Saturday, June 29, 2013

Somm - The Must See Wine Movie

Three of the obsessed contenders you'll see in Somm
Until now there were only two truly great movies about wine - both Hollywood comedies - Bottle Shock, with Alan Rickman playing the supersnob to Napa's crass-to-class act, which was all too loosely based on reality, and the Santa-Barbara-County-Pinot-loving, Merlot-defining moment in Sideways.

Both took liberties with the truth - but liberties we loved.

In contrast, the other movie that's a contender in the best wine movies ever made category has got to be Mondovino, which didn't take liberties - but it did make you seasick watching the shakey cam. (It also made you endure scenes of Robert Parker's dog farting loudly and prolongedly under the dinner table.)

Now there's a new contender in the big leagues of defining wine movies - the reality film Somm. It's a fast-paced, engaging documentary - with a lot of twists and turns you don't expect at the end.

It's been the #1 indie or doc film on iTunes for a few weeks now.

The documentary is about 4+ guys who are competing to become Master Sommeliers - an elite cadre of wine experts who get to memorize a lot of trivia and cram for years to succeed. They also have to pass a wine tasting exam. For 40 years, there were only 170 Master Sommeliers in the world. Now the race is on - and more and more wine experts around the world are coveting the title and all that it means to make that grade.

My teacher at the North American Sommelier Association took the test in London recently and failed - along with everyone else taking the test in London this spring. It ain't no walk in the park.

Enter four guys from San Francisco and a few from Dallas and elsewhere who are obsessed with passing the test. I don't think I am being a spoiler if I say that the ones you think are so smart may not be, and guys who most resemble slackers may happen to have incredible palettes.

Some of the mistakes people make in the film are unreal - so off the mark they give you hope for your own wine tasting development. One major faux pas that happens is when one guy thinks a wine is albarino and another thinks it's a totally different white wine. That one made me shake my head - and also think there's hope for all the rest of us and our wine tasting abilities, in whatever league you enjoy playing in.

It was especially sweet to see it at the Mendocino Film Festival a few weeks ago - with two of the guys in it on stage for a Q and A afterwards (the one in the middle and the one on the right).

The film got a great review in the New York Times where critic Rachel Saltz put it thusly, saying Somm is, "less about wine fetishism than about the fetishism of mastery." True, but it also made me wonder if she's a cocktail drinker.

I think one of the aspects of mastery is that the film has no web site of its own - redirects to the iTunes listing where you can preview it on iTunes (where you can also purchase it.) Brilliant. I think Jason Wise, the director (or whoever is responsible) deserves a Masters in Marketing for this move.

If you need any more encouragement, check out the trailer on iTunes. It's a great movie to see at home (on iTunes). While drinking wine. 

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