Big Shot Director Jason Wise Talks Wine and Film Culture

The director of the hit documentary "Somm" and the upcoming "Somm: Into the Bottle" discusses the current fascination with wine culture.

What was your take on sommeliers before your first film?

I started as a bartender and I didn’t have many crossings with them. But to me they were people who were very formal, very untouchable. That’s pretty much how I walked into the first film. But right away, while filming in San Francisco, I found somms in shorts and V-necks working the floor. It was an eye-opener.

How important is a sommelier to dining? 

A restaurant should have a sommelier. I am a complete believer in this. It’s such a cliché, but there is so much goddamned wine out there. And yeah, you want a restaurant to have a lot of variety, but you’d rather have a person be like, “You gotta try this.” You want someone who is really excited about helping you discover something new.

What are trying to do with your upcoming Somm: Into the Bottle

Somm wasn’t a movie about wine per se. Ultimately it was a character driven movie. After filming that, I realized I wanted to make a movie about actual wine—a subject that is usually really boring and difficult to capture on film. But I really wanted that challenge so this is an entertaining look at the colossal world of wine, like the Planet Earth of wine. We start with a couple walking into a restaurant and are handed this huge-ass confusing wine list—something we all have experienced at one time or another.

So how do sommeliers play into the film?

We look at how vast the world is through the eyes of the best somms, and all the things they experience to essentially get that bottle on a list, what a somm does when not working the floor. It has a lot of what I like to call wine porn, we try some bottles that are probably worth, seriously, more than the entire budget of my first film. We visit cellars in Europe no one is allowed to go to—stuff that will really wow equally those who know wine and those who don’t.


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The artisan food and beer movements certainly helped, but don’t you think Somm solidified the sommelier in our wider culture? 

I think you have the collection of foodies and all that, where people want to know where their food and wine came from, and what the hell is in it, and not just from health or environmental standpoints—people are just interested in that now. It’s become a hobby of sorts. There’s people posting Instagram pictures of their food. It’s that simple.

Come on. You’re being modest. A lot more people know what the heck a sommelier is now.

Well, I can tell you that Parks and Recreation did a sommelier episode and the head writer reached out to me to help with research. And I saw just the other day there was this Sonic commercial with a sommelier in the car. So, yeah, I think the awareness of the somm as a thing—and even in terms of just knowing the word sommelier—has definitely exploded.

Published on March 31, 2015
Topics: Celebrity WIne, Wine and Film, Wine Trends



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