Screw Miles Drink Merlot

SCREW MILES, START DRINKING FUCKING MERLOT

In his oversize, frumpy, brown corduroy jacket, the pinot noir-loving Miles delivered the famous line that altered an industry; “If anyone orders merlot, I am leaving. I am not drinking fucking merlot!”

Ever since the movie Sideways released in October 2004 (nominated for five Academy Awards) winemakers such as Billy Dim, owner of Blendtique Wine Co, blame it for declining merlot sales. “Merlot is one of the best grapes on the planet,” says Billy for NPR 2017. “And the movie did some damage to its reputation.” Merlot sales were already slowly falling, but after the movie, it got worse, giving it the name “the Sideways Effect.”

Merlot sales went down. But after 15 years, a secondary effect started. Merlot quality went up, making now the best time to drink merlot, according to experts and 5000 instagrammers, the international merlot movement who hashtag pictures of beautiful merlot bottles as #MerlotMe.

A 2009 Sonoma State University case study by Steven Cuellar, Dan Karnowsky, and Frederick Acosta saw a statistical decline in merlot sales of about 2% in the three years following the movie. Gabriel Froymovich of Vineyard Financial Associates contests that the effect didn’t exist, noting, “Merlot sales did decrease but not by much.”

However, the study also showed pinot noir sales increased by about 16%. “Pinot noir production in California has increased roughly 170 percent since Sideways was released,” says Froymovich.

In the ’90s, merlot was as popular as shiny red Corvettes, Sex and the City, and denim on denim. But like Billy Dim says, Sideways changed the merlot industry. Suddenly, even unsophisticated, box wine drinkers turned up their nose when it came to merlots.“I remember merlot’s quality 15 to 20 years ago,” reminisces wine buyer Jonathan Newamn, to Beverage Wholesaler 2019,  “much of that was pretty awful and it flooded the market.” “What Miles stated resonated as true, as many wine-lovers looked down on all that sub-par American merlot.”

I can’t think of a time in the last decade that I saw someone bring a merlot bottle to a dinner party, it would be like bringing a bag of chips. But now, winemakers like Jeff Smith, the owner of Hourglass Wine Co. and winemaker Ted Henry of Clos du Val Winery agree the best value on a wine list these days is a high-end Merlot, outperforming other reds at the same price.

Drinking Merlot buys better wine for less money, so why aren’t my friends bringing a beloved bottle of Merlot to parties instead of bringing the obscure brand from Trader Joe’s? (Girl, I shop there too,  I recognize that cheap bottle!)

Merlot lovers like me want to boldly fly their merlot flag, but, even now, after 15 years, we still tuck the merlot down in our shopping carts beneath the leafy kale and three-pack paper towels. 

Napa Valley Winemaker Aaron Post says to the Wall Street Journal 2018; ’Sideways effect.’ was the best thing that ever happened to merlot. “So much Merlot was being planted back then. It was being planted in soils that it should never have been planted in.” The glut of bad merlot gave it its reputation, but the movie and subsequent decline obsoleted it. Now, says Post, “ Only the cream went to the top and some good merlot survives.”

So, in appreciation for all those winemakers that didn’t hang up the towel, screw Miles, start drinking fucking Merlot!

Check out Wine Enthusiasts,  Best Value Merlot List

Includes one of my favorite winemakers in Washington,  L’Ecole No. 41 2017 Merlot (Columbia Valley, WA)

Have a favorite merlot? Leave a comment, we would love to hear from you. 

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