Sommelier

I’m a pretty big fan of documentaries. Now that I don’t have a job, I live with my parents and have intense writer’s block, the only thing I thought would make me happy and more creative during the week is to watch documentaries.

I watched Mortified Nation yesterday, a film about the Mortified project. Mortified was about people who share their embarrassing childhood stories written in diaries, love letters, and classroom assignments to an audience. I loved it. I recommend it for anyone who has ever kept a diary or journal when they were younger.

I also watched Girl Model recently, which follows a model scout, Ashley, and a 13 year old Siberian girl, Nadya, at a casting. Nadya flys to Japan to start her modeling career but finds out it’s not as glamorous as she once thought. It’s a deeper look into the world of modeling, which I really enjoyed, considering all I know about modeling is from America’s Next Top Model (and let’s be real, we all know modeling isn’t sunshine and daydreams like what it’s portrayed like in the show).

My List on Netflix kept growing, especially of documentaries, and I thought I’d watch Somm tonight while drinking my own glass of vino.

This film follows four Sommelier candidates as they start their process to become Master Sommeliers. To get there they need to pass one of the most prestigious and difficult exams, which candidates can only take once a year.

Somm

Just like with Helvetica, here are some things I’ve learned:

  • Somm is a slang term for Sommelier, which is a professional, knowledgeable wine steward in restaurants. It’s pronounced somm-ell-YAY and has a French twang to it.
  • There are 219 professionals worldwide who hold the Master Sommelier title. Of those, 140 are in the United States. 119 of those are men and 21 are women.
  • One of the Master Sommelier’s is named Emily Wines.
  • The Master Sommelier exam is three days long and has three parts to it:
  • First is Theory, which is a comprehensive knowledge of wine laws, wine regions, as well as saki, beers, cigars, spirits and global facts about wine (the pass rate for the Theory portion of the exam is 10%).
  • Second is Service, where a mock dinner is set up and candidates have to demonstrate calm, professional behavior while showing guests pairings of certain foods with certain wines.
  • Third is Blind Tasting. Candidates taste three whites and three reds and describe them all based on structure, body, alcohol content, whether it’s from a warm or cool climate, what part of the world it’s from, age range, and more. Blind Tasting, also called Deductive Tasting, can be learned. The candidates never find out which wines they were right or wrong about.
  • Only 16 people have passed the Master Sommelier exam on the first try.
  • When tasting wine, the proper way to do it is to sniff, swirl, sip and then spit it out. You’re also supposed to hold the glass on the stem. If you hold it where your fingers are on the bottom of the glass it could heat up the wine improperly.
  • Wine has a rich history, dating back to 2,000 BC. The word ‘wine’ appears in the King James Bible over 200 times.
  • For more information: Where are the stars of Somm now? and A minority opinion on the documentary Somm.
  • The final thing I learned was that I could be a lot of things in life, but I could never be a Sommelier, mostly because I cringe every time I take a sip of a super dry red wine.

What’s crazy to me is that no one made the candidates go through this. No one made them go through all of the introductory courses and advanced exams except a desire in themselves to be one of the best. It’s amazing to me that these people put themselves through hell to be one of the few people on earth who knows the most about fermented grape juice.

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