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SOMM: Cup of Salvation
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‘SOMM: Cup of Salvation’ – a story of terroir, tradition and survival

January 8, 2024

When it comes to documentary filmmaking, the SOMM series has carved a niche for itself, unraveling the intricacies of winemaking, terroir, and the impassioned individuals shaping the industry. However, this latest venture, ‘Cup of Salvation,’ goes beyond the glass, delving into the poignant tapestry of family, survival and geopolitics against a backdrop of Armenia’s tumultuous terrain.

As we traverse the war-torn landscapes of post-Soviet Armenia, ‘Cup of Salvation’ introduces us to a father-daughter duo on an audacious quest to revive the ancient grapes of their homeland. The film weaves a tale of resilience and determination as they navigate the battle-scarred Caucus Mountains, breathe life into forgotten vineyards, and confront the ghosts of a history steeped in conflict.

Read Also: Why ‘Drops of God’ is so much more than a show about wine

In the first half of the film, the focus is on familial bonds, the struggle to rejuvenate neglected vineyards, and the emotional weight of winemaking against the backdrop of war. It’s a testament to the intertwined nature of family and tradition. In the second half, the narrative pivots into an espionage caper, injecting an unexpected thrill that propels the story into uncharted territory. This is a film that literally has you cheering for wine.

SOMM: Cup of Salvation

WineWorks founder and CEO Vahe Keushguerian and his daughter Aimee as they set out on a wrought journey to revive the ancient grapes of their Armenian homeland.

Unlike its predecessors in the SOMM series, ‘Cup of Salvation’ takes a more personal and emotional route. While the previous films focused on the intellectual pursuit of wine knowledge, this film digs deep into the soul of winemaking, portraying the intricate dance between family, tradition, and ultimately survival. The emotional stakes are palpable, making it a more intimate and affecting experience.

Armenia holds a distinctive place in the world of wine, not just for its ancient winemaking traditions dating back 6,000 years, but also for its indomitable spirit in the face of adversity. The film unveils the primal origins of our enduring passion for wine, portraying Armenia as a crucible of winemaking heritage, resilient in the face of war and political upheaval.

As the narrative unfolds, the film introduces us to the forbidden vineyards hidden within the Iranian countryside. Here is where the film transcends the typical wine documentary trope, delving into espionage and intrigue. This clandestine exploration adds a layer of mystery to the narrative, painting Iran as an enigmatic player in the world of wine.

Iran’s role in winemaking is often overshadowed by its strict alcohol regulations due to religious beliefs. However, the film sheds light on the hidden vineyards, revealing a side of Iran rarely explored. The juxtaposition of forbidden vines against the backdrop of geopolitical intricacies showcases the complex dance between tradition, survival and the global wine market.

SOMM: Cup of Salvation

Vahe Keushguerian sharing his wine with Master Sommelier Sabato Sagaria.

The film’s director, Jason Wise, best known for his work on the previously mentioned SOMM film series (which has become a cult phenomenon for a new generation of wine lovers), not only has brought the world of wine to the forefront through his films but has also humanized the pursuit of knowledge and excellence within the industry. His ability to capture the personal and emotional aspects of the wine world, especially witnessed here through this latest film, showcases his versatility as a director. And with the launch of the SOMM TV Streaming platform in recent years, Wise’s work continues to contribute significantly to the popularization and appreciation of wine and food culture worldwide.

Grapes and geopolitics

In this film, Wise does not shy away from socio-political discussions, placing the winemaking journey in the context of Armenia’s tumultuous history and the geopolitical challenges faced by the region. The film prompts viewers to contemplate the resilience required to safeguard a tradition that spans millennia amidst war, religion and shifting borders.

But the film also raises crucial questions about the intersection of wine, war and identity. It prompts viewers to consider how winemaking, often romanticized, is deeply entwined with the fabric of human existence. Wise wants you to know that this is not just a story about wine; it’s a cup of salvation, offering a profound and emotional reflection on the interplay between tradition, geopolitics and the enduring legacy of winemaking.


– Carmelo Giardina is the principal editor of VineRoutes


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