Book Review: Drink Progressively, by Hadley and TJ Douglas

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 11-13-2017

Drink Progressively CoverIt’s difficult to put a new spin on wine, but TJ and Hadley Douglas have done it with Drink Progressively, a gorgeously printed volume capturing the rhyme and reason of their award-winning wine shop, the Urban Grape, in Boston’s South End.

I met with TJ on a recent trip to Boston. Over a few glasses of Pinot, picked right off one of the store’s wall-to-wall racks, he got down to telling me about his Progressive Scale, a 0-10 ranking for white and red wines that enables average and seasoned drinkers alike to make informed buying decisions.

For whites, it starts with the 1Ws. These are oakless, steel-fermented whites with lip-smacking acidity (“lemonade,” says TJ), like Alvarinho from Portugal. It ends with the 10Ws, which see full oak and ML, like the butteriest of California Chardonnays. For reds, 1Rs have bright acidity and low tannins, like Trousseau from the Jura, and 10Rs are jammy with tons of new oak aging, like Syrah from Walla Walla.

The scale moves from light to heavy—or skim to whole milk, as TJ puts it, paying homage to Zraly’s Windows on the World, the book that launched a thousand wine careers.

It’s all meant to minimize the stress of wine selection. For those of us who hate relying on the name-tagged folks walking the aisles at Total Wine, the Urban Grape is a sanctuary. The wines are grouped by their similarities, from light to heavy, and not by region or varietal. It makes everything easy, fun, and actually encourages experimentation, which is one of TJ and Hadley’s ultimate goals.

The scale helps with food pairing too. As the subtitle (A Bold New Way to Pair Wine with Food) suggests, the book is filled with recipes. Each chapter contains a summary of a progressive category (2W, 7W, 6R, etc.), regions where the wines can be found, an example bottle, and two recipes, one from the Douglases and one from award-winning chef Gabriel Frasca. TJ and Hadley’s recipes come right from their family table, simple yet lovingly crafted amidst the hustle and bustle of raising two children. Gabriel’s, on the other hand, are fancier and require a bit more time and effort, but from the pictures they appear well worth it.

The Urban Grape is a labor of love, and that shines through in Drink Progressively. TJ and Hadley’s relationship was forged around wine—special bottles shared, tasting trips to famous regions. TJ provides the vision and content, based on his years of experience in food and wine, and Hadley brings it to life in writing. And because I’m such an appreciator of killer descriptions, I have to call out Hadley’s equating tannin to “a dragging sensation like corduroy pants on a velvet couch.” Nice!

If you’re fortunate enough to live within a reasonable distance of the Urban Grape, visit! If you’re not, Drink Progressively is the next best thing and a truly helpful guide for everyday drinking and pairing.

My Recommendation
Drink Progressively isn’t just a reshuffling of existing information, like many wine “How To” books out there. It’s unique, it’s something special, and it’s an important step, in line with so many others of late, toward making wine more accessible. If you’re interested in experimenting beyond your standard drinking wine, or concerned with learning how to match your meals with a perfect bottle, this book should be on your kitchen shelf—it’s on mine!

Book Review: In Vino Duplicitas: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire, by Peter Hellman

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 08-14-2017

In Vino Duplicitas - Book CoverPeter Hellman’s In Vino Duplicitas is the best account to date of super-taster turned wine forger Rudy Kurniawan‘s elaborate con of the upper set. It’s also a delight to read.

Hellman, longtime contributor to Wine Spectator, has been on the journalistic front lines of the Rudy story since the beginning. He was there at the infamous Acker Merrall & Condit auction of April 25, 2008, when Burgundian winemaker Laurent Ponsot compelled the removal of several of his domaine’s wines from bidding. The consigner of the dubious Ponsots had of course been Rudy.

“Hey, Rudy, what happened with those Ponsot wines?” Hellman asked. “We try to do the right thing,” answered Rudy, “but it’s burgundy. Shit happens.”

That Hellman actually interacted with Rudy, and engaged with the story as it unfolded, adds a level of credibility to the book, and makes it all the more compelling. (Apart from the epilogue, that is, where compelling turns to creepy as Hellman talks about his visits to California’s Taft Correctional Institution and a failed attempt with a pair of binoculars to spot Rudy in the exercise yard.)

