The film, which is currently available on iTunes and will be released in Atlanta on Friday, trails Master Sommelier candidates as they prepare with the intensity of those studying law or medicine. Since the Court’s inception 40 years ago, only 133 candidates (114 men, 19 women) have successfully earned their Master Sommelier certification in North America.
SOMM is the first feature film by Jason Wise. After graduating film school, Wise worked as a bartender and met Brian McClintic, a Master Sommelier hopeful. McClintic invited Wise to attend a marathon blind tasting session where he and his study partners poured bottle after bottle of wine trying to ascertain the varietal, maker and vintage of each.
Wise says he was “blown away” after watching this informal “practice” session for the exam, “It was one of the most insane and beautiful things I had ever seen in my life.”He was fascinated to see “a bunch of guys acting like guys” in the sophisticated world of wine.
Wise spent three years making this film, two of those without funding. That meant borrowed cameras and equipment, sleeping on hardwood floors and living off of gifted Starbucks cards.
Overcoming those challenges paled in comparison to obtaining permission from the Court of Master Sommeliers for an inside look at the prestigious exam. “I don’t think it’s been said enough how hard that was,” he reflects. In fact, he was only granted access after two years of filming when the Court realized that the film would be made with or without their cooperation.
Wise says he believes they finally consented because these Master Somms wanted their families to know what they do and what they have accomplished. Since the film was released, he’s received dozens of emails from sommeliers thanking him for “validating [their] insanity.”
What’s next for Jason Wise? He’s “prepping a film set within the world of the oyster industry,” but comments, “My first priority for now, though, is Somm!”
What’s next for you? Download the film on iTunes for $6.99 or see in at The Plaza Theater (1049 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta) starting Friday.
And once you’ve seen the film, don’t forget to thank a sommelier.
You may also be interested in taking John Kessler’s wine quiz and reading about school for sommeliers.
Here’s the trailer for SOMM:
–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog