Film and TV

Somm offers a taste of the wacky world of wine-lovers

A sommelier can incite intimidation, scorn or trust, depending on who's drinking and who's pouring. Rarely, at least in America, do we take full advantage of proximity to those nerds with corkscrews. Somm follows four young men training hard to be Master Sommeliers, of which there are only 200 worldwide. Forget "lively pear": These guys detect in wine label-unworthy essences of new tennis balls, wet wool, rotten rose petals, lime candy. They can blind-sip their way to a glass's country, region, vineyard and vintage. But can they pass the ultimate test? Director Jason Wise has vintners and other experts chime in with ingenuity and humor about the perplexity of wine — its history, its vulnerability to everything: microbes, weather, technology, soil, human error, genetics, politics. The Court of Master Sommeliers, since its first exam in 1969, has demanded that anyone wearing its pin understand it all deeply. Still, the film maintains a sluggish calm, like its mellow jazz soundtrack, and suffers from following four players with similar stories. Worse, while Wise interviews a couple of the nineteen female Master Sommeliers in North America (out of 133), the all-boys focus leaves wives and girlfriends to complain about wine-widowhood and nasty spit-bucket cleanup. But Somm caters well to foodies and to anyone who'd like to see a sommelier do more than point to the menu and pop the cork.

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Daphne Howland is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group. VMG publications include Denver Westword, Miami New Times, Phoenix New Times, Dallas Observer, Houston Press and New Times Broward-Palm Beach.