How can you avoid buying a fraudulent bottle? What makes a wine truly authentic? How did Rudy Kurniawan get so far in his fraudulent schemes and why did it ultimately unravel?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Rebecca Gibb, author of Vintage Crime: A Short History of Wine Fraud.
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- What caused the wine scandal in the 1980s, which devastated the Austrian wine scene?
- How did the Austrian wine industry turn around its image and recover?
- What was the story behind the famous Thomas Jefferson wine fraud scandal?
- How did Rudy Kurniawan get so far in his fraudulent schemes and why did it ultimately unravel?
- What makes a wine truly authentic?
- How is modern technology being used to detect fraud?
- Why is Don & Petie Kladstrup’s book, Wine and War, one of Rebecca’s favourites?
- What is it about food and wine pairing that Rebecca doesn’t like?
- Which famous person would Rebecca love to share a bottle of wine with?
- Rebecca shared some great tips on how we can avoid buying a fake bottle of wine.
- I found her larger discussion of what makes a wine truly authentic fascinating.
- The story of Rudy Kurniawan and his fraudulent schemes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars sounds like the script of a movie or Netflix special.
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There are so many shades of what is considered authentic wine; it really differs from person to person. - Rebecca Gibb Click to tweet
People have committed fraud in the past because the wine wasn’t pleasurable. - Rebecca Gibb Click to tweet
About Rebecca Gibb
Deleted: Rebecca Gibb is an editor for the online wine publication Vinous, covering the wines of New Zealand and the Loire Valley. In addition, she owns a wine and spirit jigsaw business, Puzzle Cru. Rebecca is one of only 416 Masters of Wine in the world and was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award and the Bollinger Medal in recognition of her superb tasting ability. She lived in New Zealand for six years but has since returned to the north of England, recently moving to the beautiful Lake District in the UK.
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- Treat yourself and your friends to a live online wine tasting and inspirational conversation between Menna Riley and yours truly about my powerful new memoir. All you need to do to join this private online party is purchase wine from one (or more) of the following top-notch wineries:
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 255: Wine Crime & Con Artists with Rebecca Gibb, Author of Vintage Crime: A Short History of Wine Fraud
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- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 29: Wine Scandals, Fakes and Forgery with Maureen Downey
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Natalie MacLean (00:00):
You, yourself, say in the book what makes a wine truly authentic? We talk about terroir and soil and climate. It’s signature of the place. Are we fetishizing all of that?
Rebecca Gibb (00:09):
Yes. What is deemed authentic in Roman times is not necessarily what some of us might consider authentic today. Authentic. It depends who you are, what country you live in, what period you’re alive in. In Roman times, they added herbs and lead salts and honey to the wine because it tasted foul. We’ve come to a certain place now in our evolution of science that we can make wine that tastes good and can be kept for a long time. Some people think that having sulfur dioxide in wine to help preserve it, to stop it from microbial infection, is wrong. Don’t agree with them. There are just so many shades of what you might think is authentic and it really differs from person to person.
Natalie MacLean (00:51):
Yeah, it is a spectrum. From the puritanical to the fraudster.
Fo you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean, and each week I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now, pass me that bottle please and let’s get started.
Welcome to episode 256. How do you avoid buying a fake bottle of wine? What makes wine truly authentic? How did Rudy Kurniawan get so far in his fraudulent schemes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? And why did they ultimately unravel? In today’s episode, you’ll hear the stories and tips that answer those questions in Part Two of our chat with Rebecca Gibb, Master of Wine and author of the new book Vintage Crime: A Short History of Wine Fraud. You don’t need to have listened to Part One from last week first, but I hope you’ll go back if you missed it after you finish this one.
Here’s a review of my new memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much from Sylvain Segar in Prince Edward County. “Natalie McLean’s latest book is quite different from her first two books, but it is equally enjoyable. It’s a pleasant and fast read. Her prose is light, friendly, even poetic. The book has a quick cadence of wit, self-reflection, and information. It sheds light on who she is, the people and the values she cares for, and the difficult wine world within which she operates. She also calls for an open dialogue about the structural intolerance and harassment which exists within parts of the wine industry. Wines are a kaleidoscope of terroir, varietals, styles, aromas, flavours, and vintages. So should wineries and winemakers also be inclusive of the rainbow of cultures, creeds, colours, genders, and ages in order to kindly express the full range and greatness in the wonderful world of winemaking. Kudos to Natalie for her candour, courage, and couth. Despite self deprecating image, she displayed great leadership in rising above the layers of personal and professional challenges of working in the wine industry. And stylistically, she has a classy way to give back to friends and foes by pouring a generous glass of life learnings. Five stars”. Thank you, Sylvain.
