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.”