Does China really love wine? This is the question I found myself asking as I watched Red Obsession. The movie was beautiful and eye opening; it shows how quality wine is associated with power and prestige for the people of China. But is it the wine that is loved or the symbol of power that it represents? One could argue that it is this question that decides the future of fine wine in China.
Red Obsession, itself, doesn’t attempt to answer these questions. Instead the film beautifully paints the relationship between France’s Bordeaux and China’s rich. The full story starts with a little bit of history; China hasn’t always been the up-and-coming economy it is. Before the 80s, China’s economic policy was decidedly anti-capitalistic. While the Communist Party is still in power, the economic policy has since been converted into a market economy, allowing individuals to buy and sell (mostly) what they please. Since this change, China has been growing at an unprecedented rate.
Because of this growth, the luxury industry in China has also expanded. Wine, especially that from Bordeaux, has grown in popularity. The popularity of this wine has also caused the price to go up dramatically. China, with over 100 billionaires to date, is becoming the primary market for these fine wines. China is Bordeaux’s new biggest customer, buying 1-in-5 bottles from that region.
The rich in China have come to adore wine. A few have even gone so far as to purchase chateaux in Bordeaux: some for profit and some simply for prestige. Others have bought large collections to indicate their affluence.
But all this could change.
For instance, there was a recent scare that quality wine trade to China would be dampened when trade issues arose during July of 2013. China had threatened wine imports with duties in response to anti-dumping duties proposed for China’s exported solar panels. Thankfully an agreement was made after negotiations, but who knows what could have happened if negotiations had failed.
Another point of frailty is the image of wine. What if wine were to lose it’s status? As it stands, most Chinese fine wine drinkers heavily rely on brand to make their purchasing decisions. If cheaper wine was discovered to taste as good or better, wouldn’t this image deteriorate?
While some accept China as the next big wine market, it would be wise to look deeper than the insights given by this summer’s wine movie. While compelling and certainly entertaining, some of the information given is slightly out of date.