RED OBSESSION: A REVIEW

RED OBSESSION was part of the Sydney Film Festival which has now drawn to a close, it has been a fantastic year and this brilliant film, which is a unique look at wine is getting an Australian cinematic release – Roadshow owns the rights to this film so I see a slightly larger art house release coming soon. Without further ado please enjoy another fine review from Salty Kernel, ANDREW BRUSENTSEV.

What a strong year 2013 has been for Australian documentaries at the Sydney Film Festival. It really is going to be hard to select one winner, many have been deserving of winning the Foxtel Australian documentary prize.

RED OBSESSION is no different, David Roach and Warwick Ross (Directors and Writers), have made an entertaining, if not thought provoking, documentary into the World of Bordeaux wines. Yes yes we know it is not exactly a new topic. It is the topic of heated debates amongst the wine snobberati. You know that boorish conversation (ok I am prejudiced) about Old World vs New World wines. A debate I never enter into and one frankly I am not qualified to give any kind of expertise on. Besides the fact that I would sell my soul to go back to Florence and crawl back into a bottle of Brunello I had over there, does that count?

 

RED OBSESSION - a review on Salty Popcorn
RED OBSESSION – a review on Salty Popcorn

 

But this documentary, rather than trudge the same old territory of wine porn, really does offer a unique perspective and takes us to fascinating places. I certainly learnt a lot from the whole experience and I think viewers will too.

The film certainly pulls no punches in star-powered narration. No less than Russell Crowe narrates a beautiful and evenly paced view of Bordeaux wines and the impact that China’s growing obsession is having on the World Market. The question is asked when the “Dragon” fully awakens will there be enough wine for anyone else in the World? Okay okay nothing so histrionic but it is definitely true. China has more billionaires than any other country and that number is only growing.

 

RED OBSESSION - a review on Salty Popcorn
RED OBSESSION – a review on Salty Popcorn

 

Even to the casual observer the movie has much to offer. Even as a craft beer devotee there is much in this movie to hold interest. Doing a bit of research I have discovered that the usual topics of “terroir” or wine’s origins, particularly in Bordeaux, has ignited such a passion and one sided debates as China’s growing obsession with the wines of the Bordeaux region and one label in particular – Chateau Lafite Rothschild. The Lafite 1982 is worth close to AU $18,000K a bottle. Many a critic have written for one side or the other (many are featured in this documentary).

The viewers are taken on a breathtaking tour of centuries-old estates and explanations are provided for how and why this land’s wine has become the stuff of legend. Bordeaux has the perfect blend of soil, rain, sun and wind not found anywhere else on Earth.  We meet many chateau owners who live and breathe terroir. A standout interview is with Christian Mouiex who charmingly describes his perfectionist tendencies, he is not a wine maker but a drinker he informs us. He makes wines not for his own sense of self but for the drinker’s pleasure. Although he knows it doesn’t make a difference he still plucks out even a slightly green grape, it is not so much a scientific process but an important one to be mindful of. Small things have big effects. We learn that to create a perfect wine you need the right combination of elements as well as the skills of a master craftsman.  The last “perfect” wines were made in 1982, 2009 and 2010. These wines from the “Grand Cru” Chateau’s (wineries essentially nominated in a competition by Napoleon) cost 10’s of thousands of dollars.

 

RED OBSESSION - a review on Salty Popcorn
RED OBSESSION – a review on Salty Popcorn

 

Roach and Ross not only give us a “documentary” style History Channel look into the romance of Bordeaux wine but also the role that critics play in inflating prices and also traders who actually don’t drink the stuff but sell it like any other commodity or bond. We meet several traders and wine investors who don’t drink the stuff but use it like gold bars. Wine price goes up and down exactly the same as any commodity they inform us and for a time even beat the GFC reckoning.

The film then takes us East. In a nutshell the Chinese are the latest recipients of conspicuous consumption and as a display of this have begun to consume Western luxury brands at a phenomenal pace. To this mix we add famous wine brands and seriously there are none more famous that the wines of the Bordeaux region.

We meet many interesting characters among the Chinese super rich – An industrialist who manufactures sex toys is the most entertaining (he also happens to have a $60 million dollar wine collection). Whilst there is the avarice to buy anything from the Grand Cru’s, the pinnacle of wines in China is Lafite. So much so this is the bottle that has become famous amongst all classes.

 

RED OBSESSION - a review on Salty Popcorn
RED OBSESSION – a review on Salty Popcorn

 

As a documentary the film makers have succeeded in providing a solid addition to the documentary circuit. The story is always entertaining and there is the right balance of interview, narration and commentary. Some of the deeper questions of why China consumes in the way it does are touched upon but there is not a gnashing of teeth or a denigration of the super-rich which would be easy to do should the film have chosen it. I enjoyed it thoroughly.  What is heartening is that the Chinese have begun making their own local wines. Some may scoff but winemakers trained in France and making wines in some of China’s most arid regions are even starting to win medals. I found this heartening that we are not just seeing rampant avarice but a real love of wine culture and a search for their own terroir. Another key difference between the East and the West is that Chinese, when they buy, buy to drink and share with friends. In the West we buy and essentially hoard. Something to be said by that.

Did it change my opinions on wine. Well not really, as an aside at the accompanying degustation where there were a few wines from Bordeaux my favourite was an Eden Hills Canberra Shiraz from down the road. Go figure.

 

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