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Coming up, I’ll be hosting a wine tasting and book launch event at the Ottawa Writers Festival on Friday, October 27th at 6:30 PM. Two glasses of wine are included. Register at writersfestival.org. I’ll also be hosting an event on Thursday, November 9th at 7:00 PM that you can attend no matter where you live. Treat yourself and your friends to a live online wine tasting and inspirational conversation between Menna Riley and yours truly about all things wine. I’ll share the juicy behind the scenes stories about those who make, market, and write about wine. All you need to do to join this private online party is purchase wine from one of the following top-notch wineries: Quails Gate, Westcott Vineyards, or Benjamin Bridge. Now, you can also choose to buy wines from two of the wineries or all three, it’s your choice. But at least one to participate. All three wineries ship across Canada to your doorstep, and we’ll include a copy of the book. IIf you already have it, give it as a holiday gift as I’ll be sending out sign book plates for every copy.You’ll also receive a zoom link at the email address that you used to buy the wine.
Do you live outside Canada? You can still participate. Email me for details at [email protected]. Let’s get you warmed up for your holiday season with this fun discussion in wine tasting. Make it a holiday gift to yourself. You do deserve a treat. Can’t make it to the live event. Don’t worry. Everyone who registers will be sent a video recording link after the event that you and your friends can watch, and along with at your own convenience. Make that your holiday tasting party. Please let your friends, family, and colleagues know about these events. I’ll include links to the events and the wineries in the show notes at NatalieMacLean.com/256. Okay. On with the show.
Okay. The Austrian wine scandal which again we’ll summarize. You have to get the juicy details in the book. But in 1985, certain small group I think of vintners were adding an ingredient. I don’t know if it was an ingredient of antifreeze. Antifreeze or it was fused with antifreeze or both?. It certainly wasn’t lethal except in extreme amounts, but tell us what they were adding and why they were doing it.
Rebecca Gibb (06:45):
So you need context of what’s happening in Austria at that time. People have been planting a lot of vines because they’ve been told that there’s going to be this huge market for Austrian wine. Doesn’t materialize. And so they’re big yields, lots of grapes, not making very nice wine. And there’s a taste at this time for sweet wine, and they’ve been told there’s been a lobby change that they’re not allowed to add a sweetening agent anymore, and somebody who’s feeling inventive discovers that they can use a thing called diethylene glycol, which isn’t antifreeze. Antifreeze is actually ethylene glycol. But somebody in the media department who wants to make a sensation, somebody in the news department of some magazine or newspaper or a television station cuts the…
Natalie MacLean (07:30):
Rebecca Gibb (07:31):
The media. And as journalists get the compound confused and suddenly it becomes the antifreeze scandal, which isn’t. But yeah, the adding basically this diethylene glycol, it plumps out wine. It’s like what sugar does to a wine. It plumps out. It makes it richer, just a lot more lovely and easy to drink. If you go in Germany or Austria, you can have some real high acids in your wine. It can just smooth any creases out.
Natalie MacLean (08:00):
Wow. But it wasn’t lethal. Did it have any sort of deleterious effect or it was just an illegal ingredient that was the main problem with it?
Rebecca Gibb (08:09):
Well, in large quantities, not good for your health. But in small quantities, yeah. I mean, it wasn’t going to kill you in small quantities. In very large, you’d have to drink an awful lot of wine and alcohol poisoning would get you before the diethylene glycol would get you.
But story breaks. And media gets hold of it, and people don’t really know what effects are. So it becomes a big scandal and there’s a lot of concern. There’s a lot of misinformation. But as a result, the Austrian wine scene is just devastated by it.
Natalie MacLean (08:48):
Now you say exports dropped 90% and didn’t recover for 16 years, which is incredible. What a damage to their reputation.
Rebecca Gibb (08:56):
It’s a huge damage to the reputation. I mean, you also have to look at the taking that with a pinch salt as well. Exports have never been massive for Austria. Austrian wine has been traditionally drunk by Austrian before it happened and its markets for exports and exports were really to begin with, were Germany and Switzerland. So often German speaking places. But I think you’d probably agree that what you’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years, what comes out of Austria now is worthy of, more often than not, it’s worthy of Michelin star restaurants. There’s a lot of very fine wine coming out of Austria now. They really turned it around.
Natalie MacLean (09:32):
Oh yeah. It’s fantastic. The quality is amazing. So did they do anything else, the Austrians, apart from fixing the issue and improving their quality and perhaps implementing new laws? Was there anything else they did to recover their reputation?
