Wine is splashing on the silver screen: today, the documentary SOMM opens in New York and on iTunes.
It’s difficult to successfully capture wine on TV or movies. The medium is limited since viewers are not able to smell or taste. Further, the characters on camera risk sounding like the stereotypical wine doofus. Miles from Sideways was memorable in this regard, with tasting notes like “the faintest soupçon of like asparagus and just a flutter of a, like a, nutty Edam cheese.”
Given these hurdles, the fact that SOMM informs, educates and maintains a riveting pace is particularly notable. The documentary tracks four candidates for the Master Sommelier exam, a rigorous test that includes a theory portion, a blind tasting portion, and a service portion. It has such a miserly pass rate that there are only 201 Master Sommeliers around the world today. Nonetheless, wine directors from around the world cram, swirl and spit to prepare for the annual sitting of the exam.
The film succeeds because rather than turning the viewer off with snootiness, it brings the viewer in by inviting you to witness wine geeks in action. It’s a window on their world, watching them banter, taste and describe wines. As the star power of point-wielding wine critics has dimmed in recent years, sommeliers have seen their star power rise, making this inside look more meaningful. Also, people enroll in my (non-sommelier) wine classes because they want to be able to talk the wine talk; watching these wine gate-keepers up close provides viewers a good opportunity to pick up some tasting methodology and jargon that doesn’t have a flutter of pretentiousness.
The opening sequence is a succinct, word-free, appealing presentation of the course of life in the vineyard in a year. Director Jason Wise keeps the pace moving with a countdown to the final exam day. As the final results are read, there’s tension followed by rejoicing and sorrow.
Check it out: the movie will make you thirsty in more ways than one.
SOMM movie trailer at iTunes
In NYC @ Quad Cinemas at 34 W. 13th St for a one-week run.
UPDATE from Quad Cinema: “Q&A immediately following the 7:20pm show with DUSTIN WILSON FROM ELEVEN MADISON PARK AND LAURA MANIEC FROM CORKBUZZ on Friday 6/21. (They will also introduce the 9:50pm show).”
However, unlike most celebrity wines which are simply brand extensions and the celebrities wouldn’t know the vineyard that provided the grapes if they ended up there on a winery crawl, the Pitt Jolie duo actually live on their vineyard. Well, let’s not get too carried away: the peripatetic couple have been more-or-less residing on the 1,000-acre estate in Provence since 2008. They’ve decided to get serious about the wine and have started a joint venture with the Perrin family of Beaucastel to make a rosé at first, due out in a couple of months, with a white and a red to follow. Marc Perrin told Bloomberg that they tasted through several rosés and agreed on the style they wanted. The wines will be bottled under the Miraval label and will have “Jolie-Pitt and Perrin” on the back.
There has to be a joke in here somewhere, but the project actually sounds quite serious! Hopefully it will be more Fight Club than Se7en. And it won’t start off tasting old, like Benjamin Button. Or it will be good enough to be gone in 60 seconds…Argh, make it stop!
A wine story will be splashing on the silver screen this year: Samuel Goldwyn has bought the theatrical and digital distribution rights to “Somm.” The documentary, directed by Jason Wise, follows four candidates studying for the Master Sommelier exam. It will be released as a feature documentary some time this summer. The film got good reviews around the time of the Napa Valley Film Festival; while it’s not likely to knock off The Avengers, Part 56, from the top spot this summer, I, for one, am looking forward to it. For now, I’ll have to settle for the above trailer.
“Samuel Goldwyn toasts ‘Somm’ acquisition” Variety
It was just an aside from the podium during Danny Brager’s talk on the state of the wine industry. But the Nielsen wine guru said that wine is closing in on beer among viewers of the Super Bowl. According to their polling, 71% of viewers will have carbonated beverages (aka soda), 42% of viewers will have beer, 35% will have bottled water, 32% will have wine, and 22% will have spirits. I’m not a math whizz, but I think that adds up to a whole lot of bathroom breaks!
The survey info came out yesterday and included information on food consumed during the Super Bowl. As you might expect, it included many of our “impossible food-wine pairings.” So, from the archives, here they are:
* Chips and Salsa
* Buffalo wings
* Seven-layer dip
Bonus: “Betting wine for football”
Bonus bonus: “How and why did light beer come to be the choice of NFL viewers?”
