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Red Obsession - Trailer 2

The great chateaux of Bordeaux struggle to accommodate the voracious appetite for their rare, expensive wines, which have become a powerful status symbol in booming China.

PT2M50S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2rqwv 620 349

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Reader rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (38 votes)

In what has all the markings of a Shakespearean tragedy, David Roach and Warwick Ross' hugely entertaining documentary examines China's obsession with the most sacred of wine-growing regions in France - and the Dragon's own rapidly developing wine industry, which now threatens to usurp it.

Roach and Ross (Young Einstein, Reckless Kelly) gain impressive access to the key players in the region, having spent six months convincing some of them to talk again. (Many were burnt by the 2004 documentary Mondovino, which painted them as villains against the plight of the small-business owner).

Ross also secured the services of Russell Crowe, who lends a suitably gladiatorial voice as narrator. His Everyman quality also opens up the piece, making it accessible to a wider audience.

The film, which premiered at Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film Festival in New York, proves remarkably enlightening. The Chinese stepped in during the global financial crisis, when European and American purses were stretched. The prices of the 2008 Bordeaux vintage skyrocketed as a result.

Focusing on the industry's so-called ''en primeur'' week in Bordeaux - the most sacred of wine-growing land, home to the houses of Lafite Rothschild, Latour, La Mission, La Louviere, Lagrange and Lagune - we discover a market feeding China's insatiable appetite with its own unique vintage.

We also discover the Chinese habit of imitation goes back even further than Bordeaux's 400-year-plus vintage, and is regarded as the greatest form of flattery.

Rice wine, their former tipple of choice, was discredited recently by the Chinese government. Wine is now the recommended drop for well-being.

China's middle class - predicted, by 2030, to be edging towards half a billion - could be big enough to consume the world's entire wine output if demand continues to rise. Wineries in France admit they've tapped into cellar stocks to meet demand. China's burgeoning domestic industry, which has reclaimed huge swaths of land in northern provinces, will not be sufficient. This comes after China bought up 40 per cent of Bordeaux's own wine houses, mirroring the actions of the Japanese three decades earlier.

It's all fascinating stuff, with stunning aerial photography to keep one hooked.