Directed by: Robert Coe, Warwick Ross
Written by: Robert Coe, Warwick Ross, Madeleine Ross
Released: March 3, 2022
Grade: B+

Blind Ambition

Released in 2013, Red Obsession was a terrific Australian-made documentary that looked at China's newfound fixation for French red wine.  It highlighted that wine had been transformed from something people drink… into an “investment” that was too valuable to touch.  Narrated by Russell Crowe, the film articulately covered the subject from a range of angles including a detailed look at wine economics.  It’s worth hunting down if you haven’t seen it.

Warwick Ross, one of Red Obsession’s co-directors, is back with a new documentary which again takes us inside a lesser-known part of the wine industry.  Described as “the Olympics of wine tasing”, The World Wine Tasting Championships is an annual event that’s been conducted in France since 2013.  Each competing country is represented by a 4-person team and they are given the same 12 wines – 6 red and 6 white.  They score points for identifying the grape variety, country, name, producer, and vintage.  Teams train for months in advance by sampling and critiquing the widest variety of wines possible.

Blind Ambition focuses on the 2017 event and follows 4 unlikely men from Zimbabwe who are competing for the first time.  The film’s first half delves into their troubled upbringing.  They all overcame much poverty and adversity in Zimbabwe before fleeing to South Africa as refugees in search of a better life.  They didn’t know each other beforehand and none of them had a background in wine.  The only stumbled into the industry after landing small jobs in restaurants.  Their stories are both compelling and inspiring.

The film’s second half sees them raise 6,500 pounds and travel to Burgundy to take on the world’s best wine tasters.  It’s amazing how far they’ve come!  The tale has a Cool Runnings-type vibe with an interviewee describing it as “like Egypt putting together a skiing team for the Winter Olympics.”  Adding a splash of humour is their meddling, talkative coach who is as much a hindrance as a help.  Ross, along with co-director Robert Coe, get some wonderful footage to build suspense as the competition unfolds.

If you’re someone who likes seeing good things happen to good people, Blind Ambition deserves your attention.  It shines the spotlight on a cool, fascinating wine competition but, more broadly, it reminds us that to achieve big things, we must first be given an opportunity.  The faith shown by many people in these refugees is a testament to that.