“No one, but NO ONE puts ice in red wine!”
Such is the gist of the opening scene of a mostly tongue-in-cheek video about wine from 1990, “The Celebrity Guide to Wine,” chock full of 80s stars including Steven Seagal, Dudley Moore, Herbie Hancock, Whoopi Goldberg and more. It’s the brainchild of Bernard Erpicum, who was at Spago at the time.
Thanks to our friends at Eater for digging up this gem! A blog at the SF Chronicle picked up the item and posted screenshots to help navigate the 55-minute show with alacrity; the money scene is definitely Kelley LeBrock demonstrating to Steven Seagal how to open a wine bottle–between her legs. But then she doesn’t hold the glass by the stem! What kind of instructional video is this?!?
On May 3, the British blog bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk published an entry stating that Brad Pitt was to star in the movie version of The Billionaire’s Vinegar. On May 4, thedrinksbusiness.com picked up the story, citing no sources, adding that David Koepp is directing and the movie is set to be released this fall. On May 8, Decanter.com, rehashed the same details, citing no source. From there, it was off to the races, retweeted and picked up by wine sites from Canada to India as well as Brad Pitt fan sites and even Robert Parker.
Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble but Brad Pitt is not going to star in the movie. And the movie is nowhere close to coming out this year.
I called David Bloomfield of Escape Artists Entertainment at his office in LA. Bloomfield is the executive producer of the film. I asked if the Brad Pitt item was true.
“It’s literally someone in the blogosphere picking up something that was published two years ago,” he said referring to the nytimes.com page that was the source of the original blog post.
And David Koepp as director? Nope. Bloomfield said, that there’s “No director. No talent. No new news.”
He added that the project is still officially in development and that it is “not dead.” But there’s nothing to report. “I hope there will be soon.”
Level 1 Entertainment has purchased the movie rights to “A Vintage Crime,” a story by Mike Steinberger about wine counterfeiting that appeared yesterday on VanityFair.com. Edward Milstein and Bill Todman Jr. co-founded Level 1, which has released two comedies (“Grandma’s Boy” and “Strange Wilderness”) as well as a thriller (“Rendition”) with houses 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, and New Line Cinema.
Milstein has several ties to the story. He is a wine collector and overlapped with Kurniawan, who is at the center of the story and indicted, awaiting trial. Milstein is co-chairman of Emigrant Savings Bank; a previous suit alleged that Kurniawan defaulted on a $3 million loan to Emigrant. Milstein owns or has a stake in Remoissenet Pere et Fils, a Burgundy producer, as well as The Sorting Table, a Napa-based wine importer. He also heads his family’s real estate company with his brother.
“Eddie is a huge wine collector who knew Rudy, and likely bought a few bottles from him, and when we got a peek at this article, Eddie flipped for it and we bought it preemptively,” Todman told Deadline. “It has that Catch Me If You Can thriller aspect, where you can’t believe this guy got away with this for so long, ingratiating himself into this billionaire’s club and living the high life, at least for awhile.”
Since the project will need a screenwriter, a director, and casting decisions before it can start shooting (if, indeed, it ever makes it that far), that gives us plenty of time to weigh in with our choices. Who do you see in the leading roles? It will be interesting to see if they keep a young ethnic Chinese in the central role, or if they opt for more of a George Clooney, Johnny Depp, or Gary Oldman type. And how about Jean Reno as Laurent Ponsot? Or do you think the story is too narrow for the silver screen?
Okay, only about five years late on this. But, thanks to site reader Quizicat drawing a parallel to our recent discussion of moscato, I’ve learned that I missed an episode of “30 Rock” where wine featured prominently. Jack Donaghy is delighted to have his name on his own sparkling wine from Long Island and he shares it with Liz Lemon. They toast each other, take a sip–and then both spit it out and retch, with Liz scraping her tongue with her fingers. Jack wonders how he is ever going to sell 10,000 cases of this wine…
When Tracy likes it, Jack has the idea of getting the hip-hop star Ridikulous (played by LL Cool J) to flog the wine in a performance. In the spirit of full disclosure, Jack informs Ridikulous that Robert Parker wrote that “Donaghy Estates tastes like the urine of Satan after a hefty portion of asparagus.”
But how many points?!?
You can see the episode on Netflix streaming or buy it on Amazon or iTunes.