Thursday, August 25, 2016

New TV show based on Rudy Kurniawan could be big for Bordeaux and all wine

John Cho
USA network, home of Mr. Robot, is developing a wine TV drama that sounds like a fictionalized version of Rudy Kurniawan's story.

Variety reported Wednesday that the show, tentatively titled "Connoisseur," will star John Cho (Sulu from the recent Star Trek movies) as "a brilliant con artist who dupes the wealthiest, most powerful people in the country into paying millions for fake wine, but his hustle forces him into a deadly bargain with an organized crime syndicate (and) puts him in the cross-hairs of the FBI."

Yep, that sounds like Rudy. Another online publication mistakenly made a comparison to the recent Premier Cru saga, but that was about undelivered wine, not fake wine. Gotta keep your wine scandals straight.

"Connoisseur" could be a very important program for fine wine, particularly for the top Bordeaux and Burgundy wines that Kurniawan counterfeited. The natural reaction of those wine producers may be to shudder ("Our wine is going to be shown as counterfeit goods?") but that would be misreading the history of wine in media.

Rudy Kurniawan
First, consider that there has never been a good TV show with wine as a key player in it. Almost every show about wine has been a boring documentary. When wine has been an important prop, as in "Cougar Town," it was a generic intoxicant, which might inspire people to go out and buy a box of red blend, but not to spend real money on it.

Films and music are different. The biggest recent positive media impacts on the wine industry have come from musicians (Drake: "and a glass of moscato") and films plugging specific types of wine.

The most obvious example is "Sideways," which propelled Pinot Noir into the minds of average consumers. The wine industry might tremble about the idea of a crook and gangsters being associated with wine on TV, but "Sideways" starred a nebbish who steals from his mother and a serial philanderer. And people now quote the nebbish about Merlot all the time.

The 1994 sexual harassment film "Disclosure" included a bottle of Pahlmeyer Chardonnay as a plot point. Pahlmeyer's sales soared, even though, again, it was enjoyed by disreputable characters.

Much depends on whether or not "Connoisseur" is good. USA network was never known for quality drama before "Mr. Robot." Its buzz presumably has network executives looking for another good show. What USA network has done well before Mr. Robot was make stylish-looking dramas like "Burn Notice." Something like that, if people watch it, would also be good for the wine industry.

A big question will be, will the show use the actual names of the wines being counterfeited, or will it invent fake ones? This question will be posed to the chateaux themselves.

Christian Moueix was asked by the producers of "Sideways" if they could include Petrus as Miles' most cherished wine. He read the screenplay and said no. That hasn't hurt Petrus, but it has been good for Cheval Blanc's image that the film used that instead.

The obvious wine to use in "Connoisseur" would be Domaine Romanée-Conti. Kurniawan liked DRC so much that he used the nickname "Dr. Conti." My guess is that DRC's directors will say no. That will leave a giant opening for someone to step in.

As an armchair advisor, I encourage chateaux to try to get that spot, as The Most Counterfeited Wine. Even though the show will revolve around that wine often being fake, it will also show millions of people that the richest, most powerful men in the world are all chasing after that wine. People will want to try it to see what the fuss is about.

Burgundy as a region doesn't need the publicity. There's more demand than supply now anyway. (Read my Palate Press column this week about Bargain Burgundies.) But Bordeaux, which has struggled to seem hip to millennials, could use the boost.

If the show is good, and the most-counterfeited wine in it is, say, Château Lafite Rothschild, there will be reams of stories in the mainstream press about other Bordeaux wines that are like Lafite Rothschild but don't cost thousands of dollars. It's a huge opportunity. I'll bet my friends in Napa Valley won't miss it if the offer to participate in the show is extended to them.

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Jack Everitt said...

If this was a 3 out of 4 in quality, I'd give it a watch.

Bearhunter said...

"...there has never been a good TV show with wine as a key player in it"

How could you have forgotten Falcon Crest???

W. Blake Gray said...

I said "good TV show."