New American Netflix film Uncorked follows the story of a young man with a desire to become a master sommelier, despite his father's hope for him going into the family's barbecue business. We asked sommeliers to review the film. The verdict? Read on
'It will pique the curiosity of budding sommeliers and provide the spotlight our profession deserves'
Paul Fauvel, head sommelier, The Lanesborough
Up to now, the sommellerie at the cinema had not been much honoured. Apart from the documentary series Somm, the actors of wine in restaurants shine by their absence from the screens. So, what a pleasure to see our profession represented in the plot of the fictional Uncorked, with it even being broadcast through a giant of a film platform.
Take a deep breath or have a drink: needless to say 'geeks' will remain thirsty. The plot is not really in the vineyard, and is far from a portrayal of the real commitment and diligent learning of any student preparing for the master sommelier exam. The movie simply take us into a father/son conflict, in which the last reveals to us his hopes in the bottles (sorry for spoiling).
However, it does give the uninitiated spectator a taste of the motivation that each sommelier carries in themselves. Hopefully, it will pique the curiosity of budding sommeliers and provide the spotlight our profession deserves.
'Missing the "wow" factor'
Lise Donier Meroz, sommelier, L'Enclume
Not all movies are made to make you think, but since Uncorked is about a subject that relates so much to my everyday life, I was expecting to be left slightly more thrilled and inspired at the end. Saying that, I think it’s because it doesn’t feel real enough. And again, if that's what I wanted, I should have watched a documentary, or even Somm. But hey ho, if you watch a film about World War I, you won’t be disappointed if it’s not an actual soldier on the screen.
I also thought it kept the idea of the very old-school spectrum of a sommelier being incredibly arrogant and overly confident. I guess that is unfortunately still a fact, but it doesn’t help breaking the cliché and making our industry more approachable.
There are good points though – it was very motivational. I loved how they started with this kind of ‘If you want it, get it’. That’s what the journey is about.
It’s also a lot about support: family and, moreover, study groups. That was an interesting emphasis.
I wouldn’t watch it again, but I would ask my family to, so they can understand a little bit better what my life is about!
'Like an American Pinot Noir with some toasty French oak'
Jan Konetzki, director of wine, Four Seasons
'Uncorked' is the story of Elijah, who works in a wine shop and wants to become a sommelier – a master sommelier. This proves to be challenging as his dad wants Elijah to take over the family’s casual barbecue joint in Memphis instead.
The father and son story is seasoned with a bit of love, tragedy and quotable wine references… if you like wine and hip-hop. The smashing soundtrack gives the plot a cool vibe and they got most of the wine details right (Albert Bichot gets some prime pointers). Ultimately though, one really feels the pressure of sitting the master sommelier exam.
In summary, it's a touching and comforting movie, which reminded me of drinking an American Pinot Noir with some toasty French oak: easy to drink but with a bit more drama, complexity and wine wisdom this movie could have become a classic. If you like Sideways and Somm, but are looking for something little less reflective, watch it.
'The film succeeds in addressing the American wine industry’s racial demographic issues'
Jacopo Mazzeo, Imbibe
Uncorked is set to bitterly disappoint those who were expecting a celebration of wine and sommellerie. Why? Simple: Uncorked is not a wine film.
Despite being loosely based on the life of renowned African American somm Dlynn Proctor (who incidentally collaborated as associate producer and makes a cameo in the film, too), the film is about family relationships, a kid afraid to disappoint his father, and the struggle to keep focus on your goals while the entire world seems to be crumbling down on you.
Uncorked successfully depicts the protagonist’s visceral passion, the commitment required to gain the master sommelier (MS) qualification and the personal challenges that this entails. Most importantly, however, the film succeeds in addressing American wine industry’s racial demographic issues, avoiding oversimplification and mere rhetoric. ‘Not a lot of black folks in my school,’ says Elijah to his cousin while talking about his wine peers.
Nevertheless, Uncorked is partly let down by some factual inaccuracies, introduced to enhance drama and to support the plot. Contrary to what’s hinted at in the film for instance, MS candidates aren’t required to identify the producer, let alone the exact wine, in order to pass the exam. Admittedly, such a super-hero portrayal of wine professionals – which characterised several American wine films and that Uncorked reiterates – has greatly enhanced the American public’s appreciation of the sommelier profession, elevating it to levels unmatched anywhere else. At the same time however, it contributes to depicting wine as a daunting and unapproachable subject, stripping it off much of its more profound and deeply personal meanings, which are so crucial to its understanding.
'Makes you want to take a bow to all those who have ever devoted their life to this path'
Kateřina Jebousková, sommelier, Diogenes the Dog
Uncorked is a story about young Elijah, who is supposed to inherit the family barbecue business, but finds his passion for wine much stronger than his father's desire.
Throughout the movie we can see how Elijah deepens his interest. I genuinely enjoyed his comparison of white wines to hip-hop singers – its an impressive tool to involve people into the wine world without scaring them off.
The story leads to the point of taking the master sommelier degree course and shows us the depths of knowledge required to pass.
Whether you are regular wine drinker or a sommelier, this movie makes you want to take a bow to all those who have ever devoted their life to this path in such an explicit way. It’s a glimpse into our world, an unknown and mystic one of wine and relationships.
'It portrays the challenges faced should sommeliers not have immediate support'
Roberto Duran, deputy head sommelier, 67 Pall Mall
Although the film doesn’t follow the accurate path of master sommelier diploma, what we learn from this film is the dedication, support and passion that a sommelier should have to achieve success. The message conveyed here is very clear: Nobody attains success alone.
It takes personal drive to follow your dreams, but success can also depend on the emotional support and the mentoring that you gain from your family, friends or from leaders in the industry.
Particularly with sommeliers, the level of knowledge, the process involved, the exams we must take to qualify professionally, and the time required means that support from your friends and family is essential. The film portrays this message, and the challenges faced should you not have that immediate support.