Finally SOMMthing Worth Watching

The first SOMM film, released in 2012, was an unprecedented and very compelling public window into an esoteric corner of the wine world. It was the right movie at the right time, and deserves a lot of credit for the surge in interest and respect for the sommelier profession (and perhaps wine in general) in the decade that followed. It joined Sideways in the tiniest of pantheons featuring highly successful movies in which wine features heavily.

Subsequent SOMM sequels, however, didn’t have the raw, character-driven interest and “are-they-going-to-succeed?” plot tension of the first film. Instead they seemed to simply be cashing in on the sommelier cult of personality built by the first movie, while exploring highbrow aspects of the wine world (out-of-reach wines, the Judgment of Paris) that didn’t build the kind of emotional connections that made SOMM so compelling, especially to non-wine-geeks.

Of course, the scandals that rocked the Master Sommelier world in 2020 have removed whatever limited gloss remained on the SOMM films, especially as the first three films showcase several of the now-disgraced perpetrators of sexual assault and coercion within those ranks.

The last thing the world wants or needs at this point is another movie filled with sommelier bros telling us things about wine. Thankfully, the latest film in the SOMM franchise SOMM: Cup of Salvation is mostly anything but.

Centered on the efforts of Armenian father-daughter winemaking pair Vahe and Aimee Keushguerian, the film paints a wonderfully intimate portrait of their winemaking efforts in Armenia, and their perseverance to do so in the midst of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Vahe and Aimee Keushguerian in SOMM: Cup of Salvation

Of course, Armenia itself has an incredible tale to tell in the context of wine history, and director Jason Wise (and his co-writer and co-producer Christina Wise) do an excellent job of showcasing the storied history of Armenian wine and the country’s stunning landscapes. There are a number of shots in this film that literally took my breath away, from drone footage of a mountain waterfall in winter, to a women’s choir singing in an ancient stone courtyard, to the majesty of ancient vineyards with a backdrop of Mount Ararat in the distance.

Vahe and his daughter prove wonderfully charming dual protagonists, he with his boyish, cavalier energy, and her with her obviously introverted and shy personality that can’t quite hide the complexity of emotions battling within her, not least of which are the conflicting love of her father and fear that his winemaking ambitions are going to get him thrown into jail, or even worse, shot by the military. The moments where we get to see Aimee try to suppress a smile of pride at hearing some California wine luminaries praise the virtues of the Areni Noir grape are pure gold.

Seemingly not content to merely make wine in armed conflict zones, later in the film Vahe Keushguerian hatches and executes a plan to source wine grapes from Iran (where winemaking is illegal) and bring them back to Armenia to produce the first Iranian wine made since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and perhaps the first modern fine wine in Iranian history.

The adventure of locating and clandestinely sourcing these grapes in Iran is surprisingly gripping, and watching Iranian-born vintner Moe Momtazi of Maysara Winery in Oregon taste the wine produced from these grapes for the first time proves to be truly moving. Much more moving and genuine, it should be noted, than the entirely superfluous “let’s have the all-mighty Master Sommelier taste the wine and tell you what he thinks” moments that Wise seemingly couldn’t keep himself from throwing in.

Vahe Keushguerian contemplates Armenia’s wild landscape in SOMM: Cup of Salvation.

The film has greater flaws than its ongoing pean to sommelier-as-superstar, however. The most egregious of these in my mind is the erasure of both the…


Source : https://www.vinography.com/2023/11/finally-sommthing-worth-watching

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