Movie review – Somm: Into The Bottle


“Can there be any other business where there’s so much bullshit?” asks American grapevine scientist Carole Meredith in the motion picture, “Somm: Into The Bottle”. Sommeliers are often accused of being bullshitters (OK, so are wine writers), so this movie attempts to set the record straight and explain what it is that sommeliers actually do. Says one: “I don’t think of myself as a puller of corks, but a teller of stories.” Not a person who bores and irritates restaurant clients with uninvited and long-winded diatribes on wine.

It is a well-made, entertaining film, despite being somewhat schizophrenic: sometimes it feels like another ‘What Is Wine?’ introductory doco, trying to cover too many bases. At other times, it really does give an insight into the skills and daily tasks of a professional sommelier. But it lacks a thread of narrative that would give it structure.

It wanders off several times on interesting tangents, meeting somms’ favourite wine producers, such as the Chave family of Hermitage. This is a great segment: we meet three generations of the Chave family winemakers each recorded on film in his day, selecting a mould-encrusted bottle from the same cellar at three different points in time. It gives a great sense of the history of this 600-year-old family winery. “Since the 1300s, this family has been running this domaine and tending these Hermitage vines,” we are reminded.

Another highlight is when the grand-daddy of American somms, Fred Dame, tells the story of how he served former CIA director Leon Panetta a bottle of 1870 Chateau Lafite to celebrate Osama Bin Laden’s killing.

But that’s already giving too much away. You really have to see the movie.

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