“An engaging documentary about a snapshot in history.”
Red Obsession, the wine documentary from directors David Roach and Warwick Ross, delves into slanted state of supply and demand in the world of Bordeaux wine, and the link between China and Bordeaux. As Bordeaux has assumed an unrivaled status in the world of fine wine, demand for the finest wines has far outstripped supply. But now prices are being pushed to absurd levels not by traditional markets, but the “nouveau riche” of China.
Beautifully shot, and narrated by the fabulous voice of Russell Crowe, the narrative progresses smoothly, at first setting up Bordeaux, and only then introducing the audience to the current situation that is dominated by the Chinese market and the demand it has placed on the finest Bordeaux wines. The filmmakers mainly follow the 2009 and 2010 vintages, which were resounding successes – two vintages of the century back to back – and to a lesser extent the 2011 vintage that was a major turning point for many, the film included. The existence of fake wines, which has plagued wine auctioneers in Hong Kong and elsewhere, especially when it comes to the most highly sought after wines from Bordeaux, is also tackled, but almost as a subplot that is not integrated into the main storyline.
A voyeuristic experience to most as both the exclusivity of the finest Bordeaux wines and wine culture in China are, on some level, foreign to most people who will watch this film, Red Obsession is documenting a moment in history – a snapshot if you will.
While the filmmakers do a splendid job of portraying this snapshot in history, the film leaves several questions. While the movie does superficially explore the disappointment of the 2011 Bordeaux vintage, it does not follow its ramifications beyond the initial market reaction. What happened to the sales of the 2011 vintage and was there a re-shifting of markets where Bordeaux wines headed? Another question that nagged at me after watching the film was if there is a wine culture in China beyond the high-end collectors, and does it manifest itself in stores, restaurants, and normal people’s lives? China is a different culture, in many ways, from the western world, causing struggles in understanding the target market. It would be such an interesting avenue to explore wine culture in China in more detail.
Despite its limitations, this is an engaging documentary I was glad to witness as it expanded my world view in the world of wine.