Merlot Was Not The Only Wine Attacked In “Sideways” - Order Wine Online

Merlot Was Not The Only Wine Attacked In “Sideways”

2023 年 Apr 22 日Michael Bozzelli

(Updated February 22, 2024)

The movie “Sideways” is widely credited for creating the pinot noir boom.  Today, pinot noir surpasses cabernet sauvignon production in America and the 2004 comedy is largely responsible.  In the witty dialogue between the movie’s protagonists, two best friends, Miles and Jack, who embark on a week-long road trip through California wine country, the ultimate praise is bestowed on pinot noir, lauding it as the “holy grail” of wine.  Ever since wine drinkers have never looked back and have been exponentially racking up bottles of pinot noir.   

But this was supposed to be a blog post about chardonnay. The witty dialogue is witty…well, because it is sprinkled with memorable barbs at other varietals.  This was great for the dialogue but it was bad for merlot bearing the brunt of the trash talk.  Merlot quote paraphrased from a scene in the movie:  “No [effing] merlot for me.  I’m leaving if anyone orders merlot.”  (I would have Googled for the quote verbatim but this preamble already running over long for a blog post about chardonnay.)

Fortunately for merlot producers the wrath of the protagonists was not limited to merlot.  Chardonnay was also attacked.  When the protagonist, Miles, visits a tasting room and encounters chardonnay he expresses that he hates the varietal because it is too popular and lacks any complexity.  He goes on to say that most chardonnays are overly oaked, too buttery and taste the same.  

It would be helpful to highlight how at the time of the movie’s release in 2004 wine snobbery was extremely prevalent.  Preaching wine for the masses, Gary Vaynerchuk, did not tape his first YouTube wine tasting until 2006.  Wine culture was stuffy.  Affordable wine was available like Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel but if you wanted to read or talk about wine the culture was dominated by know-it-all somm’s who raised their noses at varietals popular among the masses like merlot and chardonnay.  Somm's tend to gravitate in their wool pin stripes to chenin blanc or bordeaux wines.   

The movie was the equivalent of a tactical nuke landing on the arrogant wine world and its sommelier gatekeepers (not all somm’s are assholes, watch this interview from our Youtube show to meet one who isn’t).  Guys like Gary Vaynerchuk started to appear and  talk about wine like you would talk about football.  Gary was notorious for saying this or that wine sucks and even using words like “poo” to describe the taste of minerality in wine.   Washington State winemaker Charles Smith, a guest on Gary’s show, also started to lob bombs at the hubris of wine culture with an overall unconventional approach to making and selling wine.  

So the attacks on merlot and chardonnay in the movie  “Sideways”  were not death knells on the varietals but engendered the end of pretentiousness in wine culture.  You may now raise your glasses of Rombauer chardonnay and Freemark Abbey merlot with pride.   


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