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Somm 3 film review: How it compares to the first two

The third instalment of the Somm film series looks at some of the people who have played a major role in shaping the wine industry we know today. Below is a report from the premiere in Napa.

Somm 3 ‘reminds us that wine is subjective and deeply personal’

It’s been six years since the ‘Somm’ documentary shined light on the secret, underground world of sommeliers. Now the third instalment of the series, which centres on one of the most significant events in the history of wine, the 1976 Judgment of Paris, has made its world premiere at the historic Clos Du Val winery in Napa Valley.

Scroll down to watch the trailer for Somm 3

The Clos Du Val barrel room was a fitting location for the intimate screening of roughly 50 people, for the winery’s very first vintage, the 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon, was one of the wines tasted in the Judgment.

‘Somm 3’ features the return of many former cast members, but is anchored by three of wine’s most respected palates: Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier, renowned master sommelier Fred Dame, and wine critic Jancis Robinson.

See also: Steven Spurrier’s top 10 Bordeaux wines of all time

The original ‘Somm’ film followed the journey of four young sommeliers as they attempted to pass the infamously difficult Master Sommelier exam. In the second film, ‘Somm: Into the Bottle’, the filmmakers explored everything that goes into producing a single bottle of wine.

‘Somm 3’ is less about stunning landscapes, vines, and cellars, and more about the people who have played a major role in shaping the $220 billion wine industry we know today.

Though we don’t yet know if this will be the final film in the series, director Jason Wise successfully brings the viewer full circle to ponder one question: How much does all of this — the somms and critics, with their rankings and offbeat tasting notes about rubber hoses and funeral homes — actually matter?

Narrated by Madeline Puckette, creator of Wine Folly, ‘Somm 3’ goes back in time to 1976. The film tells the story of how a California Chardonnay and Cabernet outscored France in a blind tasting that Spurrier organized, detailing the ensuing fallout for the French participants, and more importantly, the fateful impact it had on California wine.

But just when you think ‘Somm 3’ is following a similar educational dive as its predecessor, ‘Into the Bottle’, it makes the first of many unexpected turns. Much more reminiscent of the original, the second half of the film keeps viewers on their toes; the filmmakers are shooting in the moment, without a script or ending.

Continuing with the Judgment’s old world versus new world theme, ‘Somm 3’ sets the stage for two separate tastings: the tried and true palates versus the new kids on the block.

The latter takes place in New York City. Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson, a familiar face from the previous two films, tears a page out of Spurrier’s playbook, summoning the top, up-and-coming tasters in New York for a modern day Judgment, with a twist.

Meanwhile back in Paris, Spurrier, Dame, and Robinson gather together for a tasting of their own.

You’ll have to watch the film to learn how the tastings turned out (full disclosure: a certain wine is likely about to get a lot more expensive), but the result plays second fiddle to ‘Somm 3’’s driving and relatable message.

This film serves to remind us that wine is subjective and deeply personal; it’s not about scores and ratings or price tag, but about who you’re with, where you are, and how you feel in the moment you taste it.

Worldwide screenings of ‘Somm 3’ will take place throughout October and November, with the film set to be officially released on digital platforms, like iTunes, at the end of the year.

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