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Jason Wise's sommelier documentary Somm was a sleeper hit a few years ago. Now the director is back with his even-more-ambitious Somm: Into the Bottle. Watch an exclusive clip above, and read on for behind-the-scenes details from Wise.
The movie Somm was a surprisingly gripping documentary about the trials and travails of four candidates for the Master Sommelier accolade—a notoriously tough wine accreditation to get (there are only 230 in the world). Now director Jason Wise is back with Somm: Into the Bottle, which is no less engaging but concentrates more on wine itself. I interviewed him for our December issue here. Now that the movie is out (it's available on iTunes here), I decided to go back to him with a few more questions.
How are the two movies different?
Frankly, Somm isn’t really a wine film. It’s set in the world of wine, but it’s more about those guys; I wouldn’t really categorize it as “here’s a film about wine,” because it isn’t. So with Somm II, I really had a chance to say, “What if I were going to make a wine film?” As I mentioned when we talke before, we take ten of the most iconic, important, story-worthy bottles in the world and open them up on camera, and we go through all the politics, the history, you name it. Sommeliers and their opinions. How the wines age. Prices and point scores—everything. There's never been anything done like it before. Whether that's a really, really great statement or a crazy statement, it's a fact either way.
What’s the most expensive wine you opened?
There are a lot of extraordinary bottles—a 1962 Trimbach Clos Ste Hune Riesling, bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 1969 Dom Ruinart Champagne—but there’s a part about [Australian] winemaker Max Schubert and we open up a Penfolds 1962 Bin 60A. It’s a legendary wine, and from a value standpoint its probably the bottle I could have sold and financed the entire film with!
How many hours of film did you shoot?
Oh, God. Hundreds. And hundreds. Hundreds and hundreds.
Were there any difficult moments?
Let me think. I mean, my entire crew got food poisoning in Burgundy and then had to go shoot in these crazy caves in Germany for three days. But, other than that…
What’s the most surprising thing you learned about wine, making these movies?
I think it’s that how the most revered winemakers are truly humble, and how generous they are. I mean, I asked Jean-Louis Chave and his wife to dig through seventy years of photographs and old film, and they just delivered in spades. Same with Aubert de Villaine. I mean, this guy owns DRC—he doesn’t need me, you know?
So how would you describe Somm: Into the Bottle, if you had to sum it up in a sentence?
It’s a love letter to wine, as a whole. It really is. At the same time, the one thing I hope people take away from it is that it's OK for wine to be important, but at the end of the day, the person drinking it matters more than what they're drinking.