Jason Wise’s new cinematic exploration SOMM: Into the Bottle invites viewers down the proverbial rabbit hole for a behind the scenes look at one of the world’s most enigmatic products: wine. But does it need to be so darn complicated? Grape geneticist and former professor of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis, Carole Meredith, brilliantly sets the tone for the documentary by asking, “Can there be any other business where there’s so much bullshit?”
SOMM: Into the Bottle is technically a sequel to Wise’s 2012 Somm which introduced viewers to “the hardest test you’ve never heard of” which is, of course, the Master Sommelier exam. While Somm focused on four Master Sommelier contenders as they relentlessly prepped, tasted, swirled and spit leading up to the anxiety-inducing exam, Into the Bottle focuses on the wider world of wine and takes viewers on a relaxing exploration of how it has been shaped by human history, wars, point scores, and of course, sommeliers.
Unlike most sequels, which seem to grasp at the fraying threads of the original plot, Into the Bottle unpacks elements of wine in ten chapters laced with humor and star-studded storylines (think Aubert De Villaine, the legend behind some of the world’s most expensive bottles from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti). Want to know what Leon Panetta drank out of a CIA shot glass to celebrate the death of Bin Laden? Watch this movie.
It might be the last chapter that resonates most, though. The chapter, The Memory, delves into the reason that wine has been such a prominent constant throughout human civilization. It’s the powerful associations, experiences, and celebrations we have with wine. The merriment, the interactions, the conversations that happen around the bottle. Master Sommelier Brian McClintic confirms, “there is no better wine than the one you had at the Domaine.” It’s the story inside the bottle that helps forge our own. So, go ahead: get Into the Bottle.