Economics by the Glass: French Elixir Battles China’s Thirst on Unfair Ground
Part informative introduction to the exclusive world of fine wine and part horror tale about China’s voracious venture to take over every single industry known to man and narrated by Russell Crowe, David Roach and Warwick Ross’ engrossing documentary Red Obsession deals with much more than just the pleasure of sipping fermented grape elixir at $50, 000 a bottle. On the contrary, the implications that this product has on global markets and economies are, to say the least, revelatory.
Bordeaux’s legendary chateaux have distilled the best wines in the world for centuries, their privileged geography and terrain have placed them at the top of their craft. Their product is the object of desire for millions of consumers across the globe, but also the best investment for billionaires and businessmen who don’t need to appreciate the taste to realize the monetary potential of every bottle. The first part of the film focuses on the greatness of Bordeaux’s vintages, some of which have created wines that have cult followings unreachable for anyone who can’t spend their life savings on a single glass of the inebriating substance.
Even at the most revered wine producing location there are years greater than most. The 2009 vintage was considered the most recent exceptional batch, so rare an event that it brought the prices to historical heights only to be followed by yet another perfect year in 2010. The quality – which determines the subsequent pricing- is decided upon by the most prominent wine tasters/experts who have in their hands the power to enhance the profitability of said vintage. What is at stake is no small revenue; it is an operation that surpasses most stock markets and that redefines what luxury means.
Unsurprisingly, given the success and wealth that surrounds the Bordeaux chateaux, the most relentless economy the modern world knows, China, wants to get its hands in the game. After the U.S lost its position as the prime market for the Bordeaux producers, China became a thirsty consumer, competitor, and forger. The status and novelty that wine gives the Chinese affluent class makes for a devoted following of buyers and investors; however, it was just a matter of time before the Asian titan began thinking they could do it better. Not reserved to the wine industry, the monstrous economic power that China represents is terrifying, and hints at the fact that they have become the standard in globalized world that soon will be completely Chinese-owned.
Red Obsession bears a title that suits the piece perfectly and it will certainly become a must-see for wine enthusiasts, but even with its beautiful landscapes and aerial views of the breathtaking scenery it might leave the common man in the dark. However, the documentary does succeed at weaving together the artistry and the coldblooded aspect of it all into a compelling work even for the most sober members of the audience. It is outstanding how what might seem like a trivial subject can expound on the need for people to achieve status, on the clash of tradition and demand, and be honest about how uncertain the business is. If the weather wasn’t right this year, all these astronomical sums of money are nothing but a fantasy, yet, people are willing to go to an auction and pay $1.5 million dollars for one bottle of what appears to be the perfect combination of nature, human diligence, marketing, and consumerism.