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An Indecent Obsession: China's love affair with Bordeaux
Red Obsession is one of the many cinematic offerings available to a lucky Melbourne public as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival staged over 2 ½ weeks and 8 venues. The premier screening of this quality documentary took place at Australian Centre of the Moving Image at Federation Square, a fitting tribute to a very Australian production about a very French commodity that has become the object of desire of the fastest-growing economy on earth.
I'm backing writer and producer David Roach in defying anyone who watches this documentary not to have an overwhelming urge to imbibe a glass of good red by the end of it. Prior to viewing this well-made doco, your correspondent had no idea there was something really huge missing from her life: a bottle of wine from the Bordeaux region of France.
Red Obsession is an absorbing 79 minute snapshot of a year in the life of the wine-makers, drinkers and traders in this increasingly pricey commodity. And what a year. Narrator Russell Crowe was presumably chosen for his role in the pretty but forgettable movie A Good Year, and 2009 was a very good year indeed if the measure of success of a wine is the price it can command from the punters.
Red Obsession documents what happened next: would the 2010 vintage equal the monumental highs of its predecessor? Would the voracious appetite of the growing Chinese market be satisfied and where would that leave the rest of us?
China has grown into the premier market for this high end commodity. That sleeping dragon has woken with a start, and many newly minted Chinese entrepreneurs have a yen to corner the market. There can be no greater evidence of success than a bottle of Chateau Lafite at thousands of dollars a pop, representing one heck of a lot of face saved in a country that places so much importance on gift-giving.
The factors that go into setting a market price for Bordeaux wines is convoluted and fascinating for anyone new to this game of demand, supply and fakery that dictates the market in fine French wine.
We see the vignerons speak of their terroir as so much more than plots of land. To these true believers the essential ingredients in a good wine can't be quantified: centuries of turning the soil, improving grape-growing techniques and above l'amour. These individuals have a reverence for their vocation and its product that is almost palpable.
Contrast this with the veniality of the wine traders who can make millions of dollars from canny investment in a particular vintage and you start to come to grips with the complexity of the red obsession at the heart of this thoughtful, well-made documentary.
The Q and A session at the end of the first screening of Red Obsession was well worth delaying that glass of red for. An engaged audience made for a highly intelligent exchange with the two writer/producers David Roach and Warwick Ross. Red Obsession has a release date of August 15 in selected cinemas. Well worth a look.