As is the privilege of text, In Vino Duplicitas is rich in detail, far more so than previous accounts of the Rudy story, most notably the 2016 documentary Sour Grapes (my review), which is still an excellent overview. Hellman’s book just goes deeper.

I was pleased to see in the book a more robust history of Rudy’s fakery, including some of his earliest cons. Between 2003 and 2005, Brian Devine, then CEO and chairman of Petco, was sold $5.3 million in wine, which later proved to be “amateurishly fabricated,” by an online seller named “Leny,” who was in fact Rudy. During this same period, a noted collector with a more trained palate discovered a “uniform oxidative quality” in the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars worth of wine he’d purchased from Rudy. But in that case a refund was given, so the forging scheme remained undetected.

Hellman’s book also includes selections from Rudy’s email correspondence, the tone of which vacillates between confidence and urgency, and affability and anger. Rudy’s trial, too, gets its own chapter. Noteworthy there is a look at the strategies of both defense and prosecution.

While In Vino Duplicitas is the most comprehensive account so far written, questions still remain. Like, where did Rudy’s money really come from? Did he have accomplices, either foreign or domestic? And how many Rudy bottles are still in circulation? Despite the millions spent by Bill Koch, a serial victim of wine forgery, to unearth the truth about Rudy, the story sits irritatingly incomplete.

My Recommendation
I can’t recommend In Vino Duplicitas enough! I read this book lying oceanside on my honeymoon in Belize, so maybe I’m biased, but it’s the most captivating thing I’ve read all year. Hellman has really done his research and written something that will appeal to any and all who appreciate wine and/or enjoy tales of true crime in high society.

Book Review: Your Wine Questions Answered, by Jerry Lockspeiser

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 06-14-2017

e04ff4_bbb954651e2c4fb489743c439d31f286.jpg_srz_406_578_85_22_0.50_1.20_0The premise of Jerry Lockspeiser’s Your Wine Questions Answered is simple: 25 questions every ordinary wine drinker wants to know, answered. Although I wonder about the place of books like this in the age of Google, I found the illustrations charming and Lockspeiser’s guidance expertly distilled for the layman.

Best of all: “100% of the author’s revenue from sales of this book will be donated to The Millione Foundation,” which Lockspeiser co-founded, “to build primary schools in Sierra Leone.”

Lockspeiser has worked in wine for over thirty years and currently writes an opinion column for Harpers Wine & Spirit. So he’s more than qualified to write a guidebook. His target audience is the average wine drinker, not experts, and his aim is to offer clear and practical advice for selecting and consuming wine. “After all, it’s only a bottle of fermented grapes.”

Your Wine Questions Answered addresses many of the questions you’d expect, like “Does all wine improve with age?” and “How long will wine keep in an open bottle?” The answers are conversational and concise, keeping to just two or three pages. Lockspeiser also includes his thoughts on less-typical intro topics like the psychology of taste, varietal-specific glassware, and supermarket “own label” wines—the last of which I found very useful for my strolls down the aisle at Trader Joe’s.

I love the colors and layout of the book. Each section begins with a vibrant two-page spread, with an illustration appropriate to the section’s particular question. Honestly, without the artistic flair of Lotte Beatrix, this book loses a lot of its appeal. I can best describe her style as palatably grotesque. (That’s a compliment!) What the book also has going for it is its shortness—I finished it in just two short sittings. The average wine drinker will not be interested in going deep, so Lockspeiser is wise to hang his hat on brevity.

My Recommendation
The cynic in me thinks I can find all of this information online. On the other hand, while we may not need more of these types of “just the basics” books, we certainly need more projects like this that endeavor to combine individual passion (in this case, the author’s passion for wine) with improving people’s lives. Your Wine Questions Answered is a great gift for anyone new to wine, especially if they’re charitably inclined.

Book Review: Wines of the Finger Lakes, by Peter Burford

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 02-16-2017

WOTFL Book CoverPeter Burford’s Wines of the Finger Lakes is a straightforward guide to New York’s most famous wine region and frankly the only one you need.

Burford—no “expert,” but whose credentials as a resident of Ithaca and genuine appreciator of the region prove more than adequate—organizes his work logically. He begins with some Finger Lakes history, then proceeds to the region’s grape varieties and winemaking processes, and ends with an extremely useful catalogue of key producers. Each section is well researched and limited to the essentials.

