7 Wine Documentaries Worth Your Time
PHOTO: (ILLUSTRATION) SERGE BLOCH; (PHOTO) MUSIC BOX FILMS
By Lettie Teague
And a few more we’re on the fence about. Our wine columnist binged her way through the latest documentaries so you don’t have to
WATCHING MOVIES all week sounded like fun. Watching a week’s worth of wine documentaries: not so much. As Jason Wise, director of the 2012 documentary “SOMM,” observed, “Wine is the thing that’s surrounded by a lot of action, but if you put in on a table it just sits there. Wine doesn’t do anything.” And yet the recent rush of documentaries focusing on wine shows no sign of abating. I decided it was time to determine which of the current and upcoming releases are worth 90 minutes of an oenophile’s (or cinephile’s) attention.
Mr. Wise’s film succeeded because it wasn’t just about a bottle on a table but a group of obsessive young wine professionals pursuing a dream. Never mind that the dream—to become a Master Sommelier—involved some pretty boring stuff, such as tasting and spitting out wine from endless bottles and studying facts from hundreds of flashcards to take a series of tests. “SOMM” is the rare wine documentary with people to root for, not to mention an actual plot.
Mr. Wise’s second documentary, “SOMM Into the Bottle” (2016), is a more visually beautiful film. It features some people from the first “SOMM,” including Fred Dame, the Master Sommelier Examination director, and Dustin Wilson, who passed the exam at the end of the film. But they are just two among many talking heads. Conversations about wine are conducted around the world, and rare wines are consumed—only this time, the sommeliers are talking in vineyards and other scenic settings, not quizzing each other in hotel rooms and working furiously toward a goal. It’s actually much less fun to watch.
“The first movie was a crazy one. The second one was supposed to be what they’re crazy about,” said Mr. Wise in a recent phone call. The Los Angeles-based director is currently working on a third wine documentary set mostly in London and Paris. The working title is “SOMM Three,” and a few characters from the two other films will show up once more, as will personalities such as Steven Spurrier, the Englishman who staged the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris that pitted California wines against those of France. It will be released sometime later this year.
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