|Dr. Conti enjoys Le Montrachizzle|
Call me Ishmael. I’m hunting the Great White Whale. Anybody seen Shanken around here? My first week in this hellhole, I can tell you, there was some serious Shanken going on. Thar she blows!!!
Rudy, I’m Dr. Bernkasteler. I’m a psychiatrist assigned by the court to help determine if you’re mentally competent to stand trial.
You’re a doctor?! Wow, what a coincidence. I’m a doctor, too. My friends called me Dr. Conti. Wanna know why? Because Dr. Romanée-Conti sounded too much like a gynecologist for gypsies.
I see. Well, Dr. Conti, are you aware of the charges against you?
Yes. They think I bilked a bunch of people out of money by selling fake bottles of very rare wines. It was fun. I’d open a bogus bottle of ’47 Cheval Blanc, pour it for these wealthy bozos, and then watch them ooh and ahh over it. So, here’s the cool part, when I get caught, rather than admit that they don’t know shit about wine, they all start to praise me for what a great palate I must have had to have been able to blend such convincing fakes! Yeah, that’s it. I’m a genius, you’re not a sucker. It’s like if you caught someone screwing your wife and instead of killing the guy, you ask him how he gets his tongue to do that.
Did you feel any guilt about selling fraudulent wines to people?
It depends, Dr., on how you define “fraud.” These days all wine people do is talk about Authentic Wine. Whole books are written on the subject by Authentic Dissemblers. According to the proponents of Authentic Wine, apparently very little Authentic Wine exists. Which means that all the rest of the wine sold, billions of cases, is Fraudulent Wine. Stuff is either authentic or fake, right? So why single me out? Why not go after Trader Joe’s, or Fred Franzia, or the really slow kid working at the 7-11? It’s just an economy of scale. I sold a few hundred cases of fraudulent wine for profit—they’re selling hundreds of thousands. The result is the same.
But didn’t you have any sort of remorse knowing that the wines you were consigning to auctions were complete fakes? That people, collectors and restaurants, were paying obscene amounts of money for what amounted to vintage wine tofurkey?
What sort of remorse does one have for an action that doesn’t hurt anyone involved? I made money, the auction houses made money… And the status twerkers who bought the wines? Hell, most of them still don’t know that their aged Burgundies are essentially microwaved Meridian Pinot Noir with some RC Cola added to give it some actual flavor. And they won’t know when they drink it one day either. No, their friends will mouth platitudes about what an honor it is to drink a wine made before they were born, which is every minute, by the way, the host will somehow mention, at the risk of sounding pretentious, that what he paid for the bottle would easily put his trophy bride through the finest private high school, and everyone will proclaim at the end what a mystical experience the whole evening has been. Everyone wins.
Not everyone. What about the wineries whose wines you faked?
You’re kidding, right? It’s simple. When auction prices for a winery’s product rise, the value of the winery rises, too, right? And maybe people will even pay more than usual for their wines when they know the wines came directly from their own cellars. No, really, it’s just like quality fake tits—there are no losers! Though I recommend you don’t do them on the installment plan. Both at once is the way to go. Really. I mean, look at Jay Miller.
Did you know you were breaking the law?
I used to have really expensive lunches with auction house “experts.” We’d talk about old wines, and, inevitably, the subject of fraudulent wines would come up. I’d ask a couple of questions, and these “experts” would spend the rest of the meal telling me, in minute detail, how they could always spot fake wines, tell me all the mistakes they looked for. I took notes. I asked more questions. Did they think I was writing an article for World of Fine Wine? They, basically, taught me Wine Forgery 101. “Hey, officer, so what is the gate code for Fort Knox? Just wanted to see if you knew it.” And, then, mind you, I’d call them up a couple of months later with another six Jeroboams of Domaine Ponsot for them to sell. I didn’t think I was breaking the law, I thought they were recruiting me.
Did you honestly think you’d never get caught?
I’m a wine geek, Dr. Bernkasteler. Deep down, we all think that one day we’re going to get caught.
I have to say, Dr. Conti, you don’t seem the least bit crazy to me.
Oh, I’m fucking nuts, alright. Spending long hours printing up fake labels, figuring out how to make the capsules look right, scrounging valuable empty bottles from sommeliers, mixing up formulas for wines to taste like old Burgundies or old Bordeaux, and for what? I can’t tell you how many times I went to a restaurant, my rich friends ordered an old white Burgundy, a ’64 Le Montrachet or something, and I knew it was one of my bottles. Kinda funny, but a lot like being adrift for eight weeks in the middle of the ocean and being forced to drink your own urine. Which it was. But at least I didn’t pay $1000 for it and drink it with a smile on my face…
“Wow,” they’d always say, “great minerality.”