Watch This


Saw a movie last night called Somm, and my verdict is in: this is the Citizen Kane of wine-tasting movies. The documentary, by Jason Wise, follows four young men as they chase the near-impossible goal of passing the Master Sommelier exam (there are only 197 masters in the world). The exam is a true Everest, requiring crazy-deep knowledge of wine theory, history, and, yes, the magician-like ability to take a single sip of wine and precisely identify it by type, region, and year.

Anyone who’s ever tried for something really, really hard will be able to relate to the journey of these guys: the obsessions, the wild ups and downs, the group and family dynamics. And above all, the training. Watching these guys blind-taste a glass of wine is exactly like watching NFL quarterbacks practice their progression of reads, or watching a ballet dancer polish their moves. Their final test, where each goes before the judges and has to identify six glasses of wine, is more nerve-jangling than any Super Bowl.

Click the above trailer to get a taste. And be warned: watching the movie makes you very thirsty.

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6 Responses to “Watch This”

  1. (Disclaimer: I am not a wine connoisseur.) Does this film address the issue that wine-tasting is apparently suspect?

  2. djcoyle says:

    Nope – though it does have a lot of fun with the “flavor notes” that are detected by tasters. Science note: it turns out all the “peach” and “lemon peel” and “violet” that people taste is not added by the winemakers, but rather a product of the fermentation process — it all comes from the yeast!

  3. Doc says:

    10,000 hour rule and wine tasting. Sounds like fun.

  4. jekirk says:

    Franklin, indirectly, yes!! The movie definitely hits on this point. Without giving any spoilers away, you follow the men on their way to the Master exam and through the exam itself. All the test takers involved are blinded on the same six wines, and while the testers never tell the test-takers what the wines actually were (this is standard practice for the exam, not just specific to this movie), the group of men compare notes after and you can hear/watch the evidence that there is a rhyme and reason to blind tasting. While not all the test-takers come up with the same answers, they independently come up with a very narrow window of possibilities (1-2 possible answers per glass), which points directly to the fact that unique varietals, terroir and years have distinguishable features that, with training, one can pick out and identify through sight, smell, taste and the feel of a wine alone.

  5. Robnonstop says:

    The amount of facts you have to remember to be considered an expert does not proof the entire discipline is not hubris based.

    Would brain scans of the few top performers show an increased volume or density of brain regions responsible for identifying smells similar to the changes in London taxi drivers?

    Would the certain proof of rotten grape juice tasting being an illusion change people’s believe that the entire industry and culture are valuable and not just a relic from times when water was too dirty to drink?

    There is certainly a difference between a palm reading amateur and a professional who spent 10,000 hours on palm reading. Almost certainly, the professional would perform better, with more accuracy. But can we assume it’s because they have a better understanding of palms or of telling us what we want to hear?

  6. Tom says:

    On a similar note the movie “Jiro dreams of sushi” ( ) is really fascinating (and beautiful).

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