Red Obsession Gives a Taste of Chinese Wine Mania


As such things go, the clash of civilizations between the patrician French winemakers of Bordeaux and the upstart investors of 21st century China is hardly of the apocalyptic Samuel P. Huntington variety. A less sophisticated analog might be 1980’s Caddyshack, though you wouldn’t necessarily refer to these newly minted Chinese billionaires—like Peter Tseng, owner of a $50,000 bottle of Château Latour—as “slobs.” (Tseng did make his fortune on sex toys, so it’s arguable.) Directors Warwick Ross and David Roach (with narration supplied by an especially gravelly Russell Crowe) chart this brief love affair between wealthy Chinese eager to catch up on all the post-Communist fun and the French vintners desperate for buyers after the 2008 economic crisis caused their former best customers, the Americans, to bow out. This hullabaloo over Premier cru quickly creates upheavals in the pastoral Bordelais lifestyle, however, with some vintners lamenting that their new clients lack the “culture” of their former buyers (mull that over: The French called us cultured), and others eagerly capitulating; Château Lafite Rothschild, in a hilariously canny move, embossed its 2008 vintage with the symbol for lucky number 8, selling millions. Predictable bigotry and avarice among the upper class aside, Ross and Roach show the aftermath, in which skyrocketing prices and a catastrophic harvest cause Chinese buyers to abandon their former passion and start planting their own vineyards. The doc affords us a look into a world rarely seen by the lumpenproletariat, though we could have done with fewer aerial/time-lapse shots and more history beyond “Napoleon III classified the vineyards in 1855, then the Chinese showed up.”