Rebecca Gibb (09:47):
Well, I think the new laws were. They became very stringent. People went to prison. A lot of people went out of business in the late 1980s because of the scandal. The sales just absolutely. It’s taken a really long time for Austria to come back. But yeah, stringent wine laws have really sort of pulled it up by its britches.
Natalie MacLean (10:07):
Yes, absolutely. Well the flagship white wine, Grüner Veltliner, and even the light reds are superb food wines. I mean, I recommend them all the time. And they have what’s working against them is I don’t think so much – the memory is faded at least for new consumers of that scandal – but it’s just hard to pronounce these names. Don’t know where they come from. They still have a lot of marketing they have to do, I think, in consumer awareness. But they are doing it for sure.
Rebecca Gibb (10:35):
Yeah, I think so too. I think Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are great. I love the purity of them. They’re dry styles and at least the grape variety on the label which is helpful.
Natalie MacLean (10:45):
True. Yes, that is helpful.
Rebecca Gibb (10:45):
And they don’t have the crazy product level. You don’t have to start looking at Kabinett, Beerenauslese, and Trockenbeerenauslese, and you just start scratching your head.
Natalie MacLean (10:56):
All the German classifications. Okay, so let’s keep going in our little speedboat here. One of the most famous counterfeit wines involved a bottle from Thomas Jefferson’s cellar. Now, this wasn’t during that time, but it was much later. I don’t know if it was the 90s or when it happened but it subsequently resulted in a book called The Billionaire’s Vinegar, which might be made into a movie. But how did this fraudster get away with this? He was passing off a bottle, very expensive bottles, as belonging to the former US president.
Rebecca Gibb (11:28):
How did Hardy Rodenstock get away with pulling the wool over people’s eyes? Well, I think we can look at Hardy Rodenstock because – his real name was Meinhard Goerke – and he was a minor pop band, folksy German band manager. But he loved wine and he became part of the German fine wine scene. He was a part of it. And there’s no doubt that a lot of the wines that he brought to dinners and a lot of the wines that he shared were actually the real deal. But then I think he took things too far. Perhaps it’s that ego thing that we see in the MICE acronym that we talked about earlier.
Natalie MacLean (12:08):
Rebecca Gibb (12:08):
I think that he starts to find all these treasures and people are like, oh, where’s he got this from? But people are being. Chateau owners, like the owner of Chateau Yquem fine Wines, fine wine people were backing him and saying, this is the real deal. Christie’s auction House, they sold his wine. They sold this Jefferson bottle for a world breaking amount to Malcolm Forbes.
Natalie MacLean (12:33):
How much was it?
Rebecca Gibb (12:34):
It was over a hundred thousand pounds, and it took less than two minutes to sell it. It was crazy at the time. This is value 30 years ago. So that’s a lot of money at the time, and it goes on display in Fifth Avenue. Anyway. How does he manage to dupe people for so long that he’s in the right? He’s not a nice man, if you dare question his authority. And he had the backing of of Christie. They said the wines were authentic.
Natalie MacLean (13:01):
The auction house.
Rebecca Gibb (13:02):
Yeah, they were authentic. And I think this is big problem the wine industry has faced a long time is that, well, we haven’t had the technology or the know-how to call out fraud. And when you’re in the wine trade, you might know this, everyone likes everyone else to most of the extent, but there’s sort of a chumminess within the wine industry,
And there’s an element of trust that you are giving me is correct. And I think that the wine industry has traded off trust for too long, and it has come to the realization that perhaps there needs to be more scrupulous.
Natalie MacLean (13:37):
I forget which US president was, but trust and verify. I don’t know if that was Reagan or who it was, but yeah trust and then verify. Yeah. So he finally got found out. How was he discovered?
Rebecca Gibb (13:50):
Did he finally get discovered though? because…
Natalie MacLean (13:53):
Oh, did he?
Rebecca Gibb (13:54):
Well he did. But to the bitter end. Well, the court ruled that he was. A court ruled eventually after 25 years that there was misdoing, that he’d committed fraud, but he didn’t turn up for the hearing and he kept flatly denying it. He never went to prison. He never paid any money in reparations.
Natalie MacLean (14:16):
But he did go to jail or prison rather?
Rebecca Gibb (14:19):
No, this is the problem. There have not really been. The rewards are high and the risk is being quite low.
Natalie MacLean (14:28):
Rebecca Gibb (14:28):
No one had been jailed for wine fraud until Kurniawan, and that’s 2013 off the top of my head. So he commits this fraud. I think he loses face. He loses face and he falls out the wine scene. But yeah, he never kind of goes away. And there was always this question mark over him. He died recently, but there’s always been this big question mark over the veracity of the wines and will we ever truly know.
