If you follow any wine news, you’ve probably heard of the growing Chinese influence in the wine market, especially in Bordeaux. Red Obsession opens with a parade of Bordeaux wine makers, wine critics, authors, and Francis Coppola (!) waxing poetic about the greatness of Bordeaux. They talk of “magic,” “love,” “soul,” “miracle,” and use musical metaphors. Just as I was getting impatient with the flattery, the real story begins with a short history of Bordeaux and a fast-forward to the en primeur event in 2010. En primeur happens every year in Bordeaux. Critics, journalists, and buyers are invited to taste the unfinished wines before their release. Based on the response, the chateaux set their prices for the year. Enter China’s nouveau riche, for whom no price seems too high for their favorite wine.
This documentary covers an amazing amount of ground in a short time. How did the Chinese become so important in the fine wine market so suddenly? Why do they love Bordeaux in general, and Lafite in particular? Is there a downside to this new source of money and attention for Bordeaux winemakers? Where does this leave Bordeaux’s former largest market, the United States? What’s next for China, as it is poised to become the world’s largest wine market and a new producer of wine itself?
The filmmakers travel the world and interview an impressive array of experts and industry insiders, looking for the answers to all these questions. I’ll admit that before watching Red Obsession, my knowledge of the Bordeaux-China connection was limited to the fact that the Chinese really like Bordeaux and are willing to pay high prices for it. The film is packed with details and explanations that will be interesting even to those more familiar with the subject than I was, such as cultural factors, business interests, and the influence of westernization. Though the subject seems narrow, the film provides so much context that it also educates its audience about the French wine industry, the Chinese wine market, and the emerging Chinese wine industry overall. If you have any interest in these subjects, Red Obsession is worth 75 minutes of your time.
(Not Rated, 2013, 75 minutes, Directed by Warwick Ross and David Roach, Narrated by Russell Crowe)