Having minimal historical knowledge of the region beyond the name Dr. Konstantin Frank, I found the first section helpful. Burford takes it all the way back to Reverend William Bostwick, who made sacramental wine from labruscas on Keuka Lake in the 1820s. Also featured are the stories of winemaking pioneers like Charles Fournier, Dr. Frank, Walter Taylor, and Hermann J. Wiemer. The Farm Winery Act of 1976 figures prominently, too, having been the kindling for so many winemaking ventures in upper New York.

Part two of Wines of the Finger Lakes is a rundown of prominent vinifera and hybrid grapes in the region. The major players you’d expect are there—Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir, Riesling—but so are rarities like Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Rougeon, Aurore, Marechal Foch, and Elvira. Novelty and pure variety are clearly reasons enough to visit the Finger Lakes.

For my money, the book’s final section, which covers key wineries, is its greatest asset, and why it’s worth consulting.

Burford prefaces the section, which is organized by the three major lakes, Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka, with an explanation: “The wineries profiled . . . are a subjective list of those that the reasonably serious wine enthusiast will want to learn about and explore.” I appreciate that Burford is keen to give readers a highlight reel and save them the trouble of wasted tasting fees.

The winery profiles are concise, at only a few paragraphs, yet comprehensive. For each, Burford covers history, land and winemaker information, and a lineup of offerings. He gives you everything you need to know about a winery to decide whether or not you’ll taste there.

There’s not much to criticize about Wines of the Finger Lakes. It’s a pretty basic guide, written in plain English. I do however take issue with Burford’s repeated praise for the wines at Lamoreaux Landing, which on my recent visit I found far from spectacular.

The best recommendation I can give the book is that it has inspired me to start planning another trip to the Finger Lakes, because evidently, on my first go round, I missed so many gems—like the single vineyard Pinots and Rieslings at Bellwether, the award winning sparkling wines at Atwater Estate, or the red-only endeavors of Shalestone.

My Recommendation
Wines of the Finger Lakes is “well worth” your time (you’ll get that joke after you read it) and almost a requirement if you’re visiting the region. Make the most of your trip, as I didn’t, by consulting Burford’s quick and easy guide.

Tulip Winery: Israel’s Altruists of the Vine

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 02-02-2017

lovely-package-tulip-2Kfar Tikva is a small community in northern Israel, home to some 200 individuals with special needs. It’s also home to what has to be the most admirable winemaking pursuit in the world—Tulip Winery.

I recently had the privilege of viewing a documentary about Tulip called WishMakers. While it’s well worth the 35 minutes of your time if you can find a screening (check the website), in lieu of a traditional review I feel compelled to tell you a bit of this amazing story.

As far as I know, Tulip is one of a kind. It’s owners, the Yitzhaki family, have made it their mission to bring dignity and purpose to the residents of Kfar Tikva, who are employed by the winery and involved at every stage of operation, from vineyard management and grape sorting, to winemaking and sales.

“Labels should be put on wine. Not on people,” says Ro’i Yitzhaki, who founded Tulip in 2003 and currently serves as CEO. As the film bears out, Ro’i is the true heart behind Tulip.

From its inception, Tulip has flown in the face of naysayers who questioned whether wine made (i.e., handled) by people with special needs would sell—if people would be turned off. Tulip has gone as far as to contractually bind itself (via founding documents created in accord with Kfar Tikva) to employee Kfar Tikva residents, pay them a set amount, and not work them more than a certain number of hours.

Kfar Tikva is a community that values work, and each resident (depending on his or her limitation[s]) has a job to do. For them, Tulip represents a sort of pinnacle of personal achievement. Positions at the winery are coveted, and the residents who attain a role there derive a tremendous sense of self worth and personal accomplishment. As do the residents who contribute to Kfar Tikva in other ways—including those who work in the ceramics shop or the elderly woman, featured in WishMakers, who makes papier mache giraffes for sale in the winery store.

“These are amazing people, who give and don’t ask for anything in return.”