Natalie MacLean (14:55):
Right, right. And you mentioned his next door neighbour in the hall of rogues here, Rudy Kurniawan…
Rebecca Gibb (15:02):
Hall of rogues. I like that.
Natalie MacLean (15:06):
Wine rogues. Yes, please do. He had a taste for the high life. He was another fraudster, if I’m quoting you correctly, ran up a credit card bill of $6 million at one point. And a large chunk of it was it Versace or some other high-end designer? Hermes, yes, yes.
Rebecca Gibb (15:24):
He racked up some great credit card bills on Amex so he’d got a lot of points.
Natalie MacLean (15:29):
Wow. Not good though, if you can’t use them from jail.
Rebecca Gibb (15:33):
No, not so much.
Natalie MacLean (15:33):
No, but no.
Rebecca Gibb (15:35):
Yeah, I call him the Great Gatsby of wine in my book.
He’s a bit like Rodenstock. He starts buying up wine. He gets himself a reputation. He ingratiates himself with the fine wine circles, the guys who go to the auction houses. He socializes in high flying circles. He goes to fine dining. He talks about wine. He seems quite knowledgeable. People start trusting him. So it’s a good basis to start coming fraud from
Natalie MacLean (16:02):
Absolutely. People loved to be in his company. And he was quite generous in sharing both real and fake wines. But he got found out for a Bordeaux, I think it was a Poncharac wine. What happened? What was his mistake?
Rebecca Gibb (16:16):
It was a Lauren Ponsot. So it was in 1929. Lauren Ponsot. So yeah, that’s when things were starting to unravel for him. I think there’s a wine forum called Wine Berserkers that I don’t frequent. [laughter] I don’t it. It’s highfalutin…
Natalie MacLean (16:33):
Rebecca Gibb (16:33):
… circles for men I haven’t seen any women on there recently or ever in fact. So it’s a circle for wine collectors and people were starting to question him and going how did he get his hands on this and such? But lots of auction houses were still taking his wine and they were still auctioning them off. And wine authenticators were authenticating people’s cellars, and they were finding a lot of wines that they bought were from Rudy Kurniawan that had been gone through auction houses’ supposed selection process, and they turned out to be fraudulent. But yeah, it was a bottle of some Lauren Ponsot. They hadn’t started domain bottling yet in 1929, so it couldn’t have existed. So Lauren Ponsot flies over to New York, going what’s going on? You can’t sell this one at auction. It doesn’t exist. I think that in Rudy’s words excuse my French but he says sometimes shit happens he was quoted as saying. And that’s not really a good enough response, is it? And the FBI were on his case at this time. And yeah, finally they raided his Californian house early one morning and it all turned to custard for him.
Natalie MacLean (17:38):
It was kind of like a grow house but for wine. He said it had cheap heaters and there was bottles on his treadmill and labels everywhere. It sounded like a kind of…
Rebecca Gibb (17:49):
He was really caught red handed. It was like a climate controlled house. He was living there with his mother, and they were only in their rooms. That was the only place where there were heaters. Yeah, there were bottles on the treadmill. They found recipes for like 1945 Mouton Rothschild. How to make it.
Natalie MacLean (18:04):
Rebecca Gibb (18:04):
Recipes, stamps, wax. The FBI agent in charge called it sort of a modern day wine factory.
Natalie MacLean (18:12):
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. That’s so funny. Usually its those small details that will trip up the criminals. I forgot to ask you or mention back at the Austrian antifreeze, what actually broke that scandal?. What was one vintner trying to do? That is just so silly.
Rebecca Gibb (18:31):
An inordinate quantity of ethylene glycol and he tried to claim the tax back on it. The accountant wondered why he had so much.
Natalie MacLean (18:41):
[laughter] Yeah, it’s usually accounting that will get you. Either that or vintage.
That how they get all the gangsters or the mob. So your story raised an important question as you yourself say in the book, what makes a wine truly authentic? You raising your hands for those who can’t see you. Is there anything that comes to mind in terms of, I mean I guess a wine is what it says it is could be one definition. But we talk about terroir and soil and climate, it’s signature of the place, and all this sort of thing. Are we fetishizing all of that?
