For centuries, Bordeaux has assumed a mythical status in the world of fine wine as a leitmotif of wealth, power and influence, but its prosperity has always been linked to the capricious nature of markets and the shifting fortunes of global economies. Now change is coming to Bordeaux, with traditional customers like the US and the UK falling away, as China's new rich push prices to stratospheric levels. The demand is unprecedented, but the product is finite and this new client wants it all. The China market bubble may never burst - or it may become the biggest threat yet to Bordeaux's centuries old reputation.
Review by Louise Keller:
Whether a historic tradition, simple pleasure, artistic achievement, mark of elegance, status symbol or investment, there are many complex layers and notes to the magnificent wines of Bordeaux, as we learn in this intoxicating documentary. Like a fine wine whose pleasures go far beyond its bouquet, the winding journey of this Australian co-production (with France, UK, China and Hong Kong) is long and far-reaching as it explores the industry's cultural roots, its philosophies and forays into China that promises wine to be the new Silk Road.
First time directors David Roach and Warwick Ross (who wrote Beneath Hill and Reckless Kelly respectively) have crafted a film that does justice to the many facets of the wine it describes. Through Russell Crowe's fine narration, we learn about Bordeaux's cultural roots and how vines were planted there by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. They rely on the unique combination of rain, sun, wind and soil. Images of French chateaux surrounded by acres of vineyards are indelibly imprinted in our minds and the age-old process of the wine making - from the vineyards to the cellars to our glasses.
Interviews with wine critics, journalists and winemakers reveal the way the industry works, how the demand exceeds supply, how the weather variances determine the yield and quality, how the prices of the top brands like Château Margaux and Château Lafite Rothschild are set and what is happening in the market place. With all this valuable information under our belt, the focus then shifts left of field - to China, which has become the largest importer of Bordeaux wines in the world.
The exploration of China in this context is intriguing as we learn this new market of 600 billionaires is thirsty to imbibe every aspect of the luxury item that is compared to art and music. One wealthy Chinese industrialist who manufactures sex toys has a collection said to be worth $60 million - with bottles of Lafite scattered all over his house. In a country when numerology and superstition plays a big role in lives, Lafite hit the jackpot in 2008, when a stroke of brilliant marketing placed the Chinese symbol '8' above the label.
Remember to dig the well before you are thirsty, says a Chinese Proverb, and from being a consumer, China is now becoming a competitor as it seriously invests in its wine making efforts. Peggy Lee's seductive rendition of Fever through the closing credits emphasises the burning, yearning and sensuality of this industry whose product has not only outperformed the stockmarket but may make all the difference to the future relationship of a couple on a first, romantic date.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A bottle or more of Bordeaux at lunch is not unusual for one of the vignerons featured in this fascinating doco about the wines of Bordeaux, the French wine region that is the brand of excellence, the signature of Western culture, the commercial king of winemaking and the most exploited terroir in the world.
There isn't a wine writer or wine maker of note who doesn't get a say about the traditional prestige of Bordeaux wines, especially the almighty Lafite and Margaux labels, which are far more valuable investments than shares, gold or even real estate. With an estimated 600 US dollar billionaires in the new, post Mao China and consequently thousands of millionaires, that market has taken to Bordeaux with the obsession of the convert.
Average consumption in China is already up to 1 bottle per year, but Westerners go through 35 a year, so there is still a massive growth potential. There have been attempts at counterfeit Bordeaux and now the Chinese are getting into the act and making their own. Some have even built their own Chateau and attendant vineyards in an attempt to show (and show off) that they have civilised Western culture at their fingertips.
As the filmmakers take us on a guided tour of the most desirable chateaux in Bordeaux, they also tell us something about the reasons for the wine's long lasting fame, as well as about the limits on its production - the latter being key to its value. Luis Vuitton can always make more bags, but Burgundy can't expand its output. Indeed, after the unprecedentedly fabulous 2010 vintage, the nature-cursed 2011 shrivelled, the Chinese market collapsed (relatively speaking) and Bordelians were back to being philosophical and optimistic about the region's longevity and its ability to rebound.
By coincidence, I took delivery of a case of Bordeaux just prior to the preview of this film, purchased not at the average of $500 a bottle but at the cutprice rate of $10 each. It isn't a Lafite, but it's a Bordeaux ... and it's a 2010.
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RED OBSESSION (PG)
NARRATION: Russell Crowe
PRODUCER: Warwick Ross
DIRECTOR: David Roach, Warwick Ross
SCRIPT: David Roach, Warwick Ross
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lee Pulbrook, Kevin Arnold
EDITOR: Paul Murphy
MUSIC: Burkhard Dallwitz
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 76 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 15, 2013