Tulip’s charitable endeavors don’t end at Kfar Tikva. The winery has partnered with several local nonprofits. They’ve even teamed up with the Make a Wish Foundation, helping to make the dreams of sick children come true. One little girl, Neta, aspires to work in wine, so Ro’i invited her to Tulip where she toured the grounds, met the residents, and put her blending skills to the test with some Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Petit Verdot. These are some of the best scenes in WishMakers.

There’s a lot of love at Tulip. As for the wine—“wine that loves people,” as Tulip’s motto goes—I can only say that Ro’i and his team are dedicated to making the highest quality wine possible in Israel, at a good value, while remaining a constant contributor to the Kfar Tikva community. I trust that a winery as thoughtful and with as much intentionality as Tulip puts just as much care into the actual winemaking.

If you can, hunt down WishMakers, then head over to Tulip’s website, where you should be able to snag one of the 220,000 bottles they produce annually.

Movie Review: Wine Diamonds: Uncorking America’s Heartland

Posted by | Posted in Movie Reviews | Posted on 01-17-2017

Wine DiamondsThere are wineries in all 50 states. Lest we forget, Wine Diamonds, a new documentary set to hit festivals in 2017, is here to remind us with a look at winemaking in the Midwest.

Yes, the Midwest.

Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are apparently making some good wine these days—capable, says one winemaker in the film, of standing up against the likes of Champagne.

Winemaking in the Midwest is no new thing. At the turn of the 20th Century, states like Iowa were among the largest producers of grapes and wine. That all changed with Prohibition and the advent of harsh herbicides used to support cheaper and more-efficient crops like corn and soybeans.

Today, thanks to a cadre of private grape breeders who took to hybridizing in the 1940s and 50s, Midwest winemaking is seeing a resurgence. Wine Diamonds paints the region as a new frontier full of rugged pioneers who take pride in the harsh climate and unconventional grapes.

“The world,” after all, “is much bigger than Chardonnay and Cabernet.”

The film goes to great lengths to call out the uniqueness of the Midwest. Contrasts are drawn with California, which is repeatedly criticized for being too accommodating of winemaking. “Any gorilla can make wine in California,” says one winemaker. There is heavy investment in this juxtaposition of Midwestern brawn and West Coast privilege. It’s sincere but not always astute.

I can appreciate the trials and tribulations of the men and women featured in the film. The risks they take are in fact greater than other winemakers. They battle rough and variable weather, rigid state laws, chemical drift from neighboring megafarms, and a market with a strong preference for beer and whisky over wine. On top of that, they’re making wine from grapes few have heard of, with limited winemaking tradition from which to draw.

Pioneering and laudable? Absolutely! But is the wine any good?

While I’m intrigued by the great variety available in the Midwest—roughly 40 winegrape species, many of which were created at Cornell and the University of Minnesota—I can say that the film gives reason to be skeptical about quality. The wine looks at times more like fruit punch and a poorly timed shot has the narrator comparing Midwest winemaking to that of mid-twentieth-century France while the camera pans across a bottle of “Chocolate Reserve.” Cringe.

What did pique my interest, however, is what the Midwest is doing with sparkling wine. At least one winery, Illinois Sparkling Co., is making Champagne-style wines from grapes that do well in the local soils, like St. Pepin and Chambourcin. Now that’s something I want to try.

Wine Diamonds is a beautifully filmed and well-produced documentary with a large cast. It accomplishes much in its 76 minutes, but most importantly does great service—much like Idaho Wine: From Bud to Taste Bud—to a little-known region on the rise.

My Recommendation
Wine Diamonds (see website for screening info) continues the drumbeat for regional novelty and unpretentiousness in wine. But it can’t tell you whether or not Midwest wine is actually good—and to me that’s all that matters. While I enjoyed learning about a new region, I’d rather just go find a bottle and taste for myself.

Book Review: Slave to the Vine: Confessions of a Vagabond Cellarhand, by Darren Delmore

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 01-03-2017

Book-CoverTo judge a book by its cover, Darren Delmore’s Slave to the Vine is yet another tale of wine, drugs, and sex.

That was my impression, even once I started reading.

But at some point in the book’s 196 pages Delmore’s direct, flowerless prose won me. I began to look forward to my daily read and marveled at the ease with which I could escape into his Sonoman world.

