In his 2012 documentary Somm, director Jason Wise followed the attempts of several sommeliers to pass the master sommelier examination, a process that would be unbearably grueling if only it didn’t involve tasting so much good wine. It’s a delightful, surprisingly suspenseful film and more than enough to encourage wine lovers to reach for the nearest corkscrew.
Somm: Into the Bottle will have this effect, too. In this entertaining follow-up documentary — which features a few familiar faces from the first film — Wise draws his audience further into the world of wine, introducing some of the men and women who make it, taste it, sell it and extol it, sometimes in amusingly grandiose terms (“It’s bottled history”) and sometimes with earthier but equally passionate emphasis ( “It’s good shit!”). The film captures our collective passion for wine as well as imparting a bit of history and cultural perspective.
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Structured into 10 segments — chapters, really — the film covers just about every aspect of the business, from the differences in Old World and New World wines, the importance of ratings points, how wines are priced, the best food pairings (hot dogs go with Beaujolais?) and the merits of oak (“Think of oak as salt” is one piece of sage advice). Amazingly, Wise has somehow persuaded winemakers to open rare bottles, take a sip and describe what they’re tasting (including a Romanée-Conti, one of the most expensive wines in the world). If you’re not salivating, you are watching the wrong movie.
Like the first film, Somm: Into the Bottle is wonderfully sensual, making great use of its lush visuals. “Ugly places have never made wine,” one winemaker says, and the camera, flashing across the rolling hills of the vineyards, supports his sweeping statement. But Wise and cinematographer Jackson Meyers are also adept at highlighting extraordinary details: the rich greens and purples of the grapes flecked with dew or a tiny mushroom growing on a bottle in a dark cellar (we learn that the best cellars cultivate fungus). Even the slow swirl of wine inside a glass seems more beautiful than ever before. We may never get the chance to taste a 1969 Hermitage, but watching Wise’s film may be the next best thing.
Director: Jason Wise.
Screenwriters: Christina Tucker, Jason Wise.
Running time: 90 minutes. Language. Playing in Miami-Dade only: O Cinema Wynwood. A Skype Q&A with director Jason Wise follows the 8 p.m. screening on Saturday, moderated by sommelier Brian Tannebaum.