Red Obsession can’t really be described as anything more than a functional documentary. Not to say that it isn’t a well informed or researched look into how wine has become one of the hottest monetary commodities in the world, but it’s really only interesting enough for viewers to retain small facts and tidbits of knowledge if they aren’t keenly in love with talking about everything related to the world’s most sought after alcoholic beverage. It’s really better suited to losing 15 minutes and running on public television than something even hardcore doc fans should rush out and pay money to see in a cinema.
Narrated by Russell Crowe (himself a wine enthusiast who previously starred in Ridley Scott’s oenophilic drama A Good Year) and directed by Warwick Ross and David Roach (who previously produced all of the big screen outings for comic Yahoo Serious), this Australian produced doc looks at the cult of Bordeaux and those who kneel before the quality and opulence the French region brings to their hundreds of years old primary export.
Picking up in 2010, just after the famed En Primeur event and unveiling where critics from around the world determine the value and quality of that year’s finest wines, the industry looks to price itself out of the market. After two near perfect years in a row – unheard of since near perfect vintages come roughly five times a century – chateaux owners have skyrocketed their prices, making most North American buyers reticent to purchase anything even as an investment.
Ross and Roach detail the facts quite well. Unlike gold, stocks, or other traded commodities, a great bottle of wine never decreases and fluctuates in value after the prices are initially set and adjusted for inflation. Ross and Roach credibly and almost mournfully make the case through their interviews with various purchasers, investors, imbibers, critics, aficionados, and analysts that wine isn’t made to be quaffed anymore, but instead as a symbol of prestige and status.
That notion gets undermined in the film’s second half, which takes the story squarely to China and tells how the growing superpower with more new money billionaires per capita than any country in the world has spiked prices and demand singlehandedly and to an almost market crushing extreme. Sex toy and child toy manufactures alike buy up bottles like children collecting baseball cards. Lafite Rothchild, one of Bordeaux’s greatest brands, markets their product now with a keen eye to the market most of their money has been coming from. As with anything in China, great vintages also create a burgeoning counterfeit market. The country has embraced wine enthusiastically and is poised to become the biggest consumer of the beverage, but at what cost to the global economics of the drink?
There aren’t any easy answers, but Ross and Roach approach their subject like a dry Merlot. It’s a whole lot of facts packed into 75 minutes, and it’s a well researched and indisputable point of view, but it’s puzzling why such a film would get a theatrical release with such a narrow and niche based perspective. The only guess I can venture is that the audience for this film in cinemas would be the same kind of viewer who could splurge on a bottle of the good stuff being captured in the film.