Sour Grapes


“The moral to this story, in my opinion, is that when you leave things unregulated, you allow the wolves to come in and game the system…”

Brad Goldstein, Investigator as quoted from the documentary Sour Grapes

Currently available on Netflix, the documentary film Sour Grapes by Jerry Rothwell and Reuben Atlas, tells the tale of the rise and fall of wine collector and convicted wine-faker Rudy Kurniawan and exposes a market beset by speculation, rapid price growth and inevitable fraud.

See a trailer for the film here:

So, why do I recommend a film on the wine auction market and fake wine on a violin business/craft blog?  Because it mirrors some of the worst excesses in the violin business.  The only difference is that in Sour Grapes, it is mainly a handful of incredibly rich wine-lovers who get screwed, while in the world of violin dealing it is string students and their families along with working musicians who are victimized by overpricing and misattributions.

This is a cautionary tale of what can happen to unregulated markets when an object such as a bottle of wine or an antique cello becomes more that just a delicious beverage or a beautiful music-making tool, but an investment to be objectified, traded, and speculated on.  In the violin world the rapid rise at the top of the market has an inflationary effect on higher priced instruments and bows, pulling them up and out of the hands of most musicians, while inexpensive Chinese made instruments of varying quaility, subject to oftentimes ridiculous profit margins by shop owners, flood the lower end of the market, pushing up prices on old trade instruments from below.  Where there is a strong profit incentive on an item that requires years of experience to understand and properly appraise, where value is judged mainly by answering complicated questions of who, when and where, there will always be bad actors whose questionable actions will infect the entire system.

Please watch this interesting film and be careful out there!

Wikipedia page on Rudy Kurniawan:

Good Article on the movie from The New Yorker: