In my first blog post I quoted the movie “Sideways” when citing disparaging remarks about Merlot and other wines. When Sideways came into US theaters in 2004, I knew little or nothing of wines and winemaking. In fact, I first heard of Merlot (and Pinot Noir, for that matter) while watching the movie in the theater. I was equally fascinated and annoyed by Miles’ (played by Paul Giamatti) disdain for Merlot, and his devotion to Pinot. So, by the time he insists,”No, if anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any f****** merlot!”, my contrarian tendencies kicked in, and I went out and bought a bottle of Merlot. I loved it! Smooth, rich and flavorful. Unfortunately, Merlot prices and the production decreased after the release of the movie. Alternately, the sales and production of Pinot Noir skyrocketed.
Before I go on, I think it is important to remind you of a critical plot point in “Sideways.” Miles’ dislike of Merlot did not come from it not fitting his palate. It was not a boycott against poor working conditions for grape pickers. It was not a protest due to the political will of an oppressive government. No, it was due to the fact that his ex-wife drank Merlot. The decline of Merlot sales following “Sideways” and a failing marriage have two things in common, neither are what they seem and both are ruled by emotion.
In fact, the decline of Merlot started many years before the movie. The popularity of Merlot in the 90’s and early 2000s drove some to over-plant the varietal, often in places unsuitable for Merlot. The market became flooded with Merlots, especially bad Merlots, and people stopped buying it. So, it seems “Sideways,” only put another nail in the reputation of Merlots, just like that good looking yoga instructor your spouse has been spending too much time with can put another nail in your marriage. Fortunately, the longer term effect of the decline of Merlot was a rise in the quality as the poor producers vanished and the good ones remained. Today, Merlot has achieved the market predictions for it prior to “Sideways.” It remains the second most grown grape in California because it makes great wine!
If you divorced yourself from Merlot 15 years ago maybe it is time to reconcile. The Dime has an assortment of this delicious varietal. A couple of my favorites are Fableist 2017 Merlot and Iconic 2018 Sidekick Merlot. Very drinkable and each unique in its interpretation. Enjoy!