurt though! And I, for one, look forward to streaming it. Trailer follows below.