Red Obsession (2013)

Bordeaux stands at the apex of the world’s wine producing regions. For centuries it has commanded a position as the home of the greatest wines, but only in the last few decades have prices risen to absolutely unheard of levels. Narrated by Russell Crowe, Red Obsession seeks to understand how Bordeaux came to be in such a situation, and what the future holds for them.

The film begins with beautiful, operatic shots of the estates and vineyards, accompanied by lyrical explanations by the producers of the uniqueness of the area, the soul and DNA of the wine, and how the land creates stories within it. We see horses ploughing the fields, and hear how a producer will pick off the smallest imperfect grape even though it has no effect on the end result.

But Red Obsession is about more than the love of wine, more than a nostalgic look at what’s behind that memorable first taste of a Bordeaux; it’s about money, power, greed and hubris.

Set during and after the 2010 Bordeaux en primeur (a kind of fashion-week for wines, when critics give their reviews of un-bottled up-coming vintages), the film quickly shifts focus from this seemingly small, strange and insular world, with its eccentric personalities, to show how big a worldwide business it actually is. We find that it’s become not about the wine itself, it’s about money, and that now wine is a commodity, an investment to be traded like stocks.

The Bordelais are willing to price out and alienate their traditional customers in order to exploit the booming Chinese economy, putting their faith into a wine fervour that just might disappear as quickly as it emerged.

The film soon becomes a story of the shift in world economic power. It looks deeper into Chinese history for answers about this new obsession, tracing the effects of the Cultural Revolution on the country and its people and their relationship with money. It’s in this middle section that the film loses some focus, and it becomes easy to forget that this is a story about wine, not a regular documentary on the Chinese economy’s growth.

Thankfully though, it soon returns to wine, noting the exoticism, culture and status wine is seen to bestow on its owner in China. It becomes clear that while seeking to exploit its biggest customer as much as possible, the Bordeaux producers face the prospect of China becoming its biggest competitor in the near future, with vineyards and the counterfeit market springing up across the country. Have the Bordelais sold their soul in the name of branding and commercialisation? How will they deal with price fluctuations and the increasing Chinese influence in the wine world both at home and abroad?

Red Obsession tackles all these questions in a great story that provides a fascinating introduction into this abstruse world for the wine novice, while providing unique access to the world’s foremost wine producers and authorities to draw in the connoisseur.

Red Obsession will be released in selected Australian cinemas on August 15th

Written/Directed by: David Roach, Warwick Ross
Narrated by: Russell Crowe
Distributed by: Roadshow Films

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