Today marks the highly anticipated world premiere of SOMM, a wine documentary that’s kicking off the 2012 Napa Valley Film Festival at the Napa Valley Opera House. Written, directed and produced by Jason Wise this Forgotten Man Film captures intense behind-the-scenes footage as four gentlemen spend two years preparing for the Court of Master Sommeliers (the chief examining body for wine service professionals, headquartered in London) in an attempt to pass the Master Sommelier exam. Since its establishment in 1966 only 10% of students have passed (197 worldwide) making it not only one of the most difficult exams on earth, but as Wise puts it, “the hardest test you’ve never heard of.”
To put things into perspective, a sommelier is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, commonly working in fine restaurants, specializing in all aspects of wine. They are typically in charge of ordering and maintaining the wines sold at an establishment and usually have an extensive understanding about wine and food pairings. “SOMM” is therefore used as an abbreviation to avoid the embarrassment of mispronouncing the French root word (this would be my excuse).
For the title of Master one needs to be invited by the Court after completing three prior levels of examination. Here the Phoenix New Times breaks it down for us:
This final exam consists of three portions. An oral exam were master sommeliers grill you on the wine theory, a practical exam where you must demonstrate an ability to sling wine with the best of them, and a six wine blind taste test. In that blind taste tests you have 25 minutes in which to: identify, where appropriate, grape varieties, country of origin, district and appellation of origin, and vintages of the wines tasted.
Whether you’re a wine enthusiast or a casual drinker a film spotlighting sheer determination outside of the world of sports may be a nice change of pace. According to the New York Times, “though SOMM is chiefly about ambition, it’s also about the camaraderie of the group with the odds stacked against them.” They will stop at nothing until they either pass or fail. #ClassSwaggerWine
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Check out the SOMM trailer here
*SOMM World Premiere was held on Wednesday November 7, 2012. To find out if SOMM will be screening in a city near you visit their FB page here.