Red Obsession

Warwick Ross and David Roach have come a long way from creating films about the son of a Tasmanian apple farmer discovering the secret of splitting the beer atom to put the bubbles back into beer. While “Young Einstein” is an Australian comedy classic with a really great soundtrack (in this version Albert Einstein also invents rock and roll), the pair have noticeably graduated into more sophisticated material with new documentary “Red Obsession”. Let’s just say if “Young Einstein” is middle school humour, charming innocence and physical comedy, “Red Obsession” is a fine glass of wine to celebrate the completion of a 34,000 word thesis. It is also incredible to look at. And yes, there is wine. Lots of it.

Exploring France’s Bordeaux region, which has long commanded respect for its coveted wine, the documentary follows the shifts in the global marketplace that meant that a new, voracious consumer base was emerging. Narrated by Russell Crowe the documentary begins in France with the ‘Vintage of the Century’, and ends in China as its own wine industry is born. It is a fascinating look at not only the wine industry, the passion (and spending) it inspires, but the changing international economy, the beginning of the “Asian Century,” and how an obsession in Shanghai can affect the most illustrious vineyards in France.

Working with Australian Andrew Caillard, one of the few Master of Wines in the world, the film gains access to the highest end of chateaux’s in Bordeaux right as they are about to release what is rumoured to be the second perfect vintage within a century – almost unheard of. The filmmakers describe the timing as the perfect storm:  the wine has never been better, their traditional buying market (America) has never been poorer, and the prices have never been higher.

The French interviewees are all sophistication, knowledge and passion for their product and one of the more charismatic chateaux owners admits ‘I am not a great wine maker; I am a great wine drinker’ and that it is pretty common for everyone to have a bottle of wine each at lunch. Having established the old world charm of the vineyards, the film then moves on to bustling Hong Kong, exploring the commoditisation of wine as investors realised buying and on selling expensive wine can be more reliable than gambling on the stock market, and finally to China and its new generation of billionaires discovering the intricacies of wine for the first time, and embracing it wholeheartedly.

Here the documentary enters new territory and we meet some fascinating wine aficionados. A highlight would have to be the Chinese sex toy magnate, with empty bottles of Chatueax Lefite Rothschild just lying around the house, a while cat that likes to be stroked, and a confession that ‘When I was younger, I preferred sex, now I’m older, I prefer wine.’

No expense was spared in the cinematography of the film, and you can tell, it is stunning to watch. If the film doesn’t make you want to drink wine, it will make you want to travel. The documentary is also surprisingly accessible in that you do not need to know a lot about wine to understand and appreciate the journey, while the behind the scenes nature means it still has something to offer for real wine buffs.

China is aiming to become the biggest wine producers in the world, and if the people continue to embrace it the way they have so far, they will need to be, or there will be a significant global shortages in the near future. The effects of climate change is another big worry as the Bordeaux chateaux’s found out when their run of perfect seasons ended in 2011 and the prices of their wine went down with it. China meanwhile, has started to make international award winning wine and turning unused land into vineyards.

While it may have begun that way, the film isn’t really about the wine industry, but about the shift in power from West to East. ‘They do things differently in China’ is the message that comes out in the end, and you get the feeling that understanding how they do things will become increasingly important for the western world, whether they are wine drinkers or not. Overall “Red Obsession” a fascinating insight into brands, business, and beautiful wineries. See it in the cinema to experience the full effect of the stunning scenery.

Having screening at the Berlin, Tribeca and Melbourne International Film Festivals, “Red Obsession” is now showing in Australia. For more on this film check out our interview with Warwick Ross and David Roach here.

Penthouse North

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