In this witty, charming, fascinating documentary, we follow four candidates as they prepare for “the hardest test you didn’t know existed,” the Master Sommelier exam. This exam will test their knowledge of every area of the world of wine; since the test was created in the sixties, there have been less than two hundred Masters. The most grueling part of the test is a blind tasting where the candidate must taste six wines and identify their type, the location of the winery and, astoundingly, even the vintage year! This movie is a real winner, even if, like me, you know nothing about wine. The candidates are all compelling figures: the neurotic, super-driven Ian; the intense, if troubled Dustin; the stylish, super-smooth DLynn and the boyish Brian. Over the course of the film, you get to know these guys in a way that feels really intimate and as the exam looms, the suspense begins to mount and I found myself on the edge of my seat, racked with tension over whether or not these guys would pass the exam or not. The movie is packed with great scenes. There’s a scene where Ian goes through a blind tasting as part of his preparation and becomes obsessed over the vintage of two wines that you’ll be grinding your teeth by the time the scene is over. There’s another scene of the candidates sharing wine at a late night/early morning party that’s unbelievably funny. And then the scenes in which each of the four candidates finds out whether or not they passed . . . well, it’s amazing just how emotionally hooked I was by that time and I found myself actually tearing up, alternately with real joy and with real sadness as you see dreams both come true and be shattered. It’s a really wonderful documentary. I’m not into wine at all, so I kind of want to say that it’ll be even better for the viewer that is into wine, but I’m not going to. Because I’m not sure it could get better than my experience of it. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – documentary about insanely difficult Master Sommelier exam is witty, emotionally engaging, surprisingly suspenseful and a great film, whether you’re into wine or not. 4 stars.