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Australia/China/United Kingdom/France 2013
Directed by
David Roach / Warwick Ross
76 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Red Obsession

Synopsis: The Bordeaux wine region has always been one of the world’s most prestigious. As China is becoming increasingly westernised the Red Dragon can’t get enough of the French product. While US demand for Bordeaux wines has diminished, Chinese demand is causing a price bubble that could well threaten the centuries-old French industry and could even suck up much of the world’s total wine supplies.

Red Obsession is a timely and entertaining film, one that could well scare the pants off oenophiles but also one which has resonance in many areas for much of the modern world. It is a beautifully crafted film making excellent visual use of the stunningly photogenic Chateaux, the illustrious and historic wine region. Narrator Russell Crowe, in a voice that adds gravitas, tells us how Romans planted vines in this area 2000 years ago, while winemakers from many of such revered Chateaux as Lafite, Margeaux and Latour step in to give us their own philosophy of wine. Most eulogise about their craft, the love that is brought to the vines, the importance of terroir (the soil) and of knowing the “soul” of your grapes. The investment value of wine is also explained and we soon realise that greed and social pretension loom large in the equation.

Cut to Shanghai, China, and the contrast between the idyllic French countryside and the racy, glitzy city is dramatic. There’s a fascinating potted history of the development of China’s recent market economy, and the burgeoning number of billionaires, most of whom have developed a sudden interest in top French wines.  For wealthy Chinese wine is an emblem of Western culture and many folk there are collectors having no intention of drinking the stuff, simply wanting it as a status symbol. They are prepared to pay insane prices which is creating a dangerous bubble and depleting supplies. It’s actually hilarious to meet a manufacturer of plastic sex toys who is now so rich he can buy up millions of dollars of Bordeaux wine at whim.  Whilst overall Chinese demand is outstripping supply it is also predicted  that China may be the next biggest wine producer in the world if their schemes to irrigate the Gobi desert eventuate.

Add to the mix that Chinese penchant for imitation and forgery and you get some pretty bizarre occurrences, like empty bottles of Chateau Lafite selling for $500, and Chinese multi-millionaires building replica French estates and setting up their own vineyards to look identical to those in Bordeaux.

It is intriguing to see the marriage of things French and things Chinese and to observe the vastly differing sensibilities. Red Obsession is also a salutary reminder of the importance of tradition as against the race to get rich quick.

I’ll drink to that.  




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