Movie Review: Somm: Into the Bottle

Posted by | Posted in Movie Reviews | Posted on 02-25-2016

Somm - Into the BottleIt’s appropriate and ironic that Somm: Into the Bottle, the much-anticipated sequel to 2013’s hit documentary Somm, should concern itself with a question like, “Can there be any other business where there’s so much bullshit?”

It’s appropriate because Into the Bottle is an earnest attempt to demystify wine, and everyone’s begging for that. On the other hand, it’s ironic because Somm relied so heavily on the entertainment value of flavor descriptors like “fresh cut garden hose” and other, well, bullshit.

Both films have much to applaud, but in so many ways Into the Bottle surpasses its progenitor, not least of which is its wider appeal and lack of bullshit.

Into the Bottle is divided into ten “stories about wine.” Basically, it’s a series of discussions on ten topics (“the winemaker,” “the wars,” and “the New World,” to name three), selected with no apparent rhyme or reason but nonetheless well chosen, paired with the opening and on-camera consumption of a bottle of wine relevant to each topic. Watching the tasting of these bottles, which are often historic and always exceptional, though special and exciting, is also agonizing. It’s a tease that anyone will find difficult to bear without first pausing the film and cracking a bottle of one’s own.

The format is clever, effectively combining education and entertainment. In each segment, discussions of technical and historical topics segue into a focus on a specific vineyard, winemaker, and bottle, the uncorking of which becomes the capstone to each segment.

There is something to take away from each topic, but I found a few particularly enjoyable. The segment on “the vintage” has some incredible shots of old cellars. But the cellars are not picturesque in the traditional sense. They are dank, covered in hanging mold, and some of their bottles even have mushrooms sprouting on their ancient glass. Black cellar mold, evidently, is a welcome guest for the cellar master. He appreciates it, and knows it doesn’t hurt the wine. These cellars are far from “clean,” but they are real.

Wine story number four, “the wars,” I also found intriguing. Riesling is foregrounded, portrayed as the sometimes victim and other times beneficiary of the great battles between France and Germany. The segment ends with the opening of a beautifully golden 1962 Riesling, and goose bumps are had by all.

Into the Bottle is narrated by many familiar faces from the first film, but I was especially impressed with Brian McClintic. His knack for generating clear and apt analogies is much appreciated. As is his un-pedantic tone, and general nature for that matter.

“Wine wants to become vinegar. And if you can catch it at the right place on its arc, you’ve got the craziest flavors that you’ve never tasted before.”

There are so many great one-liners in this film, which make for perfect takeaways for viewers aspiring to become appreciators of wine. And that’s the great thing about Into the Bottle. Whereas Somm introduced us to the rigors involved in attaining the summit of wine knowledge, Into The Bottle takes a much more inclusive, down-to-earth approach.

“In the end, only one thing matters… is it delicious?”

If Somm is an introduction, Into the Bottle is an invitation. It’s a gesture of welcome to those who are trying to break through the smug opacity of wine and achieve some appreciation for its timelessness and craft.

My recommendation…
It’s hard to follow a hit like Somm, but Into the Bottle nails it. It’s entertaining, accessible, and whether you prefer Franzia or Pouilly-Fuissé I highly recommend you watch it.

Comments are closed.