SOMM (wine documentary) and taken for grantedness

I saw a really interesting documentary last night that was simultaneously absurd and gripping:


It’s about a group of guys that are preparing for their Master Sommelier exam which, as it turns out is the most absurd and gripping exam.

Here’s the trailer:

It’s available on Netflix.

A short list of thoughts on what it didn’t cover:

1. Social construction of taste. That sommelier’s can come to a consensus on what something smells or tastes like is an impressive feat. What does blue look like? What does a lily look like. A fresh lily? A rotten lily? A wet, rotten lily? Such specificity is thrown around regularly in these somms’ descriptions of wine, but it’s unclear how such descriptions get established. Interestingly, one somm describes some wines like “freshly cut garden hose” or “freshly opened canister of tennis balls.” The discussion and debate on these terms is enlightening.

2. Legitimacy. What does it mean to be a master sommelier? This wasn’t covered. How does the master sommelier certification hold any legitimacy other than the fact that it does and serves as a reference point in the industry. How it achieves this legitimacy is a fascinating and untold story akin to the professionalization projects detailed by Collins. But really, who gets to say that your taste is refined enough to be a master somm?

3. Following from the above, there’s a high level of taken for grantedness in the field, yet it persists as if what it’s dealing with (wine, tastes, quality, history, etc.) are established an inevitable facts. Hard things that can be positioned in relation to each other. Again, the emergence of this is a fascinating story.


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