Rebecca Gibb (19:15):
Yes. Yes. we are. No, I think that this is a history of wine fraud. And what is deemed authentic in Roman times is not necessarily what some of us might consider authentic today. Often it depends who you are, what country you live in, what period you’re alive in, if you are a vintner. If you’re a grape grower, if you’re a vintner, if you are a wine consumer or a wine merchant that can also alter what you think is an authentic wine. Your attitude towards making wine, whether I don’t want to talk about natural wine, but it has to be said some people who follow natural wine movement, grow their grapes organically, they think the only grapes should be in it and why yeast should take hold, and that is all that should be in wine. That’s what they consider natural wine. That’s what they think is truly authentic.
That was how people made wine in Roman times and that’s why they added herbs and lead salts and honey to the wine because it tasted foul. We’ve come to certain place in our life now in our evolution of science that we can make wine that tastes good and can be kept for a long time. So that we can expect a wine that tastes pleasurable. And it’s where it from. It is what it is that on the label. Some people think that having sulfur dioxide in wine to help preserve it to stop it from microbial infection is wrong. Don’t agree with them. People do have these. There are just so many shades of what you might think is authentic and yeah it really differs from person to person. I think we have our own opinion on that.
Natalie MacLean (20:52):
Yeah, it is a spectrum from the puritanical to the fraudster. And where do you find yourself fitting? In the middle somewhere?
Rebecca Gibb (20:59):
Yeah. And I think there’s also another debate that if you are a fraudster and someone is drinking your bottle of. So imagine you’re drinking a bottle of Kurniawan’s 1945. Well, they said it was two parts costae, one part Chateau Karma, one part high-end Cabernet. Now, do you know what most of us can’t afford to drink costae or karma? I’m like, that sounds like a pretty delicious drink to me.
Natalie MacLean (21:21):
Rebecca Gibb (21:22):
If you have a bottle of that and you don’t know you have it and you drink it and you think it is the real deal, are you a victim?
Natalie MacLean (21:29):
Rebecca Gibb (21:30):
Possibly not. Are you a victim if you don’t know that you’ve been duped?
Natalie MacLean (21:36):
And you’ve had the sublime experience of your life and you feel satisfied and you talk about it with your friends, is there any crime? I mean, technically yes, but still. But are you a victim if you drink…
Rebecca Gibb (21:49):
The 85 / 15 rule in wine that if you say your wine is 85% Shiraz, it can have 15% something else in it. So if you’re thinking you’re buying a bottle of Shiraz and you think it’s 100% Shiraz, do you feel duped? Not really. You probably don’t the laws anyway. So it doesn’t make any difference to you if you enjoyed the glass of wine. Wine is meant to bring pleasure, and that’s ultimately what my book’s about. Wine is meant to bring pleasure. People have committed fraud in the past because wine wasn’t pleasurable. Most people can make a pleasurable wine today without doing anything dodgy. Or you drink a bottle of Bordeaux and it’s a blend of varieties, is it any less pure because it’s Merlot, Cabernet, and Cabernet Franc? There are so many things to think about. Laws embedded that. That’s okay, but is it?
Natalie MacLean (22:39):
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, that’s great. I love the bigger questions that arise from these stories. They’re fantastic.
Rebecca Gibb (22:45):
Yeah. I’ve spent years thinking about these. And I think that you can keep on thinking about it and you can change your mind every time that you discuss it.
Natalie MacLean (22:53):
And that’s what makes it interesting. So it’s okay to keep going back and forth. So what modern technology today is being used to deter fraud?
Rebecca Gibb (23:02):
Lots of things are being used to deter fraud. I mean, as I said in the last sentence, I was talking about this. If you’re drinking a $15, $20 bottle of wine, you bought it a wine store, an or supermarket. You’re like, there shouldn’t really be any reason why there should be any fraud. There’s really no reason to do it. But at the high end now where you can pay thousands of dollars for a bottle of high end wine, you do want to be assure that what is in that is what it says it is. So Chateau Margaux and Bordeaux on the left bank, they take it to the edge of extreme They have vintage specific bottle molds. So…
Natalie MacLean (23:40):
The bottle changes every vintage?
Rebecca Gibb (23:42):
There’s a specific mold. Yeah, you might have laser egg.
Natalie MacLean (23:44):
Wow, that’s costly.
Rebecca Gibb (23:46):
Yeah. It’s not a $10 bottle of wine is it though? [laughter]
Natalie MacLean (23:51):
True. Yes, they have the margins. [laughter]
Rebecca Gibb (23:54):
If you’ve been at the Chateau and you’ve seen the fancy things there, yeah, you’re not worrying too much about their profit margin. And then there’s things like laser etched bottles. There’s QR codes. And there’s some bottles now you can get underneath the capsule, there’s a seal that you can break. And if it’s broken, and if people try to refill the bottle, that specific bottle, they know that the seal has already been broken on that there’s technology,
Natalie MacLean (24:22):
It sends a message back. It’s like a chip or something.
