Part-documentary, part who-done-it, “Sour Grapes” is a fascinating film that pulls back the curtain on how fine wine is bought and sold between industry players and auction houses and tells the incredible tale of fraud and scandal that rocked this rarified world in the go-go ‘90s and early aughts.
The story follows a young wine connoisseur, Rudy Kurniawan, Indonesian by birth and an adult living in Los Angeles as the tale unfolds. We begin to become acquainted with Rudy as he finds his way in the staid wine business, racking up friends, status and a reputation, by no coincidence, in the city of re-invention. With a blurry past and a self-made narrative, Rudy slowly but surely begins to corner the market in rare wine, paying millions of dollars every month for bottles of the good stuff.
Over time, Rudy gains a loyal following (you’ll watch interviews with a Koch brother), and the trust of auction houses and collectors alike, save for one man, Laurent Ponsot, the owner of a fourth-generation Burgundian vineyard. He begins to notice at wine auctions that the Domaine Ponsot bottles from Rudy’s collection don’t match up with the ones his estate produced. Ponsot begins a journey to trace the origin of these counterfeit bottles, and that’s when this documentary starts to feel like a Dan Brown novel set in the wine world.
The film juxtaposes wine characters: wealthy oenophiles (all men) who get duped out of millions of dollars whom you don’t feel much sympathy for against the salt-of-the-earth vintners plying dutifully away at their craft. It all unravels like a great mystery, calling into question the structures and system itself and those who appraise and value wine. The only person in this whole skunked affair we don’t learn much about is Rudy himself (or his motives), which, in the age of over-sharing, is perhaps his greatest con of all.
🍇🍇🍇 out of 4