A few years ago, I gave serious consideration to studying for the “Master Sommelier” credential and admittance to the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Then I asked myself: If I actually were to pass what I’d been told was a “virtually impossible” examination, what exactly would I do with the MS credential?
I had no desire to become a sommelier in a restaurant; I’d gotten my fill of “dealing with the public,” as my Dad used to call it, as a kid, growing up in our family’s bakery.
I could see no joy in becoming a wine buyer, which would require negotiating skills in matters of bulk purchasing, pricing, etc.
Would those two letters following my name and a comma make my wine writing any more authoritative? Perhaps. Would they make the writing any better? No.
Would the certification boost my ego? I’m not an ego-driven person.
So, ultimately, I decided to pass on the pursuit, and simply concentrate on being the best wine writer I could be—researching little-known facts, spinning interesting tales and, hopefully, getting people who read my stories excited about wine.
Now, after viewing the new film called “SOMM,” I’m feeling really good about my decision.
I picked up a promo card for the movie at the theater, and I’ll share its promotional text with you now:
Four men will do anything to pass the most difficult test you’ve NEVER heard of…
SOMM takes the viewer on a humorous, emotional and illuminating look into a mysterious world—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 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. Shrouded in secrecy, access to the Court of Master Sommeliers has always been strictly regulated and cameras have never been allowed anywhere near the exam, until now.
How much do you think you know about wine? SOMM will make you think again.
SOMM takes you on the ultimate insider’s tour into a world of obsession, hope and friendship in red, blanc and sometimes rose.
I absolutely loved this movie. In focusing on four men in pursuit of the coveted credential during the final weeks before they took the exam, the film reminded me of everything I love about wine—how every region, every vineyard, every varietal and every vintage is different, and how there’s a new world of discovery awaiting with each pulled cork or twisted cap.
That said, it also validated my decision to remain an MS-less wine writer, particularly when the “students” were going through their “blind tasting” drills, attempting to identify a specific wine. As they broke down a given wine’s color, body, aromas, flavors and finish, they were focused on what the wine was—not the pleasure it had to offer.
It also gave those who don’t appreciate some of the more descriptive wine writing plenty of fodder for making fun. Example: One of the test takers described the aroma of one wine as a “freshly opened can of tennis balls.” I’d probably be more inclined to go with “rubber”—one more reason I’m not cut out to be an MS, I suppose.
In the end, one can’t help but admire the tenacity of the test takers, whether they ultimately pass or don’t.
Cinematically speaking, much of the film’s photography is absolutely stunning, and the soundtrack by Brian Carmody is jazzy and perfectly paced—sometimes calm, often frenetic.
“SOMM” is presently in limited release in theaters, and will be available on DVD on Sept. 3. The soundtrack already has been released (you can find it on Amazon), and it will be available on iTunes beginning Friday.
I plan to buy both the DVD and the CD—for their entertainment value, and as gentle reminders to never again even think about taking the Master Sommelier Exam.