Many say wine is the nectar of the Gods. This treasured liquid is immoartalized in prose, song, art, and of course, consumption. Bordeaux wines are among the most coveted in the world. Vintner chateaus such as Margeaux, Latour, and Lafite Rothschild are the most sought after.
For the past forty years, it was the Americans who were the top consumers of vintages from Bordeaux. 2008 changed everything. The economic downturn in the U.S. meant Americans no longer have the money to spend on expensive vintages. On the other side of the globe, China’s economy is growing by leaps and bounds. The Dragon knocked over the American Eagle by becoming the top consumer of Bordeaux wines.
Documentary makers, David Roach and Warwick Ross, explore the bind of between the East and West with their film, Red Obsession. Narrated by Russell Crowe, the film features insightful interviews with the likes such as international wine critic, Robert Parker, wine writer, Oz Clarke and TV host, Yue Sai-kan. One of the most interesting portion of the film is the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The number eight is considered to be the most prosperous number for the Chinese. The folks at Chateau Lafite-Rothschild employed a genius marketing move by putting the Chinese character for the number Eight on the bottle of their 2008 vintage. The Chinese nouveau riche purchased the vintage, en masse.
And just who are the Chinese nouveau riche these days? One of the more colorful characters is Peter Tseng, whose business empire is the world’s largest manufacturer of sex toys. It’s said that Tseng’s personal wine collection is worth billions. It’s not so much that drinking wine is a past time for him. Like most Chinese wine enthusiasts, collecting vintages, status and brand recognition are paramount. Lafite-Rothschild is the preferred brand of choice and almost other brands just won’t do. An empty bottle of Lafite-Rothschild is worth $500-$1000 USD on its own.
The thirsty demand comes at a price for the French. Chinese billionaires snatch up bottles as soon as they are on the market. Vintners resort to not selling certain vintages, for the fear of stock shortage.
The film also tackles the subject of climate change and its effects on the wine industry. The drought of 2009 in France brought the wine industry to its knees. Their quality has lessened and prices had fallen. It seemed the Chinese love affair with Bordeaux is all but over.
The Chinese took it upon themselves to study viticulture and created vineyards in their own backyard. One such vineyard was created in the area of the Gobi Desert. The winery, He Lan Qing Xue, ended up taking the top prize at the 2011 Decanter Awards with its 2009 Cabernet.
Warwick Ross (who also owns a vineyard in his native Australia), stated that some of the best Chinese wines are being produced in the areas of Tibet and western provinces.
Many say that China is well on its way to become the world’s top wine producer within a decade.
Looks like France have some fierce competition.