SOMM Surprise: Shock the Wine Geek!


Lately, every time I disclose my wine side to someone new, I get this: “Have you seen the movie SOMM? You have got to see it.””

So after hearing the same promo a dozen times, it finally sunk in and I pulled up the movie on Netflix.

What unfolded was a fascinating tale about single-minded pursuit of a lofty and elusive: membership in the club that is the Masters Court of Sommeliers. To be one of the “few and the proud” of this mostly male club is to be one of only 219 in the entire world. Upon further research, I discovered the very real financial incentive for embarking on this quest. (Please see chart below.)

Hmm, the gender dynamics got to me: all those supportive women partners of the guys on a quest. Could it be that only we of the female persuasion have more of the right stuff needed to deal with an insane and obsessed partner? I’m just posing the question here for you, dear reader, to ponder.

Another gender difference this reminded me of took me back to my tasting room experience. I quickly noticed that all the men wanted to tell me what they knew and all the women wanted to share what they loved. I started saying to the men, “You know a lot about wine, so I was wondering what do you like to drink?” Acknowledging their knowledge helped me shift the conversation to the wine at hand.

I watched the men in SOMM taste through what looked like a Rhone river of wines. Was I envious? Maybe just a tad because the professional world opened up for them once they were certified. But as the movie unfolded, I had my “aha” moment: their pursuit of knowledge and desire to demonstrate it was not for me because it took some of the joy, mystery and romance out of wine. I admire their knowledge in a field where you can never know everything there is about wine. That is what I love about it, they way knowledge unfolds over time in a way that is organic. Watching the SOMMs cram was counter to that and made me realize the SOMM life is not for me. I love a good SOMM like the next wine lover, especially one who does not see a need to tell me repeatedly about how great their palate is, but it does not fit into my approach to wine, which is more tranquil, open and not the lest bit competitive. My approach is really about being present with what is in the glass in the moment and using not just my faculties of taste and smell but also centering the experience in my heart and soul.

And so my question is: Can the pursuit of wine knowledge ruin the wine experience?

In any event, I was caught off guard by my reaction to SOMM. I had thought that post-movie I would be online researching how to get on the path to the masters level. Although I do not want to step up to this particular challenge, my inner wine geek tells me that if I put my ear to the glass and listen intently, she will let me know what’s next for me in the world of wine.


Hard to read but upshot is that in 2010 the median income for an Advanced Sommelier was $75k while for a Master was $140k. I’m sure you get the picture.


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