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Ponsot and de Villaine testify in Kurniawan trial

On day four of the trial of alleged wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan, Burgundy heavyweights Laurent Ponsot and Aubert de Villaine testified against Kurniawan.

Laurent Ponsot arrives at court in New York. Credit: Stan Honda/AFP

As reported by AFP, taking the witness stand, Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot in Morey St. Denis, told the jury he was alerted by email two days before an April 2008 auction in New York where 97 purported bottles of Domaine Ponsot were to be sold.

The auction, put on by Acker Merrall & Condit, was offering bottles of Domaine Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis from 1945 and 1949. “It is an appellation we started in 1982,” Ponsot told the jury.

In response, Ponsot contacted Acker Merrall & Condit demanding the wines be withdrawn from the auction and flew to New York.

Arriving at the auction 10 minutes after it started, Ponsot had the wines withdrawn from sale at the last minute. “The wines were there, in the room,” he confirmed.

Several of the bottles from the auction were exhibited in court and Ponsot pointed out the forgeries.

Aubert de Villaine. Credit: Jonas Fredwall Karlsson

“This one is very obvious. Clos Saint-Denis, and it says 1945. This cannot exist. And a label from Nicolas? We never sold to Nicolas,” Ponsot said.

“And a Clos de la Roche 1929? They only began bottling in the 1930s,” he added.

Ponsot told the 12-member jury that he had lunch the day after the auction with Kurniawan and asked him where he had sourced the wine from.

“I saw him watching his plate, saying, ‘I don’t know, I buy so many bottles’. I found it bizarre,” he told the court.

A month later, Ponsot emailed Kurniawan asking who he had bought the wines from, to which Kurniawan gave the name “Pak Hendra in Asia.” Pak is Indonesian for “Mr.” and Hendra is a very common surname in Indonesia.

Aubert de Villaine, co-director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, was invited to take the witness stand to look at various labels found at Kurniawan’s home.

de Villaine was shown packets of labels of DRC from 1933, 1915, 1911 and 1900 collected by the FBI during a search of Kurniawan’s LA home.

“To see labels like this that no longer exist at our domaine is quite incredible. It’s more than extraordinary. It’s like a movie,” de Villaine told the court.

Christophe Roumier of the Domaine Roumier also testified that bottles of 1923 Bonnes Mares Domaine Belorgey purportedly belonging to his family could not exist because his father did not purchase the Domaine Belorgey estate until 1952.

Kurniawan’s defense team will soon get the chance to present its case to the jury. The 37-year-old faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

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