Wednesday, October 17, 2018


With the imminent release of SOMM11, I thought it would be useful to briefly recap the first ten films in the series. The franchise shows no signs of tiring, unlike most of its featured wine personalities.

The now dated debut of the series, SOMM follows six candidates for the Court of Master Sommeliers as they try to pass their exams. The movie made Fred Dame MS a household name, like Preparation H. If he doesn’t shrink your tissue, nothing will.

A love letter to winemakers, vineyards, and, most of all, the director of the films. It follows up on four of the six candidates from SOMM, all of whom are about as memorable as wetnaps. In fact, most usually settle for wet naps. It features a memorable scene of Fred Dame MS drinking a rare bottle of wine with Leon Panetta after the death of Osama Bin Laden. Ironically, the film reveals, Bin Laden had just passed his Level One WSET—Wine and Spirits Education for Terrorists.

Focused around the endlessly overrated Paris Tasting of 1976, the director assembled a cast of “legendary” palates Fred Dame, Jancis Robinson and Steven Spurrier. These palates are legendary to wine tasting in the same way Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed are legendary to horse racing—wondrous, but long dead. Burgundies are tasted blind alongside New World Pinot Noirs by the Three Anosmics, and their results are compared to the results of a panel of young, trendy, similarly pretentious sommeliers. Hilarity ensues when the Burgundies are revealed to be from the cellar of Rudi Kurniawan! However, the only fake spotted by the experts is Madeline Puckette, who hosts the film because, apparently, the only other logical host, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was busy that week having her tongue forked.

Alice Feiring stars in this biopic of biodynamics creator Rudolf Steiner in this episode about Natural Wines. The film attempts to answer the question, “Why are all the con men in wine named Rudi?” Pascaline Lepaltier co-stars as the voice of manure. Fred Dame is buried in a cow horn.

Explored the influence of wine critics and publications. Unable to get interviews with most of the influential critics, the director substituted puppets. Except for Suckling, who already was one and everybody knew it. Shot on a small budget, castoff puppets from other films were used. Fans were shocked at Parker portrayed by Jabba the Hutt, as well as Chucky playing James Molesworth. Though there’s a nice interview with Wallace and Gromit, who turn out to be Andrew Jefford and, inexplicably, Eric Asimov. A visibly tattered Mortimer Snerd is Fred Dame.

The only musical of the series, SOMM6 is “My Fair Lady” recast as a film about wine, and stars the director, in his first film role, as the Henry Higgins character, with Madeline Puckette as Eliza Doolittle. Eliza has the show stopper with her spirited rendition of “I Could Have Puked All Night;” and Professor Higgins delights with “The Rain in Spain Brings Mildew to Champagne.” The film is based on Shaw’s “Fredmalion,” and involves Henry Higgins MS teaching novice Eliza (Puckette) enough about wine for her to pass as an expert.

Inspired by “The Magnificent Seven,” SOMM7 is the tale of seven Master Sommeliers who are hired by a Mexican village to protect them from a band of savage wine bloggers. Arriving in the village, the seven Master Somms immediately eliminate the women. Duh. Outnumbered by the bloggers, and armed with only Coravins and lapel pins, the seven somms put up a courageous fight. Happily, in the end, everyone dies. The Mexicans decide to build a wall.

Somm8 was the first film in this series about the wine world to feature an all African-American cast. Running time is eleven minutes. Fred Dame sings the title song as Barry White. Madeline Puckette has a graph proving she’s black.

A look at the role of women in the wine industry, SOMM9 is the most controversial film of the series. Narrated by Jay McInerney, who opens the film by declaring, “Hashtag MeToo? Hell, I thought it said Pound MeToo! Mea culpa, gals, mea maxima culpa.” The film follows six attractive young women who pursue various jobs in the wine business—winemaker, sommelier, wine critic, wine writer—and illustrates just how hilarious it is they’d even try. Three of the women end up as Jagermeister girls, two go on to wonderful careers as permanent interns at glossy wine publications, while one finds happiness in the arms of a Master Sommelier—as close as she’ll get to a pin.

SOMM10 looks at how climate change will affect the great wine regions of the world, and what scientists are doing to try to help. In Napa, researchers are trying to develop a clone of Cabernet that will make balanced wine when picked at 40 Brix. In the lab, they’re exposing Cabernet Bosché clone to excessive heat by packing it into Tim Fish’s pants. The results are promising, though there’s milt everywhere. In Chablis, vineyards have been victimized by extreme weather in many recent vintages, primarily by ferocious hail storms. Botanists are trying to create Chardonnay that grows a canopy like umbrellas. Every spring, the vineyards will be full of bumbershoots. If they succeed, growers in Chablis will be happy. Realistically, it’s a hail merry. Fred Dame appears as a natural disaster.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Our Vanishing Master Sommeliers

Researchers say there are no more than 273 of them left in the world. Many of the males are old, long past a desirable reproductive age. They’re nocturnal for the most part, using the darkness of the night to hide their neurotic fear of meaningful human contact. Scientists believe the entire species will be extinct by 2075, though this may be optimistic. Not the year, the hope that they’ll be extinct. The most bewildering and inexplicable fact of all about this vanishing species? There are almost no females.   

The recent christening of new Master Sommeliers consists of 24 newly-minted insufferable wine experts, four of whom are women. Last year, one woman was anointed out of thirteen. Can a separate bloodline from normal humans, and, believe me, Master Sommeliers view themselves as apart from normal humans, survive with so few females? Didn't work so well with rhinoceros, and they have much thicker skins. I thought I'd investigate.

However, you'll have to take the ark over to Tim Atkin's site to read the rest. Feel free to leave your comments there, if so moved, or go to Twitter #MSToo. Of course, you can always leave your little bundles of joy here, if that's more your style.