The Sideways Effect
by Daniel (wine specialist)
adverb · adjective
- To, toward, or from the side.
- With one side facing forward.
- So as to copy a job or position at the same level as one previously held.
Most anyone that drinks wine has seen the film Sideways or heard the term “The Sideways Effect.” If you haven’t seen the film or heard the term then YEAH!
I'm not drinking any f*****ng merlot!
Just over fifteen years ago on October 4, the movie “Sideways” was released. This event dramatically changed the course of wine consumption for two varietals—Merlot and Pinot Noir—and underscoring the fact that there are, indeed, trends in wine just as there are trends in fashion.
Irony was lost on 95% of the audience. Miles, a wine fanatic, proclaims, “…if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving.” And so because this fictional character states that he will not drink Merlot many, many others did as well. The irony is Miles, who covets wine, drinks Bordeaux from a fast food cup instead of proper stemware and the wine he chooses to drink is heavy with Merlot. He chooses Cheval Blanc (a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot). Originally the film wanted to use Petrus (100% Merlot).
Had Sideways received the rights perhaps Merlot would still be happily at our dinner table. Perhaps.
The demise of Merlot
Merlot hadn’t been doing itself any favors. After becoming wildly popular in the 90s many bottlings were uninspired characterless versions of their predecessors-thin and fruity. This is always true for trends and especially wine trends. Most likely Merlot would have done itself in, but the hammer Sideways swung rushed the grape to ruin.
Be that as it may, below you see a bunch of really nice Merlot wines, we'd love to recommend for several occasions.
There is an argument regarding Bordeaux and blending. The argument states that Cabernet Sauvignon is lacking in mid palate presence and so Merlot is used to beef it up a bit and add some texture and weight.
California winemakers argue against this in two ways. One is hangtime. Many CA winemakers let the fruit gobble up the sun and then extract as much as they can from the grape. Those wines surely do not lack mid palate weight, but will often lack finesse and the alcohol levels can be off the charts. Other producers will claim that California Cabs with big body and fruit are misunderstanding the varietal. They claim that if Cabernet tannins get proper attention then the wine will be lithe yet powerful with plenty of mid-palate charm.
Both of these arguments dismiss that the Cabernet they work is California Cab, not French. And thus relatively moot.
What about Pinot Noir?
Luckily, what remains is better wine. Most wineries that make a Cab and a Merlot will have a much more interesting Merlot for the price. And to be fair, Pinot Noir and Merlot are not comparable wines.
Thin-skinned. Temperamental. In need of constant care and attention. ~NPR.org
Most people abandoning Merlot weren’t leaving the wine for Sanford (mentioned by Miles, since sold to Terlato). They were leaving it for price point competitors that had been filled out with Syrah or Petite Syrah and thus becoming Merlot like Pinots. Those that left Merlot but didn’t care for Pinot became Shiraz drinkers and then after being shamed again became Malbec drinkers.
Below are some really nice Pinot Noir selections that we can suggest for various life occassions.
It seems to be "sideways"...
But we love Merlot: Bordeaux, CA, Northern Italy & South Africa! So long as it’s good.
It seems, to be Sideways is essentially to be not making your own choice. Make a choice for you! And if you want some help, well, that’s what we are happily here for.