I’m loving these rainy, winter days where the vibe demands we lay low with wine and a movie or book. I’ve been anticipating for the months the release of “SOMM III,” the wine documentary series by Jason B. Wise, a Chapman University alum.
“SOMM,” which followed the studies of several gentlemen preparing for the masters exam, sparked a worldwide interest in wine certifications and made it cool to be wine geeky again. “SOMM: Into the Bottle” paid homage to the many hands that influence and create the wine in the bottle. It gave a sense of the business of wine. Last night, with rain flowing outside, I watched “SOMM III,” released for public viewing Nov. 30.
“SOMM III” delves into the perception of the wine. The je ne sais quois that defines why each of us likes or dislikes a wine, be it the nose or the acidity. Wise honors the talents of his sommelier friends by showcasing them in a re-creation of the Judgement of Paris, the famed event at which California wineries shockingly outscored France in 1976 in blind tastings. Wise’s 21st century version is the Judgement of Pinot Noir led by somm and merchant Dustin Wilson.
If you’re tracking what wine aficionados are cellaring lately, pinot is atop the list. These Judgement of Pinot Noir somms can detail down to the minutiae where a wine was produced, how it was barreled, what vintage, etc., in blind tastings. Despite these talents and love for discussion in the discovery, they are asked to simply choose which wines they like. It seemed almost a difficult task to put themselves in the seat of a consumer and just choose a wine based on personal preference.
Fittingly, woven through the documentary is a tasting by Fred Dame, Jancis Robinson, and Steven Spurrier, each a wine trailblazer an expert in his own right since the ’90s. We get to watch Dame, Robinson, and Spurrier share the bottle that made wine a passion for them. As they tell their stories, you can feel their vulnerability and deep connection. For me, it was like watching people talking about their favorite meal as a child. It was personal and authentic and not about tannins and Parker scales.
Watching “SOMM III,” you can feel Wise’s own growth and passion for wine. “SOMM” was about the journey and trials of several gentlemen. It could have easily been an athletic journey or other feat. The story was the hardship and the guys, not the wine per se. “SOMM: Into the Bottle” was a bit more contrived as if Wise felt he had to create a story about the “how” of wine. “SOMM III” is the why of wine. Wine is personal. Wine is subjective. No matter your level of training, research, or size of your wallet, what you like is what you like. There is no wrong or no right. Through the trailblazer’s tasting, his Judgement of Pinot Noir, and stats peppered in we learn how vastly wine has grown and matured worldwide. But, in the end, we choose and drink with a distinct eye and personal palate.
“SOMM III” is available for online viewing and purchasing via ITunes, Amazon, Google Play and more.