Production Notes 2013
The feature documentary, Red Obsession was born when Master of Wine Andrew Caillard encountered filmmaker and vigneron Warwick Ross on a Qantas flight between Sydney and London in 2010.
At that time “a contagion of optimism and extravagance” was sweeping through the legendary vineyards of Bordeaux. The great dragon of the East was awakening. Primed by the Hong Kong Government’s abolition of the wine tax and enthralled by the rarity and price evolution of Bordeaux’s famous first growth estates, cashed up Chinese collectors were already dominating the auction rooms of London, New York and Hong Kong. Almost every week new price records hit the headlines and Bordeaux’s traditional customers in Europe and the US were rapidly being forced out of the game.
With the lure of a huge emerging market and the promise of glittering wealth, it looked like Bordeaux was on the cusp of the greatest upheaval in its 400 year history.
And there was another thing. All indications coming from the winemakers of Bordeaux were that their 2010 vintage would be a second “vintage of the century.” Perfect vintages like the 2009 are rare. Two perfect vintages in a row is almost unheard of. Add to that mix a rampant emerging market, the GFC as well as a fast developing European Debt Crisis and anything could happen. Andrew Caillard believed that not only was there a story to be told - it had to be told now. The Bordeaux “En Primeur” campaign, where the new vintage is revealed to the world and the new prices set, was due to take place in a matter of weeks.
Through his company Lion Rock Films, producer/co-director Warwick Ross quickly put together his team and by early 2011 they had assembled in Bordeaux. They included David Roach, the AFI nominated screenwriter and co-director. There was young executive producer, Robert Coe, Emmy Award winning cinematographer Lee Pulbrook and sound recordist Grant Lawson. The team would later be joined by cinematographer Steve Arnold, editor Paul Murphy and award winning composers, Burkhard Dallwitz and Amanda Brown.
Andrew Caillard’s reputation in the international wine trade meant that the filmmakers were given unprecedented access to the major Bordeaux first growth chateaux. The production managed to secure some of the biggest names in the international wine world. People like Charles Chevalier (Ch Lafite), Thomas Duroux (Ch Palmer), Jean Guillaume Prats (Ch Cos d’Estournel) Christian Mouiex (Ch Hosanna & Ch Petrus), Frédéric Engerer (Ch Latour), Corinne Mentzelopoulos and Paul Pontallier (Ch Margaux).
Wine writers and critics were also sought out for their opinion. People like France’s most famous wine critic, Michel Bettane, UK wine critics, Jancis Robinson MW, Steven Spurrier and writer and broadcaster, Oz Clarke. There was the world’s most famous interviewer and wine lover, Sir Michael Parkinson as well as filmmaker and owner of Inglenook Winery, Francis Ford Coppola.
As the Bordeaux story began to take shape it became clear that a strange phenomenon was developing. Because these first growth wines were now a more lucrative investment than gold or the stock market - the wine was fast becoming too valuable to drink! Thousands of cases of some of the world’s greatest wines like Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Margaux were sitting in warehouses like bullion, being bought and sold but never opened. The production moved to London to seek out significant players in the wine commodity business for their opinion. People like Gary Boom of Bordeaux Index and Simon Staples from Berry Bros. and Rudd.
But it soon became clear that if Red Obsession was to tell the full story of this extraordinary moment in the world of wine, the production would need to travel to China. Over the following twelve months the film crew moved between Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai talking to wine critics and China observers like Asia’s first Master of Wine, Jeannie Cho Lee, Christie’s Head of Wine, China, Simon Tam and wine critics Ch’ng Poh Tiong and Fongyee Walker. The team tracked down billionaire wine collectors like sex toy magnate, Peter Tseng, doll manufacturer, George Tong and head of Tesiro Jewelry, Richard Shen who had just bought a chateaux in Bordeaux.
When the Chinese population of 1.4 billion began turning its attention to grape wine, experts worked out that within 20 years, the entire output of the world may not be enough to satisfy the new market. So China began planting grape vines. The Red Obsession crew visited the wine regions of Yantai in Shandong Province, Ningxia Province and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China’s vast and remote far north west. They filmed vineyards in the shadow of the Great Wall and new vine plantings on the bleak, gravelly plains where Genghis Kahn was killed.
Warwick Ross believed that if they had postponed filming even for a few months, the perspectives, enthusiasm and atmosphere of invincibility may have been lost. He says, “I feel we have captured an astonishing moment in time.”
Narrated by Academy Award© winner Russell Crowe, filmed for the big screen on the new Arri Alexa cameras, Red Obsession follows a modern-day silk road through the prism of Bordeaux’s ethereal wines. It observes the extraordinary financial risks people are prepared to take in pursuit of their passion. It confronts the modern dilemmas facing the Bordeaux vigneron at time of great global uncertainty, where one poor decision could put at risk a reputation built over hundreds of years. And in this “Asian Century”, the film confronts our pre-conceptions and easy stereotyping of other customs and traditions. Set against the stunning landscapes of Bordeaux and China, Red Obsession is the story two disparate and powerful cultures finding common ground over their love of a delicate wine.