W. Blake Gray has published something on the notorious and recently deceased Hardy Rodenstock, “a prolific wine counterfeiter who operated with impunity for two decades”.
Thanks to Blake for interviewing me (by email).
I pondered the parallels between Rodenstock and Kurniawan.
First, there is the emergence from nowhere to eminence in fine wine circles. The back story, if there was one, was nebulous. Neither of them were known by their given names but instead by assumed names.
The source of their apparent wealth was not obvious. In Rodenstock’s case, it apparently included a Taiwanese company that packaged walnuts stuffed with a condom, which he then made gifts of to guests at his tastings.
There was the seemingly miraculous ability to source wines from “secret” or “magic” cellars. Questions about provenance were met with contradictions and deviousness.
Somebody told me recently, “Hardy’s business was far more lucrative than Rudy’s. I had the opportunity to view a small sampling of their bank records. Hardy was a super nova (sic) and Rudy was a comet. The former operated for more than four decades; the latter six years… For some strange reason, collectors loved his notoriety. He would hold four tastings at the Hafemklub (sic – he meant Hafen-Klub) in Hamburg every year at 2000 Euros a head even after the media published articles about him in the mid 2000s. And they came in droves.”
The similarities show that Kurniawan was not inevitable. Without Rodenstock, there is no Kurniawan.
I corresponded with Rodenstock by fax in 2006 after Bill Koch had filed a civil complaint against Rodenstock in a New York federal court. (I was writing about it for The World of Fine Wine, where I then worked.)
My recollection of his fax’s content is that he was belligerently defensive in broken English. That’s as close as I got to him…