'Red Obsession' Director Warwick Ross Reveals His Top Wine Picks

Warwick Ross and David Roach - H 2013
Getty Images

Warwick Ross and David Roach - H 2013

The Australian filmmaker, who made the Russell Crowe-narrated doc with David Roach, also talks to THR about how the movie about Bordeaux wine and its unlikely China connection came to be.

Red Obsession, the first documentary made by Australian filmmakers Warwick Ross and David Roach, is narrated by Russell Crowe. “That voice of Maximus lingered with me,” Ross says, which is why he tapped the Oscar winner for the film, about Bordeaux wine and its unlikely China connection. Born in Hong Kong, Ross always had a “fascination with China,” but beyond that he is both a scripted filmmaker and a winemaker, neither of which ultimately had much to do with his documentary.

“We started off making a film about wine but it became something else; that political and economic power shift from West to East,” Ross tells The Hollywood Reporter.

STORY: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's Wine Sells Out in 5 Hours

Red Obsession begins with the basics of France’s legendary vineyards. First planted by the Romans, the region has attained near-mythical status, catapulting the top-echelon wines into market values similar to that of a Picasso. That is due to the promotional efforts of the Bordelais, that group of top-tier wineries including Château Lafite,Margaux, Latour and others. “Wine tells a story,” Francis Ford Coppola says in the film, capturing its romantic side. “When was it made? What was going on in the world at that time?” But there is also a pragmatic position to consider. In the past decade Bordeaux prices have risen 1,000 percent, making it, ironically, too valuable to drink.

Bordeaux long depended on the U.S. and U.K., as its financial support, but power and greed, so the filmmakers suggest, got the better of them and saw an emerging market in Shang Hi, Hong Kong and Beijing. Thus the 75-minute film explores the newfound purchasing power of the Chinese.

Ross suggests there are at least 600 billionaires in China, which is currently the largest importer of Bordeaux in the world. “The Chinese had put Château Lafite Rothschild on a pedestal,” admits Ross. “It was selling for $2,400 a bottle during the height in May/June of 2011.”

This re-birth of power and money is expressed in buying the worlds most expensive wine, and as one collector in the film says, she wants the wine regardless if she drinks it or not.T herefore it’s all about the marketing arm of the top Château. “Margaux, for example, is very good at marketing, they have the son of the CEO living in Hong Kong as the brand’s China Ambassador,” Ross says.

Beautifully shot film by Emmy-winning cinematographer Lee Pulbrook, Red Obsession is a lesson on wine, politics, marketing, and the new global wealth.

STORY: Summer Getaways: 7 Escapes in Wine Country

Director Warwick Ross’s Top Five Bordeaux Choices 

Château Grand-Puy Lacoste  – A giant killer, well below First Growth prices. Highly regarded amongst the Bordelais themselves – good value Fifth Growth for what you get. Around $55.

Château Batailley – Terrific value and consistently good. The best value of these five. Around $45

Reserve de la Comtesse – An elegant second wine from 2nd Growth Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, ages beautifully. Around $50

Alter Ego Palmer - The second wine from the fabulous Château Palmer and made by the charismatic Thomas Duroux. Good value at the moment, well off its highs of 2010. Around $60.

Vieux Château Certan – A wonderful refined and elegant right bank Bordeaux. Not cheap but consistently rated in the top 10 of the Merlot dominant right bank wines. $140.