Hell No, Merlot: 'Sideways' Alters Wine Market
Michael Y. Park
The influence of the movie "Sideways" (search) has some wine drinkers’ favorite tipple turning to vinegar in their mouths.
Though the vino-drenched comedy has inspired more people than ever to flock to their local cafes, wine shops and vineyards to sip a glass of red or white, it also has put a cork in sales of Merlot (search), until now one of the most consistently popular varietals of red wine among Americans.
"Right now Merlot is definitely in the doghouse when it comes to desired varietals — a victim of the ’Sideways’ effect," said Mark Oldman, author of "Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine."
In the film, failed writer and lovably cranky oenophile Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) and his best friend, affable minor actor Jack (Thomas Haden Church), take a tour through California wine country before Jack’s impending wedding.
Miles has one major pet peeve when it comes to wine: Merlot, which he generally despises as a common but mediocre product of the sacred grape. He vastly prefers Pinot Noir (search), the grape of which is harder to grow but which some find immeasurably more rewarding.
The contrast between Merlot and Pinot Noir can be seen as a mere metaphor for the differences between gregarious but shallow Jack and prickly but soulful Miles, but thousands of moviegoers have apparently taken Miles’ advice to heart and are snubbing Merlot...
But Merlot lovers needn’t despair.
"Merlot will likely regain much of its popularity, because it is such a likeable wine — soft, rich, without the gum-numbing bitterness that wines like Cabernet Sauvignon (search) can have," Oldman said. "Also, and this may seem trivial but it’s not, it is really easy to pronounce, which makes a difference in what people order."
2011 Georges Duboeuf "BEST WINE BOOK OF THE YEAR"
Winner, May 2011
"An excellent primer…the perfect book for someone who’s just caught the bug, or would like to...informative and entertaining. Oldman knows his stuff, but he also enlists an army of chefs, winemakers, sommeliers and celebrities to help him demystify the subject...Oldman’s breezy, literate prose and his facility with pop culture metaphors makes for easy reading. Among a number of memorable phrases here, I particularly liked his description of Priorat—the powerful, minerally red from Spain—as ‘Unslim Slatey.’"
Jay McInernery, The Wall Street Journal
Apple iTunes, 1 of 6 books featured in “Cookbooks, Food, & Wine" (along with Bourdain and Bittman)
"…Oldman nails it again…just when you think every possible nook and cranny of the wine 101 book category has been explored, out comes a book that takes a unique and valuable spin on the beginner to intermediate wine genre…His writing voice is warm, down-to-earth and accessible and the book itself is peppered with short chapters on varietals…widely available at good wine shops, but also mostly sitting under a layer of dust based on non-familiarity and our own ruts of wine drinking with the familiar…the book is very thoughtfully laid out and a valuable read as a primer on varietals that even the most ardent wine enthusiast likely aren’t too familiar with…the book lives up to its promise…"
Good Grape: A Wine Blog Manifesto
"A similar mind-set enriches "Oldman's Brave New World of Wine," in which Mark Oldman examines lesser-known but not obscure varietals. This book would be a great gift for beginners and especially for anyone in a malbec or chardonnay rut, thanks to Oldman's clear writing, understanding of context, and (most important, of course) great palate."
"The amazing, hilarious, fascinating (and adorable!) Mark Oldman has a new book that's a must for anyone who likes wine — or anyone who doesn't like it but wishes they did. Mark's motto: "Drink bravely." And that's just what he helps you do in Oldman's Brave New World of Wine by uncovering the best-kept secrets of the world of oenophiles. He interviews everyone from restaurateurs to wine-loving celebs about their favorite lesser-known bottles. You'll never order boring old Chardonnay again."
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