Rebecca Gibb (24:24):
Yeah, it’s a chip. So you can add that.
A lot of the wine authentication is actually done by wine authenticators. And you can hire wine authenticators these days and they just have encyclopedic knowledge of the fonts that were used and all the labeling and such on the bottles. That is not my domain. People who can do that, people who authenticate if you have a serious wine collection. But if you’re going into a wine store and you’re buying a bottle of wine and you have a trusted wine merchant.
Natalie MacLean (24:53):
Just relax. Yes.
Rebecca Gibb (24:53):
Just take it easy. [laughter]
Natalie MacLean (24:57):
Life’s too short. But yeah, I’ve heard they’re even developing Bitcoin like ledgers and NFTs and things like this to track the life cycle of a bottle from when it leaves the winery to – its entire providence, the way it travels through different owners or retailers, wholesalers and so on. So I find that very fascinating where this is all going.
Rebecca Gibb (25:19):
It’s fascinating, but we don’t where it is going and we don’t whether the technology that we’re using now will be totally antiquated in 10 years time.
Natalie MacLean (25:28):
Rebecca Gibb (25:29):
Yeah. Once again, it’s all depends. And there’s no terroir as there is when you go for a French vineyard and you ask a question, they’re like ça depend. And you’re like no I really just want a straight answer.
Natalie MacLean (25:41):
Yeah, just tell me [laughter]. All right. So you have a bottle of wine there. It’s the real deal. What wine do you have with you, Rebecca?
Rebecca Gibb (25:50):
I hope so. I got it direct from the winery. It was sent to me, unless was tainted by the courier service en route. Now I have bought today a bottle of Domaine from Vouray. So at the moment I’m tasting lots of Chenin Blanc for dinner and it has a link to my favourite book that I also have brought along, which is Wine and War by Don…
Natalie MacLean (26:13):
Wine and War.
Rebecca Gibb (26:14):
It’s quite old now. I mean
Natalie MacLean (26:17):
Don and Petie Kladstrup, right? Yes. That’s a fascinating book. Again, focuses on the stories of the people behind wine, especially during the war.
Rebecca Gibb (26:27):
Exactly. And so there’s a little link here. I love Chenin and I feel that it’s underrated. And I cover the Loire Valley.That’s one of my areas. And there’s a story in Wine and War about Gaston Ouette. Now during World War II, he was a prisoner of war, a prisoner of war for five years. And then he comes back to his vineyard. All the horses had been requisitioned, they had no fertilizer, no pesticides. The vineyards were, the vineyards had been just devastated by disease. And when he came back to Vouvray and he eventually got back to Vouvray. He lost a third of his body weight. He was a skeleton. He hadn’t met his daughter who was five six by the time he got back. And rebuilt the vineyards and have become just one of the most, but the wines are total thoroughbreds and they are an absolute icon for me. Vouvray and Chenin Blanc whites.
Natalie MacLean (27:26):
Oh wow. And so what does that particular one taste like? You’ve got it in your glass there.
Rebecca Gibb (27:30):
Yeah, it’s a Demi-sec. Demi-sec also becoming about. Everyone wants dry wines these days and everyone goes, oh, it’s sweet. It’s only just sweet and tt’s great for food pairing and I just love it.
Natalie MacLean (27:42):
What would you pair with it?
Rebecca Gibb (27:43):
I think it’s just delicious with creamy sauces and there’s a lot of dishes that we have with slight sweet elements, whether it’s like a honeyed element. Actually sour things. And I just think it’s just great for that. And it’s just, you know what? It’s also just delicious just drinking on its own.
Natalie MacLean (27:58):
On its own. Yeah. For pleasure.
Rebecca Gibb (28:00):
What I love most about the wines is that they have this sweetness element, but they’re not rich. It’s like drinking a cloud a very delicate cloud.
Natalie MacLean (28:10):
I love that.
Rebecca Gibb (28:10):
There’s no weight to these wines. They’re so delicate and they just float along even though they have…
Natalie MacLean (28:17):
So this is the drink of the angels with the gods.
Rebecca Gibb (28:19):
Its Pure. It’s just such incredibly pure, pristine fruit. And I think that it shows that. Everyone, I think that when you are in a cool climate, like the Loire Valley. Despite climate change, you’ve got this amazing acidity and you do need a little bit of residual sugar to provide a balanced wine. And when a wine is balanced, you don’t even think about sugar. And I think that there are a lot of people in Vouvray at the moment who are really obsessed with making dry wines because the market demands, but they’re often unbalanced.
