Wine Movie Review: Red Obsession
Few documentaries manage perspective change. This becomes even more likely with niche subjects, like wine. Red Obsession sets up the traditional expectations for a wine documentary – romance, wonder, flavour – and then turns it all on its head.
There is much to consider about the to and fro between the east and the west. China, in particular, is subject of modern imagination and foil to western power fantasies. But what does this relationship really mean? How do east and west interact? That is the subject of Red Obsession, which is probably the best movie on wine I’ve ever seen.
Bordeaux is the whipping boy of the wine geek. Prices are too high, the wines are catered to an international style, it’s all about brand. Red Obsession shines a new light on all these classic attacks. In many ways, Bordeaux is more visionary, more attuned to global changes and more multi-cultural than any of its peers.
Bordeaux has always risen and fallen with the tide of international economics. As Oz Clarke puts it in the movie, Bordeaux is all about the wealthy and powerful becoming more powerful and more wealthy. It was the Bordelais’ recognition of the potential of China that has led to the massive increase in pricing and their dominance in the Chinese market. This foresight displays the link between Bordeaux and geopolitical power.
Red Obsession’s premise is – why is Bordeaux so successful in China? Is this just a ‘blip’? Will Bordeaux suffer from abandoning its traditional markets? Why is China so interested in Bordeaux in the first place? Is this all about brand?
These and many other questions permeate the movie, and the answers it provides are nuanced and multifaceted. The film moves deftly from an examination of the impact of the cultural revolution on China’s desire for the new and for cultural traditions to the rise and importance of counterfitting to the development of China’s domestic wine producing industry (which is growing at a rate that willl, if sustained, make China the world’s largest wine producer in a few decades).
The film also examines the sustainability of Bordeaux’s pricing – after the two ‘perfect’ vintages of 2009 and 2010, 2011 (a problem vintage) saw a decline in sales of 60%. What will happen to Bordeaux if the Chinese market dries up? And, will it?
Red Obsession is quite a nuanced film. It links geo-politics with culture and cultural clashes and tells the story through wine. It is highly recommended for both wine lovers and their wine-curious friends. I wish more examinations of wine were this nuanced and sensitive to their subject matter.