David Roach and Warwick Ross’ film, Red Obsession (2013), is a beautiful ode to wine. Bordeaux wines are painted as works of art, the cream of the crop. The famous vineyards of France are used as a reference around the world for the definition of quality found in wine. These bottles are luxury goods and have always been. It’s just that now, they may be a little too luxurious to maintain their traditional markets…
The documentary begins with a visit to Bordeaux and features some of the most renowned vineyards in the world. Ross and Roach make you fall in love with the area, the people, and most importantly, the wine, even before the documentary dives into the subject. With stunning shots filmed from a helicopter (owned by one of the vineyards) and interviews with groundskeepers, managers, and owners alike, Red Obsession portrays Bordeaux (and, its wine) as a magical place. Surviving wars and revolutions, Bordeaux has always been untouched from conflict, but still forever at the mercy of fluctuating markets. Because, this isn’t simply a story about wine, but about China’s rising influence on the global stage.
More than anything else, Red Obsession tries to dissect the reason behind Bordeaux’s new found boom in China. Like in the beginning of the film in Bordeaux, Hong Kong and Shanghai are seen from a bird’s eye view. We meet billionaire wine collectors developing their palettes and becoming excited at the prospect of having another bottle of Lafite ‘82.
Branding seems to be the major factor behind Bordeaux wines making such a big splash on the Chinese market. Since their taste for wine is still young, Chinese wine enthusiasts are buying what’s considered the best of the best by the critics. Essentially, anything ranked as First Growth under the Médoc Classification system of 1855 was being sold for incredible prices. The problem here, for Bordeaux, was that they were burning bridges with their traditional markets. With 600 American dollar billionaires living in China, nobody could keep up with the standards being set for great vintages.
An interesting window into Chinese culture focused on gift giving as being more prevalent than other markets. Collectors around the world buy expensive wines and allow them to gather dust in a cellar or keep them in display cases to show off at dinner parties. Bottom line is these bottles aren’t being drunk that often. In China, a gift giving culture, an expensive bottle is purchased and instantly corked and shared among friends. They’re excited about the exoticism of Western culture and eager to keep learning and developing a refined, collective sense of taste for wine.
Red Obsession points out how, if the Chinese drank as much wine as France per year (35 bottles per person) there wouldn’t be enough in the world to satisfy the demand. The films shows China as a bright-eyed newcomer to the world of wine with a minor palette. But, Ross and Roach show China’s evolution as well: the making of Chinese wines. With estates popping up in rural China, and even winning a top prize at the 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards, the future for wine production in China looks promising.
The entire film is so much more than just a documentary between Bordeaux, China, and their connection through wine. It was a profile on China’s inevitable rise as an even more influential player on the global market. With large scale consumption ahead (China currently has the fastest growing economy in the world), everyone else will be forced to adapt with their ability to corner markets, seemingly overnight, with a combination of incredible wealth and high population. The subject of Red Obsession, as it hints in the title, is wine, but leaves viewers wondering what’s next for China in realms such as: economy, culture, and international relations. With beautiful cinematography, light-hearted interviews and an extremely compelling story, Red Obsession is not to be missed.