On the Nose
A new documentary about sommeliers
If Somm, a new documentary about passing the Master Sommelier exam, were a wine, we would describe it as full-bodied, with crisp emotional undertones, more than a slight hint of neuroses and, yes, a sweet finish.
The film follows four men on their quest to become master sommeliers--something fewer than 200 people have done over the past 40 years. Director Jason Wise was granted unprecedented access into this notoriously secretive organization, interviewing members of its fabled ranks and recording some of the test itself, which takes place over the course of three days.
Wise shot in the world’s most storied wine regions in Italy, Germany, France and, of course, right here in Northern California. While we were perfectly happy gazing at all the luscious vines, the surprising emotional fallout of studying for this exam is what really got us. These men become obsessed, sacrificing their personal lives and pulling all-nighters to memorize unglamorous, obscure facts (e.g., the name of the bacterium that causes Pierce’s disease in grapes).
Thankfully, Somm doesn’t take itself too seriously. One segment devoted to the ridiculous ways even pros describe wine (“cat pee,” “Grandma’s closet”) almost had us doing a spit-take.
Be sure to see the film at the Sundance Kabuki Theater, so you can sip on some vino while you watch.