The amazing story of Rudy Cuarnavan - the greatest wine expert and conman
Categories: Food and DrinksBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/article/the-amazing-story-of-rudy-cuarnavan-the-greatest-wine-expert-and-conman.html
Elite wine is a precious commodity for which connoisseurs and collectors are willing to pay a lot of money. The price of a bottle can easily reach several hundred thousand euros. It is obvious that only very rich people or those whom nature has endowed with a rare gift — to distinguish the subtleties of a bouquet of rare wines can enter the club of the elect. One of the lucky ones was Rudy Kuarnavan, a guy from Indonesia. He became first the most famous taster and collector, and then the most famous wine swindler on the planet.
Rudy Kuarnavana's real name is Jen Van Huang and he was born in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, in the family of a Chinese immigrant. Jen's family was not rich, but the guy's father did not want him to repeat his fate. Therefore, in 1998, the old man scraped together money and sent his son to study at the University of California as an accountant.
At that time, the first computer startups were booming in Silicon Valley. At first, technology fascinated the guy, but not for long. Very soon he discovered a new wonderful world of expensive wine. History is silent about when and where a poor student first tasted a bohemian drink. It is also unknown how Jen got into a society where only a select few could get into. But the fact remains that the student Jen Van Huang disappeared and the secular character Rudy Cuarnavan appeared from somewhere.
The refined and rich Asian Kuarnavan developed a stormy activity, becoming a regular at wine tastings and auctions. Just at that time, his student visa ended and the secular lion asked for political asylum in the United States. He was refused, but this did not bother Rudy at all. He just stayed in the country illegally, ignoring the laws. Then he will do it more than once.
Later, the police and even the FBI will not be able to find out where the poor Indonesian student got a lot of money. One can only assume that he received funds from Chinese relatives, caught in a major financial scam. Perhaps Rudy helped launder the "dirty" money.
A rich and generous guy named Rudy Cuarnavan easily joined the California hangout of rich idlers. He came to visit with expensive wines, which he knew perfectly well. When asked about who he was and how he got rich, the guy always told a story about his dad owning a brewery in distant Indonesia. Rudy's new friends were quite satisfied with this explanation.
Soon Quarnavan acquired a solid reputation in the circles of lovers of French wines. He had a reputation as a phenomenal expert, able to determine the year of harvest by smell. Rudy was even compared to the great connoisseur and critic Robert Patrick, whose opinion could crush prices on the global Bordeaux market.
But even this talent would not be enough for success. Important qualities that opened all the doors for Rudy were his charm and ability to make friends. They were glad to see him in many houses, because he did not come empty-handed, but with a bottle of wine for a couple of tens of thousands of euros!
Many were surprised that after the feast, the Quarnavan always took empty bottles with him. He explained this by saying that he did not want to supply scammers with containers. Later, it was the bottles that ruined the greatest connoisseur of collectible wines, but we will tell about this later.
Rudy not only treated friends and acquaintances to wine right and left. He was a regular participant in all major wine events. He bought wine at auctions for his collection, which many would like to see. Quarnavan was especially fond of the wine "Domain de la Romanee-Conti" (Le Domaine de la Romanee-Conti) - an expensive Burgundy variety. Because of this addiction, he was even nicknamed Dr. Conti.
By 2005, Rudy Cuarnavan's collection was considered the best in the world. Now he not only bought wines and treated the right people with them, but also sold them. This business brought the collector millions of euros – the wines that had been in his cellars only became more expensive.
At the end of 2006, Rudy made transactions in the wine market for $ 24.7 million (1.8 billion rubles), which was more than 2 times higher than the previous record. But in 2007, everything collapsed and the fault was caused by the very bottles that the collector was so careful of from prying eyes.
Rudy put up several bottles of 1982 Chateau Le Pin at Christie's auction. This lot became a real event and the auction house proudly put it on the cover of the catalog. The bottles were seen by the winemakers of Chateau Le Pin and immediately identified a fake. The forgery was immediately notified to the management of Christie's and the wine was removed from the auction.
We must pay tribute to Rudy, but he did not lose his head and immediately began to play the role of a victim deceived by fraudsters. He looked genuinely distressed by the man who bought a fake for a lot of money. "In the world of collectible Bordeaux, such shit happens!" grumbled Rudy and sighed languidly, counting the losses.
The deception almost got away with it, but suddenly other details came to light. It turned out that the wine from the collection of the Quarnavan Domaine Ponsot, dated 1945-1971, is also fake. It looked perfect, but the fact is that the first bottle of this "drink of the gods" was released only in 1982!
The second episode with fakes alarmed Rudy's regular customers. But it is not customary among millionaires to admit mistakes right away. Moreover, wine collectors do not like to do this. There is always some chance to sell a suspicious product to less sophisticated specialists. Therefore, Cuarnavan's clients hired private detectives and passions boiled around the guy.
Unfortunately for the "best expert in the world", dozens of his transactions turned out to be suspicious, including the record-breaking one in 2006. Rudy could not be forgiven for this, and the FBI took up the case. On March 8, 2012, the luxurious Cuarnavana mansion in California was stormed.
Of course, inside the police and federal agents found a grandiose in scope and technical equipment laboratory for counterfeiting wines. There was everything you needed: exclusive bottles and labels, machines for capping and printing stickers, unique corks and much more.
It turned out that Rudy, although he was a fraud, still had the beginnings of a conscience. He poured not just anything into collectible bottles, but good French Bordeaux. However, it cost hundreds of times cheaper than the conman put it up for sale. A person who does not have Rudy's outstanding gift might well not notice the fake.
The investigation and trial lasted more than a year. In December 2013, the fraudster was sentenced to 10 years for fraud on a particularly large scale. Rudy, once again becoming a Gen, served most of his sentence and was released in 2021. He could not stay in the United States – the country's authorities deported him to his homeland, Indonesia. History is silent about how the fate of the greatest wine expert and swindler turned out.
Do you know why wine bottles have a concave bottom?