All Articles
All Articles


Director Jason Wise offers a glimpse into the most grueling test in wine

by James Thorne
on 17 June 2013

How much do you know about wine? That's essentially the question that a few select candidates are asked each year at the Master Sommelier Exam. But the manner of questioning is far from straightforward, instead taking the form of a multi-day slugfest that's aimed at tricking some of the best minds in the wine world through blind taste tests and theoretical oral examinations. Taking a look at this little-known world is writer and director Jason Wise in his new film, SOMM.


Shot over three years, with a production budget that was bootstrapped on favors and borrowed equipment, the film follows a group of close friends as they study for months on end. As much a story of friendship as it is about obsession, through SOMM Wise is able to bring out characters as he points a lens into the private lives of aspiring sommeliers. What he finds is a mix of a hyper-masculine competitiveness and sweet camaraderie, epitomized in late-night study sessions that inevitably devolve into pot shots and goading after one too many bottles have been uncorked.


While there are moments of humor—much of it fueled by the admission that fermented grape juice is at the center of the obsession—there are also great scenes of scholastic acrobatics. Candidates rattle off characteristics based on a memorized chart, cataloguing the personality of the wine until they are able to narrow it down to a continent, a country, a region and a valley. In spite of their talent, even the best can be fooled by an unassuming glass of red or white. For this reason, fewer than 200 candidates have reached the master level in the 40 years since the first title was awarded.

Visually, SOMM reads as it is: a low budget film shot in mostly unglamorous locales. However, mixed into the messy apartments and dim hotel rooms are shots of the Italian and Californian countryside where growers talk about the qualities of grapes. What pulls the film together in the end is tight, engaging editing that allows the characters to drive the story. By the end, you've completely bought into their obsession—even if you don't know the first thing about wine.

SOMM will be available for purchase on iTunes and will be showing in select theaters starting 21 June 2013.

Images courtesy of SOMM

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things
Loading More...