Natalie MacLean (28:49):
Yes. Well, and the old adage, we talk dry and drink sweet. We get a lot of pleasure. Sweetness is the first taste we developed in life, and there’s no shame. There’s a lot of wine shaming going on about people who like an off dry or sweet wine. They’re just very pleasurable.
Rebecca Gibb (29:04):
Yeah, it’s your pleasure. It’s your glass. It’s your mouth. Drink what you want. It really is.
Natalie MacLean (29:10):
Drink what enjoy.
Natalie MacLean (29:11):
Rebecca Gibb (29:12):
It’s nobody else’s business.
Natalie MacLean (29:13):
Absolutely. Amen. Alright, that puts us right into the lightning round.
Rebecca Gibb (29:18):
Oh gosh. I’m dread this [laughter].
Natalie MacLean (29:21):
Don’t worry. Oh no, don’t worry. Describe the weirdest wine pairing you’ve ever had. You don’t know who or there’ve been so many strange ones in your life [laughter]?
Rebecca Gibb (29:34):
I cannot give you an answer to that. I have thought about it.
Natalie MacLean (29:38):
Did you ever pair any sort of fast food, junk food, anything like that? Or just you stick to meat and potatoes?
Rebecca Gibb (29:44):
I don’t really care about food and wine pairing. That’s a terrible thing to say. I don’t.
Natalie MacLean (29:50):
That’s all right.
Rebecca Gibb (29:51):
I think we focus on it too much…
Natalie MacLean (29:53):
Rebecca Gibb (29:53):
And it just makes me stressed. I don’t get stressed. I’ve already got enough stress in my life. Food and wine pairing just makes some of the stress. And I think we should also do what the Egyptians used to do and suggest wines for celebration. Like wines for event wines for certain periods in your life. So wine for dancing. Wines for your tax return. Wines for…
Natalie MacLean (30:13):
What would you suggest for the tax return? I’ll keep it in mind for next year.
Rebecca Gibb (30:17):
Port. Something really like 20%. Just get you through it.
Natalie MacLean (30:22):
Yeah, exactly. Maybe a bittersweet finish depending on your return, of course. Okay, fair enough. And you’ve already talked about your favourite wine book, so we’ll skip right over that one. Wine and War which is great. We will put a link to that. And of course, your own book. Has there been a useful wine gadget that you’ve come across?
Rebecca Gibb (30:41):
You told me I couldn’t have a Caravin. And you told me I couldn’t have a cork screw? Can I have a glass?
Yes, you can have a glass. You are allowed that the next person, but you can, do you have a favorite wine glass?
Rebecca Gibb (30:55):
The one that’s nearest to me.
Natalie MacLean (30:59):
Okay [laughter]. It looks like what? That is not, I’m trying to guess the brand there.
Rebecca Gibb (31:05):
I have a lot of Riedels. When you pass the Master of Wine, they send you an inordinate amount of free wine glasses.
Natalie MacLean (31:11):
Oh wow. One of the perks. After you’ve spent $10,000 on getting your certification, get a few free glasses. Yes.
Rebecca Gibb (31:19):
Cheers to that [laughter].
Natalie MacLean (31:20):
Now, if you could share a bottle of wine with any person outside the wine world, living or dead, who would that be and where would you take them or meet them?
Rebecca Gibb (31:28):
I’ve always really wanted to meet Bill Bryson, the author.
Natalie MacLean (31:33):
Oh, really? The author? Yes. Sunburned Country. And then he wrote about Britain too, didn’t he?
Rebecca Gibb (31:38):
Yeah, It’s a Small Island.
Natalie MacLean (31:40):
Oh, that’s it. Yes.
Rebecca Gibb (31:41):
I saw him. I saw him in Kings Cross Station in London. He literally walked past me and I was like, are sure that’s not Bryson. And I didn’t know what to do. I was starstruck about two minutes later. I was like, just go and ask him if he wants to go for a pint with you. So I turned around and tried to find him and he’d gone anyway. So yeah, thank God. He writes a great story, and I think that’s just such a gift.
Natalie MacLean (32:05):
He is a wonderful writer. In fact, he’s one of my inspirations when I write about wine because he’s all about the people. He’s all about the storytelling. He’s got a lovely sense of humour, and yet you find out surprising things that you might mention at a dinner party or whatever. He really, I don’t know, he’s able to touch all the senses and enliven everything about his stories. I just love his approach.
Rebecca Gibb (32:28):
Natalie MacLean (32:29):
Yeah. And which bottle of wine would you share with Bill? Or would it be a pint, I guess.