Slave to the Vine is a work of nonfiction, with Delmore as first person narrator and protagonist. It chronicles, in truth and self-deprecation, his experience working the harvest at Hirsch Vineyards on the extreme Sonoma coast. Supporting Delmore is a dynamic cast featuring David Hirsch, the Zen-like proprietor, Mick, the irascible winemaker, Barbara, the kind-hearted coworker, and a lineup of Delmore’s various friends and ladies.

The book’s success rests squarely on Delmore and his ability to carry the story forward. Likeable, with enough shortcomings to be believable, his shoulders prove broad enough. As Delmore tells it, he married young, got separated, and dove into winemaking. He surfs, plays a mean guitar, smokes weed, drinks good labels as often as he can, and tries his best to work hard and endear himself to the crew at Hirsch.

Delmore’s vices are relatively mild, but I’ll admit I was repeatedly confronted with the urge to get judgmental. His relationships with women, however mutually cavalier, and episodes of stoned driving were frustrating. But then I realized that my visceral reaction as a reader is actually to Delmore’s credit as a writer. He got me invested in the story and its characters—enough to care. I grew to respect his raw candor, like when he confesses to accidentally slicing into his scrotum with buzzing clippers. Damn!

Slave to the Vine is a relatively even tale, with few peaks and valleys. The stakes never get as high as Delmore does when he hotboxes the Hirsch’s guesthouse. But that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book’s many characters, or from simply going along with Delmore on his journey to find meaning and purpose—or at least his next gig.

In the vein of works like Eric Arnold’s First Big Crush, Delmore’s Slave to the Vine is a look at winemaking in all its gritty glory—another dent in the romantic façade.

My Recommendation
Slave to the Vine reads like fiction. It draws you in. I’d recommend it to anyone who prefers Sonoma to Napa, has read Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, or needs a primer on how wine is really made.

Movie Review: Bitter Grapes

Posted by | Posted in Movie Reviews | Posted on 12-12-2016

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 11.47.45 AMIn recent weeks, there has been great disruption in the South African wine industry thanks to a bold new investigative documentary called Bitter Grapes (trailer here).

The film, which runs just short of an hour, exposes the horrible conditions of workers on South African wine farms, notably Robertson Winery. While it has so far only aired in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, the impact has been substantial: five wine farms in South Africa have been served non-compliance notices and at least one Danish supermarket chain has pulled Robertson’s wines.

The film’s premise is simple enough. South African wine imports to Nordic countries have been on the rise in recent years (up something like 78%). But while consumers have been reveling in cheap wine, they have failed to see the crooked path that brought the wine to their shelves.

Danish journalist and filmmaker Tom Heinemann exposes a form of modern slavery that’s long gone either unseen or ignored on South African wine farms. He visits the farms, speaks with the workers, and is mindful to get the other sides of the story, interviewing reps from the Nordic wine industry as well as a South African workers union. Not surprising, Heinemann is unable to get anyone from the wineries themselves to speak with him on camera.

What unfolds is a tale of ignorance, corruption, and racial divide. The majority black workforce is powerless to effect change, the white farm owners do all they can to maintain the low wage status quo and prevent union intervention, and the organizations who are supposed to be overseeing it all are, as one worker puts it, toothless.

Upwards of 100,000 workers live on the grounds of wine farms in South Africa, far away from the public eye. They live in slums, use disgusting open-air outhouses, and cook over fires built on piles of anything flammable. Deductions are taken from their already illegally low paychecks for these accommodations. In the vineyards, they spray dangerous pesticides and use little or no protection, apart from a thick paste that the women apply to their faces. South Africa actually has laws in place to protect workers from these conditions, but the laws are just not being enforced.

The most shocking scenes in Bitter Grapes are of young, pregnant women drinking heavily. This, the narrator explains, is largely due to a form of subjugation and control perpetrated by farm owners, who have historically paid their workers in alcohol. This practice only further enslaves the workers, forcing them to depend on the farmers for provision of the alcohol they crave.

Bitter Grapes is an emotionally captivating documentary. But if there’s one shortfall, apart from the absence of testimony from the farm owners, it’s the film’s call to action. In the closing scene the director of an organization called TCOE (Trust for Community Outreach and Education) urges viewers to only buy wine from South African winemakers who treat their workers with human dignity and don’t deny them their rights. Yet the whole film is an exposé on how the organizations regulating these winemakers are themselves negligent and corrupt, and how even the “Fair Trade” stickers on South African wine bottles can’t be trusted. So what’s the prescription here? What are consumers to do, short of visiting the wine farms themselves? It’s unclear.

