Sommeliers, wine and passion. Pascaline Lepeltier, Paz Levinson and Marco Pelletier are some of the wine stars we meet in the brand new documentary Sensations.
Florent Martin is Head Sommelier at hotel George V’s restaurant in Paris, and head of the youth commission at Union de la Sommellerie Française (UDSF). But he also likes to do video interviews for La Fraîche Sommellerie with his filmmaker friend Florent Aceto.
Florent Martin always had a secret dream of making a documentary about sommellerie, so when the USDF’s president Philippe Faure-Brac suggested he take part in the Union, Florent naturally offered to do a film. The aim: to attract young people to the profession.
“They are usually dragged down by restaurant shifts, even if they’re interested in wine. We thought we could attract them by showing the passion, the travels and the fulfillments that come with the job,” says Florent.
Put the competition aside
The film was at first supposed to be about sommelier techniques and learning but ended up more of a documentary with a narrative.
“As we shot, we realised it lacked humans, and people are the best way to communicate about passion and sensibility”, says Florent, who then asked around ten sommeliers that are “wine personalities that work as sommeliers, but also have a personal life aside from their jobs” to be part of the movie.
He did not want to gather only competitors since he thinks people usually focus too much on that when it comes to sommellerie.
“Competition is a good thing, it’s needed so that the profession can progress, but there’s so much more to it than that. France has many talented wine people who are not particularly fans of competition.”
In the film we meet with, for instance, Philippe Jamesse (DNA Champagne & Wine) who created his own brand of crystal glasses for champagne, Pascal Leonetti (Best Sommelier in France 2006) who is passionate about tasting and now does wine consulting, Philippe Troussard (Meilleur Ouvrier de France, Les Caudalies in Arbois), who owns a hotel and a restaurant but works with his family, and Thomas Simian (Star Wine List’s Paris ambassador) and Marco Pelletier from restaurant Vantre.
Tastings, wine pairings or customer relationships are the main ingredients of the film.
“But then we decided we would do like a chef does when he goes to the market. First, choose the best ingredients, then elevate them through editing to do a dynamic film that people would enjoy watching,” says Florent.
And the ingredients surprised them. The film team met Philippe Troussard to talk about his family business, but he ended up putting forward his love for wine pairing. Pascal Leonetti, who had to readjust his relation to sensations and taste after a cerebral accident, talked more about tea and tasting. Most of the sommeliers showed an interesting side of the job that was different to the one they were initially chosen for, says Florent.
Tasting in the morning, shooting in the afternoon
The movie took almost two and a half years to shoot.
“I worked at the restaurant and with the film at the same time. I was in the vines and doing some tastings in the mornings, and in afternoons we were shooting,” Florent says.
As an official premiere event could not be done because of the corona pandemic, the film was put online on April 1st on UDSF’s YouTube page – with English subtitles available.
So, what's your opinion about French sommellerie?
“It’s diverse, with different but complementary talents, and close to the vines. Beyond the technical aspects, it can be a bit poetical or lyrical – which it’s sometimes blamed for. Sommellerie is passion, and it’s linked to French gastronomy and ’art de vivre’: The love for food and life, the sharing of stories and emotions. It isn’t all about competition and prestige; it’s about feelings. It’s a good thing to show that it’s also sensible and human.”
Check out Sensations here.