True Winos: SOMM brings the Master Sommelier Exam to the big screen

Posted by Valentina Valentini on November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

True Winos: SOMM brings the Master Sommelier Exam to the big screen


This is NOT Alexander Payne’s Sideways. This is a stressful, exciting, sportsman-like competition about being the best.

Malcolm Gladwell said in his 2008 book “Outliers” that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Well, these gentlemen (and one woman who’s story weirdly gets sidestepped throughout the documentary) have got to be somewhere around triple that.

SOMM is a 93-minute emotional rollercoaster that opens the door to a very mysterious and first-world event – the Court of Master Sommeliers and the massively intimidating Master Sommelier Exam.

The Court of Master Sommeliers is one of the world’s most prestigious, secretive, and exclusive organizations. Since its inception almost 40 years ago, less than 200 candidates have reached the exalted Master level. The exam covers literally every nuance of the world of wine, spirits and cigars.

“Those who have passed have put at risk their personal lives, their well- being, and often their sanity to pull it off,” it said in the press notes. And they’re not kidding. It really is the equivalent of preparing for the Olympics, or going to the moon, I imagine. I bet those guys don’t sleep with their wives for months on end either.

This is the first time ever that cameras have been allowed anywhere near the exam. They disappointingly don’t actually go into the exam (which is what I was waiting for), but more disappointing is the cinematography. There are moments of nicely done slow motion table-top cinematography of wine glasses being shattered and deep purple liquids spilling everywhere, but director Jason Wise and DP Jackson Myers somehow let the live action visuals go unloved, leaving crazy shutter speed issues for at least three interview scenes and general color temperature issues throughout, with framing choices that seem not-thought-out.

SOMM was filmed over three years in six countries around the world, the bulk of which took place in the United States, Germany, France, and Italy. When focused on the main characters, the movie takes place in the subjects’ apartments, houses, hotels and cars, often between the hours of midnight and four a.m. when the bulk of their preparations for the Exam took place.

Minus the visuals, this is a highly enjoyable film. And if you think you know wine, think again.


SOMM opens today in over a dozen cities nationwide and in Canada:

Quad Cinemas 4, New York, NY

Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood, CA

Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Seattle, WA

Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, San Francisco, CA

Cameo Cinema, St. Helena, CA

Vic Theatre, Victoria, BC

Violet Crown Cinemas, Austin, TX

Denver FilmCenter, Denver, CO

Plaza Theatre, Atlanta, GA

Enzian Theatre, Maitland, FL

Camelot Theatre, Palm Springs, CA

Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, OK

O Cinema, Miami, FL

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, Toronto, ON

Bear Tooth Theatre Pub, Anchorage, AK

Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, FL


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