Wine Collecting Has Nothing To Do With Bestiality

Fraud in the wine World

Fraud in the wine World

If you don’t read Joe Roberts blog 1winedude, you missed the one where he likened wine collecting with bestiality. Ok, it wasn’t that direct of a reference, but he went there. He was referring to the Rudy Kurniwan trial, which has been covered in nearly every news outlet there is. In short, Rudy Kurniawan has been found guilty of selling counterfeit wine through the mail and engaging in wire fraud.

One of the victims of Rudy Kurniawan’s wine fraud scheme was William I Koch. I happened to know Mr. Koch, and have had the privilege of being in his wine cellars more than once. He’s a very genuine man, who has a fantastic collection of wine. He is very proud of that collection, and rightfully so. Mr. Koch has taken great offense to the fraud perpetuated by Mr. Kurniawan, and has said “I want to shine a bright light on this whole fraud to show how bad it is.”

Fraud in the wine collecting world

Fraud in the wine collecting world

Getting back to Joe, Joe believes that we’ll never stamp out fraud in the fine wine collecting world. He loosely ties the collectors desire to obtain a rare wine to being in an aroused state where they would do something irrational, such as buy rare wines that could not exist. Joe goes on to say this is similar to how people would agree to finding bestiality enjoyable if they were in an already aroused state when answering the question. Not a terrible article, bestiality reference aside! I am paraphrasing here, so read his article for the whole story. The point is, Joe feels that since collectors have this irrational excitement over collecting rare fine wine, the fraud is so easily committed it’s almost a self fulfilling prophecy.

I don’t think I agree with his angle, however. It’s not necessarily the collector and their excitement over owning the rare gem that promotes the fraud. Rather, it’s the fact that regardless of how we try to stop it, no matter what the safeguards, fraud can be and is still perpetuated. The penalties for these frauds are no where near as severe as the rewards when committing it.

Look at medicare fraud as an example. There’s no aroused collector in that situation. And there are various agencies committed to stopping the fraud. And yet, hundreds of millions of dollars are lost annually because the reward of the fraud far outweighs the risk of being caught.

Quivira Zinfandel Pig Icon

Quivira Zinfandel Pig Icon

It’s the same for the wine world. It’s not about Mr Koch’s excitement to own a rare bottle of wine. That isn’t why the fraud happened. Rather, it is because the benefit to Rudy Kurniawan far outweighed the risk. No collector can be expected to know everything about every producer and vintage of wine for sale. Heck, no Master Sommelier can be expected to know that. While I agree with a buyer beware sentiment, until the punishment far exceeds the benefit, fraud will continue in our society. And let’s leave animals out of this, we have enough critter labels in the wine world.

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  • http://www.1winedude.com 1WineDude

    Thanks! I’m not sure that our views are somehow at odds?

    Perpetuators of fraud need victims, otherwise there’s no market. Victims need to make a mistake, unless the fraud is amazingly elaborate, which in this case it probably wasn’t.

    I’m not saying that they’re not victims; they are, and have been wronged, and deserve reparations. But I am saying that the situation is more “buyer beware” than it is “helpless victim.” We’re talking about victims who’ve spent millions – millions! – in some cases without doing anywhere near the same amount of research that I’d do if I was buying a $300 television set. There’s not likely to be much of a sympathy vote there.

    We absolutely need to stamp out fraud, or at least try. And the wine works needs people like Koch fighting that fight and getting the auction houses to do more diligence, etc. But so long as people are people, they’ll get caught up in the moment and spend too much money on some things without looking into the details; it’s human nature, and despicable humans will always try to prey on that.

  • http://agoodtimewithwine.com mmwine

    Ok, fine, I acquiesce! There is no doubt that “in the heat of the moment” we do things that we normally wouldn’t do when calm, cool and collected. That is why “in the heat of the moment” is some kind of legal defense. I agree with you. The bestiality study was quite interesting, and way too good of a hook to let go.

    I made a blog post, rather than just commenting on http://1winedude.com because I felt there was a bigger social issue to look at. This isn’t just about Bill Koch and wine. It’s about the need for stiffer penalties for fraud. Not just wine fraud, or medicare fraud. All fraud. Identity theft carries little to no penalty of consequence, or it would have been squashed already. Perhaps we need to consider the punishment the Dutch imposed on severe offenders of the law in Gouda in the 17th century. If you’ve ever visited the old Town Hall in Gouda, you’ll see the iron spikes outside the town hall. You can only imagine what they were used for.

    Wait, did I just advocate what I think I did? Maybe a bit severe, I agree. But maybe it’s time to find a way to fix this problem.