Have you ever been out for a posh dinner with your mate’s mate, who insisted on buying the most expensive wine on the menu, swirling it around in his glass and doing an overdramatic sniff, declaring it “perfect,” only for yourself to have a quaff five minutes later and conclude that the half-opened bottle of Aldi sauvignon in your fridge is just as good? Well, after watching this you’ll have yourself convinced it really was a bottle of plonk in disguise.
This weird and wonderful documentary tells the story of Rudy Kurniawan, who in the early 2000s turned the world of wine-collecting upside down. The film reveals a wine world that is in the same realm as buying art – there are auctions, events, conferences, and hordes of rich folk waiting to get their hands on the best bottles about. And at first, it seemed like Rudy Kurniawan was one of these people – he spent huge sums of money at auctions, buying up rare wine bottles and schmoozing with the big dogs of the wine world. Then, he sold the bottles for a huge profit, which triggered the suspicion of winemaker Laurent Ponsot. He demanded the wine from his winery be pulled and tested, which revealed that Kurniawan was flogging fakes.
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This film plays out equally as both a classic, Poirot mystery, and like a series of Bling Empire, where we gawp at these people with more money than sense. It is brilliantly entertaining – the crimes Kurniawan committed seem almost unbelievable, but after the FBI found fake labels and instructions on how to pass off cheap wine as fine wine in his house, there’s no doubt about it. And watching the interviewees – mostly made up of the real deal wine dealers – fill with rage whilst recounting the story, is quietly comic. A definite must see for those who enjoy their true crime with a side serving of vino.
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The Financial Times’s Nigel Andrews is clearly one of those people, as he gave Sour Grapes four stars and calls it “a tasty wine documentary with a hint of impertinence,” and admits “With a star commentating cameo from author Jay McInerney, this tale of outrage among the quaffing classes is hugely entertaining.” And Variety’s Dennis Harvey agrees, saying, “few viewers are likely to shed a tear for the gullibility of such wealthy connoisseurs, whose enthusiasms sometimes look like simply an elitist form of hoarding.” He adds: “Appropriately, “Sour Grapes” is packaged as a sort of luxury caper narrative, complete with handsome lensing of various enviable locales and a score by Marseille’s Lionel Corsini” And giving another four star review is Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, who thinks this is a “highly entertaining,” film.
First shown May 2016. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.