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Topic: Court of Master Sommeliers

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June 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM

SOMM: Film follows would-be master sommeliers

Allow me to raise a glass to SOMM, a new documentary in which four guys vie for a spot on the court.  I’m not talking Wimbledon here; I mean The Court of Master Sommeliers.


SOMMThe quest to become a Master Sommelier, the highest distinction a professional in the fine wine and beverage industry can attain, requires the same commitment, perseverance and years of training as any professional sport. The final test requires candidates to prove their skills in Theory, Service and Tasting. It’s the Ironman Triathlon of sommeliers. Very few succeed.


“The whole thing is really intense,” acknowledges Thomas Price, head sommelier at The Metropolitan Grill. “The athletic analogies get made constantly. But that’s the only thing I can compare it to. You put so much into it and you know going in that in all likelihood you may not pass.”


Price became a Master Sommelier in 2012, one of six in Washington.  That’s  fewer than California, which has dozens, but more than New York (5) and Oregon (1). Of the 201 Master Sommeliers worldwide, 133 of them are in North America.


Filmmaker Jason Wise followed his subjects for two years, capturing the competitive all-night tastings with peers, the rigorous practice sessions with mentors, and the candid observations of the contenders, their wives and girlfriends.


Comments | More in Drinks, Restaurants, Wine | Topics: Court of Master Sommeliers, Providence Cicero, SIFF

May 30, 2013 at 6:00 AM

A new Master Sommelier for Seattle

Photo courtesy of Chris Tanghe

Photo courtesy of Chris Tanghe

As a kid just out of high school, one who had already worked his way up from dishwasher to sous chef, Chris Tanghe knew culinary school would be his next step. Then, his introductory classes at the Culinary Institute of America taught him how much he wanted to know about wine.

There was just one problem. He wasn’t yet legal drinking age. He had to wait a few years to start the introductory classes of the Court of Master Sommeliers, an international organization with a notoriously grueling, obsession-fueling, years-long series of study. (The “massively intimidating” process even inspired a new documentary film playing at SIFF this weekend.)

Only a few experts make it through the final invitation-only level of the exam, where candidates have three years to pass the required three sections of theory, blind tastings, and wine service. The effort paid off for Tanghe this year, when he was one of the four people awarded the Master Sommelier certification when the test was held in Aspen earlier this month. Sixty-three candidates from three countries made the attempt. (Thomas Price of the Metropolitan Grill, who shares a study group with Tanghe and James Lechner of Bastille, was one of the 11 Master Sommeliers named last year.)

Practically, it shows that Tanghe — who just left his position at vino-centric RN74 to become wine and service director for Jason Stratton’s in-the-works Aragona — can discern the origins of just about any glass of wine after a single sip, and can expertly handle, discuss, and pair different vintages, as well as running other practical aspects of a restaurant’s wine service. Emotionally, it’s a jubilant win for Tanghe and the rest of Seattle’s tight-knit sommelier community, where regulars meet up for intense weekly study groups, memorizing obscure facts and teasing out the subtlest distinctions between their drinks.


Comments | Topics: Aragona, Chris Tanghe, Court of Master Sommeliers