‘SOMM’ depicts the competitive world of wine experts
A toast to “SOMM,” a documentary about the competitive process of becoming a Master Sommelier.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘SOMM,’ a documentary directed by Jason Wise. 93 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. SIFF Film Center.
Who knew that wine drinking could be so competitive? The people in “SOMM,” Jason Wise’s sprightly documentary about a handful of wine experts studying for the Master Sommelier diploma, seem to be training for a marathon — the sort in which you drink a lot of wine, answer a lot of questions, and never get drunk. (Someone sign me up for this marathon, by the way.) People of “a highly competitive nature” are drawn to become Master Sommeliers, we’re told, and indeed it’s a very rarefied field: Fewer than 200 people worldwide hold the title, bestowed by the impressive-sounding Court of Master Sommeliers.
In “SOMM,” we watch as four wine-loving guys named Ian, Brian, DLynn and Dustin study for the exam, which is in three parts: theory (i.e. the history of wine and spirits, including extensive knowledge of how and where different wines are made), service and tasting. Along the way, we learn that some wine is redolent of “a freshly opened can of tennis balls,” and that when these guys say that a wine smells of “black currant,” it’s code for cat urine. (Yikes.) The whole thing is much more fun than you’d imagine watching people drink would be, and by the end, you’re surprisingly invested in which of the guys, if any, will pass the final test. (I didn’t guess right.) It’s a fascinating peek at a profession that requires a staggering amount of knowledge; particularly considering the words of one would-be Master Sommelier: “It’s fermented grape juice, know what I mean?”
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org