My Recommendation
Bitter Grapes is worth the hour of your time. It’s eye opening and human. I’m not sure where else it will be aired, but do check out the website if you’re interested.

Book Review: Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing, by Mark A. Matthews

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 12-05-2016

Book CoverMark A. Matthews’s controversial new book, Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing, will force you to reconsider everything you know (or thought you knew) about winemaking.

In it, Matthews, Professor of Viticulture at UC Davis, masterfully deconstructs the most popular and longest-held beliefs about how fine wine is made — including the ubiquitous terroir – and reveals them to be built on little more than intuition and anecdote.

Terroir and Other Myths is compelling, expertly researched, and just may prove to be one of the most disruptive works of wine literature ever written.

Matthews’s basic contention is that much of the conclusions about wine in the collective mind and popular press today do not jive with scientific study. As a scientist, he demands empirical evidence, and the book is largely an examination of the data and history behind various wine “myths.” Don’t be confused by the clever title, this is academic work, with footnotes and back matter. That — the limited nature of the book’s target audience — in my view, is the one thing that might inhibit Terroir and Other Myths from turning the world of wine on its head. Which is sad to say, because it needs to be read widely. Read the rest of this entry »

Movie Review: Sour Grapes

Posted by | Posted in Movie Reviews | Posted on 11-07-2016

dc2f55b84cb0c4180e0d94b09305cdc9_500x735Sour Grapes is the first feature-length documentary about Rudy Kurniawan, the enigmatic wine forger who duped collectors out of millions of dollars. In 2013, when Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years in prison, many questions were left unanswered, about the fraud and about Kurniawan himself. Sour Grapes doesn’t have all the answers, but it does give those of us who followed the story closely some closure regarding the nature of the man.

Hands down the best thing about Sour Grapes is the ample footage of Kurniawan. We get to hear him speak, see him interact with others, and even bid on wine. At one point, mid-auction, he chuckles, “Dude, I just opened that bottle on Thursday. Can I refill it? Put the cork back in?” (Seriously! He actually says that!) That’s something no amount of Wine Spectator articles can give you.

But the film isn’t just about Rudy. It’s a drama with a full cast. There’s Bill Koch, the billionaire wine collector who fell victim not only to Rudy but also Hardy Rodenstock, the villain forger with the punchable face featured in Benjamin Wallace’s 2009 book The Billionaire’s Vinegar. In Sour Grapes, Koch comes across as an endearing lover of wine and likeable crusader against wine fraud. Then there’s John Kapon, CEO of storied auction house Acker Merrall & Condit, who plays the unwitting accomplice in Kurniawan’s ruse. Kapon is a parallel to Michael Broadbent, the Christie’s auctioneer from the Rodenstock story. Sour Grapes does, however, allow Kapon to redeem himself, noting that Kapon has refunded many of the Kurniawan victims.

Rounding out the cast is Laurent Ponsot, proprietor of Burgundy’s Domaine Ponsot and the man credited with discovering Kurniawan’s fraud. Like Koch, Ponsot is an impassioned crusader. He did some serious traveling and investigative work before finally outing Kurniawan. He’s even been lionized for rising to his feet at an auction and publicly withdrawing a lot of Ponsot bottles he believed to be counterfeit. You root for him too.

Sour Grapes is a highbrow version of the television show American Greed’s coverage of the Kurniawan case (which I also recommend highly). But what makes Sour Grapes so much better is, again, the footage of Rudy. More than anything, it’s a fascinating character study. Kurniawan isn’t just an ordinary guy who had an “elegant hustle,” as it’s called in the film; he actually has a preternatural ability to taste wine. His friends describe him as fun, generous, and genuinely gracious. It’s simply a case of a talented and likeable individual choosing to use his talents selfishly.

My Recommendation
Sour Grapes is a must watch for anyone who followed the Kurniawan case, and just as much so for anyone interested in modern scandals of the upper set. And hey, it’s coming to Netflix this month!