Anyone who’s ever dreamed of being a world-class sommelier knows of the challenges. Long, laborious hours at work in the often thankless hospitality or F&B industry – check. Even longer hours poring over study notes and at blind tasting sessions in pursuit of that elusive Master Sommelier or Master of Wine certification – check. Combine that with the usual family disapproval, and it’s a wonder why anybody wants to be a sommelier at all.
Aside from an intense passion for wine. This is the premise of one of Netflix’s latest family dramas, Uncorked. The protagonist Elijah Bruener (Mamoudou Athie) is an aspiring sommelier who intends to go for the Court of Master Sommeliers examination, but holding two jobs makes it near impossible for Elijah to follow that dream. After all, Elijah working some days in a wine store and others at his family’s popular Memphis barbecue restaurant – coupled with a lack of financial resources – means little time for much else. In fact, his dad Louis (Courtney B. Vance) is demanding more and more of his time, to prepare Elijah for the eventual taking over of the family business. Somehow Elijah perseveres, mostly from the support of his mother Sylvia (Niecy Nash) and girlfriend Tanya (Sasha Compère).
What’s particularly striking about Uncorked is that Elijah is black. And that the film sets wine drinking – and wine study – in a predominantly black backdrop. It’s not French, for one – even if Elijah does travel to Paris for an exchange program. Expect panning shots of run-down black neighbourhoods across Memphis punctuated with hip hop music, making Uncorked look and sound somewhat like Luke Cage meets SOMM.
And plenty of gratuitous shots of Memphis-style barbecued ribs.
Those from wine circles won’t be too surprised to learn that DLynn Proctor played executive producer to Uncorked. You may remember Proctor from wine documentary SOMM, which chronicled his first-ever attempt at the Court of Master Sommeliers exam. Indeed Uncorked is loosely based on Proctor’s own personal wine journey. It’s also why you’ll hear Penfolds mentioned more than one time in the movie – Proctor was once ambassador to the Australian producer.
We won’t spoil the end for you, but if you’ve watched SOMM you know what happened to Proctor so you’d already know if Elijah passed his examination attempt.
Movies about wine tend to border on the insipid, but Uncorked on Netflix decants a sommelier’s wine learning experience into a heartwarming drama anyone can enjoy. While you’re unlikely to pick up useful study tips if you happen to be sitting for some wine exam, this is the movie you want to kick back your heels and enjoy with a glass of wine.
The original version of this article first appeared on Spirited Singapore.