Rebecca Gibb (32:35):
Maybe you could Old British Pint.
Natalie MacLean (32:38):
Yes, a pint of course.
Rebecca Gibb (32:39):
Could be an English sparkling wine, although we’d probably…
Natalie MacLean (32:42):
Okay, sure. Yeah. The next best thing to a pint. Excellent. Now, Rebecca, this has been fantastic. As we wrap up our conversation, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to share?
Rebecca Gibb (32:55):
Books out in October in the US and it’s available on Kindle. Will also be available. It’s going to be available as an audio book.
Natalie MacLean (33:04):
Are you reading it?
Rebecca Gibb (33:05):
I’m not reading it.
Natalie MacLean (33:06):
Rebecca Gibb (33:07):
It’s been published by a company called Podium in the US, And do you remember, I don’t whether you ever watched the series Lost?
Natalie MacLean (33:15):
Yeah, the first series, the first season.
Rebecca Gibb (33:18):
Well, there’s a British actress who was in Lost who is voicing it.
Natalie MacLean (33:22):
Rebecca Gibb (33:23):
I’ve never done it. I did quite fancy it, but I simply don’t have the time right now. And she’s game and she’s a professional, so I’ll let her carry on.
Its a skill.
She’ll pronounce all the words properly. Good luck to her. What else?
Natalie MacLean (33:37):
And where can we find this book online?
Rebecca Gibb (33:39):
Online? Yeah. All the usuals.Begins with A ends with N. All the bookstores. Name of a famous rainforest in South America. Yeah, all good bookstores. It’s published by University of California Press. You’ve got any questions or you want to read more about it, you can go into the University of California press website or mine, which is RebeccaGibb.com. I didn’t make it fancy. It’s fairly simple.
Natalie MacLean (34:03):
Yeah. And we’ll put all those links in the show notes and in the livestream chat here. Rebecca, it’s been wonderful. I really appreciate your time. The stories are amazing. I loved your book. We just skipped along the surface, so people do have to get this book if they really want the juicy insider stories. But thank you. Thank you for spending your time with us and for writing this book.
Rebecca Gibb (34:26):
It’s a pleasure. Thank you.
Natalie MacLean (34:27):
Alright, cheers for now.
Rebecca Gibb (34:29):
Natalie MacLean (34:29):
Okay, well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our chat with Rebecca. Here are my takeaways. Rebecca shared some great tips on how we can avoid buying a fake bottle of wine. Two, I found her discussion of what makes wine truly authentic fascinating. And three, the story of Rudy Kurniawan and his fraudulent schemes sounds like the script of a movie or a Netflix special. No doubt, someone will be making it soon.
In the show notes, you can find the full transcript of my conversation with Rebecca, links to her website and books, the video versions of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube live, where you can order my book online now no matter where you live, and links to my upcoming wine tasting and book launch events. That’s all in the show notes at NatalieMacLean.com/256. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question or if you’ve read my book or are in the process of reading it at [email protected]. I would love to hear from you.
If you missed episode 29, go back and take a listen. I chat with wine consultant Maureen Downey about wine scandals, fakes and forgery. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Maureen Downey (35:47):
I worked in auctions for many years and I’ve been managing private wine collections. And it’s not just the crusty old 1960 bottle that we need to worry about because the current wine fraud that we’re seeing is recent vintages, recent releases. So if you think that you don’t buy a thousand dollars bottles and therefore wine fraud doesn’t affect you, you’re wrong. There’s been a lot of Tavel Rosé that’s counterfeit. There’s more and more Brunello in the $40 range that is coming out as counterfeit. So this really does hit all aspects of the industry, and that is because we have seen such low punishment for those who get caught doing this.
That organized crime has gotten into the game because if you get caught human trafficking or trafficking drugs, you’re going away forever. You get caught counterfeiting wine or selling counterfeit wine, you maybe get a slap on the wrist if that. Literally.
Natalie MacLean (36:41):
If you like this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wines, tips, and stories we shared. You won’t want to miss next week when we chat with Wendy Mesley, former CBC Anchor for the National and Maureen Holloway, former host of CHFI’s Morning Show in Toronto. Now they’re both the hosts of the popular Women of Ill Repute podcast. Guests have include former Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin, comedian Rick Mercer, novelists Louise Penney and Anne-Marie MacDonald, and talk show host Marilyn Dennis, as well as musician, Jan Arden. These two dynamic women will be interviewing me about the book.
Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a wine that makes you reflect on authenticity both in wine and in people. You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMacLean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.