The current documentary which was screened earlier this year at Tribeca Film Festival, “Red Obsession”, is an in depth and fascinating investigation into the business of wine, which transports the viewer from Bordeaux to China. The film, which is available for rent or purchase on Amazon and iTunes, was directed and written by David Roache and Warwich Ross, and incorporates newer more film-like techniques to tell this compelling, and current story. From the gorgeous terroir, and history of Bordeaux, France to the exhilarating and vibrant climate of China today, “Red Obsession” is a microscopic examination of how Bordeaux has dominated the wine industry, but has risked losing it’s dominance due to mother nature, potential greed and China’s increasing interest in wine and growing economy.
Having been to Bordeaux this past Summer, I am now fully aware of how the Chateau’s are known for producing some of the best wines of the world, that have been pre-determined by Napoleon. The terroir and climate are known to be ideal conditions for growing vineyards. The film introduces the viewer to several Chateau owners who explain their love for the terroir and respect for those who came before, that discovered and developed the land into what it is today. Years like 1961, 1982, 2009 and 2010 have all been excellent years for the wines of Bordeaux, and thus have been rated with almost near perfect ratings by the wine critics of the world.
The Increasing commodity of wine
The focus of the film is on how in 2009, Bordeaux received amazing ratings for the wine produced that year and was able to follow up with another stellar year in 2010, which is considered a perfect vintage. The business of wine, and thus the prices increased more than 1000%. Wine became a valuable commodity helping to create the Bordeaux Index, which was born for those rich enough to buy and sell wine as an investment purchase, often never seeing or drinking any of the bottles.
We learn what is known as, En Primeur, the annually held Spring event where the world’s best wine critics and journalists come to Bordeaux to taste the year’s current vintage and rate it. The ratings determine how the winemakers will price the current vintage. With two consecutive years of amazing vintages under it’s belt, Bordeaux appeared to be the powerhouse of wine. Unlike other commodities that can be controlled, wine conditions and outcomes are based on mother nature. Wine celebrities, like Robert Parker, warned the Chateau owners of Bordeaux to drop prices or risk an overheated market. Ignoring Parker’s concerns, the subsequent year, 2011 is anything but stellar.
“Red Obsession” plays like a narrative changing course midway through the film, and focusing on the ever growing economy and history of modern day China. As America has been priced out of the increasing wine market, China moves up several notches to take it’s place. Wine fever has hit China for the last few years, particularly with the label conscious wealthy community. Lafite wine is at the head of the market and considered the most desirable. Bordeaux changes it’s focus from America, and caters to this growing Chinese obsession with their wine. Since Bordeaux can’t keep up with China’s demand, we learn that China is going into the wine business, producing their own wine and vineyards. One of these vineyards even wins the best wine award beating Bordeaux. But, without the same climate as Bordeaux, you wonder if China can successfully replicate the success of Bordeaux for the future.
After the screening of “Red Obesssion”, at The Tribeca Film Festival, the filmmakers, David Roache and Warwich Ross, were on hand. They further explained how the focus of China is not only moving away from Bordeaux, but to other wine producing regions like Australia and New Zealand. They further explained that within China, even though the Chinese have had some success with producing their own vineyards, they lack the perfect climate that is present in Bordeaux. Cold winters require the vineyard owners to cover and bury the vines to protect them every season. They’re able to do this because the vines are considerably young and pliable, unlike old vines of Bordeaux. They question how long this process can sustain for the future. In addition, China has had to create man made runoff systems for water that are not natural to the climate of China.
“Red Obsession” looks at the rich history of Bordeaux’s wine lineage and delves deep into the business of wine. It is also a look at the rise of China’s economy and interest in label conscious products, particularly the wines of Bordeaux. Greed, power and mother nature all play strong roles in a film that looks at a modern day phenomena known as the business of wine.
“Red Obsession” will screen at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Tuesday, November, 12th at 6:00 PM – Yountville Community Center, Yountville
Thursday, November 14th at 8:30 PM – Gliderport at Indian Springs, Calistoga
Saturday, November 16th at 5:30 PM – Napa Valley Opera House, Napa