I originally saw the documentary film SOMM at a screening before it gained widespread distribution and fame, and was immediately thirsty to see it again. The film follows four Sommeliers as they strive for the ultimate prize of the wine trade, the designation of Master Sommelier. An escalating roller coaster ride of emotion accompanies the narrative of their struggles for greatness. 

Shattering Wine Glasses

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Subtle tensions progressively mount for each of the main characters as the story is told. These guys may have been born with senses of taste beyond what is normal, but equally impressive is their passionate determination to earn the elusive Master diploma. You are taken into private settings to witness the full range of sentiments, from happiness to despair. The depth of feeling one can associate with these men as they prepare for the biggest event of their lives is vivid. Especially is this so during the intensive scenes surrounding the MS exam, which maintains a ninety-percent failure rate. The dedication to the craft and devotion to becoming authorities of wine and service exhibited by the candidates is admirable.

"Fresh Cut Garden Hose"

Telling unique stories of individual wines is a primary responsibility for a Sommelier, but developing accurate descriptions can be challenging. And entertaining. You can learn a tremendous amount about wine tasting by observing the Somms as they prepare for the test. But this is not a stuffy or tiresome educational documentary. Absorbing and humorous storytelling further illustrates the scope of near obsession required to advance, and how this affects the candidates, their families, and friends. Festive and touching moments that emerge from following a closely knit group of guys are interwoven throughout the film. Their endearing qualities pleasantly balance and soften the profound anxiety that is apparent. 

Somms as Stars

The vision of a stiff, stodgy, Sommelier of old is dead, driven to the grave in part by SOMM. A younger, enthusiastic, and personable Sommelier is on the scene, more focused on hands-on service and training than glowering in a corner. Undoubtedly, the film has contributed to the dramatic increase in applications received by the Court of Master Sommeliers. While very few of the new breed will achieve Master, or even Advanced status, the positive attention and broadened pool of talent is bound to improve overall wine and restaurant service. Director Jason Wise has given a gift to wine lovers and fine diners beyond his captivating wine documentary.

SOMM will make you laugh, cheer, and possibly bring a tear to your eye. You will feel deep sympathy for the cast, even as you imagine that they must be insane. If you are into wine at all, you will watch Somm again and again. Grab a favorite bottle, and push play.

Have you seen SOMM? What is your favorite scene?

 

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