Whine club – Red Obsession review

Red Obsession

By Simon Miraudo
December 16, 2013

Imagine a world without alcohol; where wine barrels decay and the French are forced to choke down carbonated pop with their cheese platters. No, this is not the premise of the latest dystopian sci-fi flick, but the very real future posited by directors Warwick Ross and David Roach in their documentary Red Obsession.

Wine makers, very recently, were enjoying a Bordeaux boom, thanks to two consecutive vintage crops in 2009 and 2010; an unprecedented achievement. Prior to that, Lafite had the bright idea to mark their 2008 bottles with the Chinese symbol for luck – the number eight being one of good fortune in their culture – sending their Eastern sales skyrocketing. But here we are five years later, and things are looking grim. Red wine is so popular, vineyards are struggling to keep up with the demand from China alone. Demand increased so significantly, prices skyrocketed, which inevitably led to the bursting of the Bordeaux bubble in 2012. Will red wine one day be so expensive that the common drinker can’t even afford it? Can Bordeaux survive the looming threat of bankruptcy? Are either of those things so bad?

Robert De Niro may have given Red Obsession the tick of approval, declaring it one of his two favourite flicks from his most recent Tribeca Film Festival, but my response is slightly more muted. Frankly, it’s hard to see what makes this tale so cinematic, or even that dramatic. Russell Crowe‘s sonorous narration aside, the information here is only anecdotally interesting, rather than revelatory. There’s also a pervasive sense here that the Chinese domination of the red wine industry is something to be fearful of; as if they’re less worthy to drink the stuff than the French, or the rest of us in the Western world. I found it hard to be too frightened by the prospect of a world in which only the richest Chinese people could drink wine, but maybe that’s because I’m a drinking lightweight.

Some nice cinematography and pleasant talking heads (including, unforgivably briefly, Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Parkinson) help Red Obsession go down smooth, but this is more like a pamphlet than an actual movie.


Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews.

Red Obsession will be available on Quickflix from December 18, 2013.

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