Somm: Into the Bottle – Review

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Into the Bottle is a completely different type of movie from the original Somm (which I gave a very negative review). Instead of focusing on the masochistic endeavors of a bunch of obsessed white guys seeking the Master Sommelier certification, Into the Bottle tells the story of why Sommeliers are so obsessed with wine to begin with. This makes it a vastly superior movie to the original, not only because it focuses on what makes wine interesting, but also because it mitigates the banality of the original cast of characters by spending most of its 90 minutes interviewing some of the world’s great winemakers (both new and old world). When seeking to tell the truth, it’s always more effective to go to the source.

A lot is packed into the 90 minute run-time, but there is generally good pacing and the movie hits on all the key factors that makes wine much more than the typical cliches bandied about by most popular media. For instance, there are sections on old wine, history, viticulture, and critics’ point systems. Into the Bottle is thus the most effective primer available today for novice wine-drinkers interested in delving deeper into the ‘variables’ that go into creating the world’s most interesting beverage.

Some of the ideas will flit by too fast for the novice, but the film can be returned to as knowledge is gained. My biggest criticism is that the movie spends far too much time revering some of the rarest, oldest bottles of wine in the world. These are wines that no real person will ever drink and so while it is great that the winemakers and sommeliers are so excited by the wines, and there is no doubt that the wines are important, focusing on unicorn wines takes away from the true breadth and excitement of wine available at prices the average human can afford. This muddies the message somewhat as novice drinkers will walk away intrigued but then realize it will be impossible to follow up on the excitement in the movie without serious cash or going to another source for actual wine recommendations. Overall, though, there is a lot for wine novices to like about the film.

For industry, it is nice to see a movie that generally gets the message right, but there is nothing new here, and I left the theatre feeling pretty bored. Of course, anything more in-depth would simply not be commercially viable. For serious wine geeks, the most rewarding part of Into the Bottle is undoubtedly the interviews with some of the world’s greatest winemakers such as JL Chave and Aubert de Villaine and with some of California’s most exciting re-thinkers such as Steve Matthiasson and Pax Mahle. Give it a whirl on a boring weekday night.

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