Master Sommelier. There are only 147 who have earned that title in America today. Somm follows four American candidates on their journey to compete for the prestigious title. Being a wine fan, my tastes have expanded through the years from coolers to boxes to actually reading the bottles, taking an interest in its origin and experimenting with pairings. However, you do not have to be a fan of wine to enjoy this documentary- ask my non-wine drinking roommate who watched this DVD with me.
From the beginning, the four charismatic young sommeliers-in-training refer to their craft as more of a sport. The drive and competitiveness you see in them makes it feel like you are watching an intense sporting event, as well, as you watch anxiously to see which of the four will pass the long awaited test.
The group spends a whole year immersing in the world of wine to prepare. Since wine is virtually all you can think about while preparing for the test, it is only natural that they form a friendship and support system between each other. A typical hang out for these guys would sound something like "Yo dude, I called wine #5 Bordeaux" "Nah, no dude, it had tannins that ripped my face off!” My favorite part of the documentary was a scene where they are hanging out quizzing each other while their wives complain of finding their nice kitchenware around the house used as spit buckets.
The test contains three parts: Theory: regions and their wineries and grapes; Services: demonstrating restaurant and customer service professionalism and etiquette; Tasting: three whites and three reds to be tasted and described accurately. How did fermented grape juice turn into such a complex craft? But as this documentary shows, it’s more than just running up to the grocery store and picking out the perfect bottle of white for Easter dinner. It’s the history of the region, the values and skills of the people, and how wine making culture has grown throughout the world and is continuously changing.
The final day, 50 people take it and 6 pass. Watch them begin to crumble like a good cheese as the pressure rises the day of the test. Which of the four men focused on in the film pass? Not going to lie, I teared up a bit in the end.
For a second helping of vino, try Wine Bites: simple morsels that pair perfectly with wine. For another documentary into perfecting a culinary craft, try Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Review by Stevie Z.